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Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art

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The Predicament of Culture is a critical ethnography of the West in its changing relations with other societies. Analyzing cultural practices such as anthropology, travel writing, collecting, and museum displays of tribal art, James Clifford shows authoritative accounts of other ways of life to be contingent fictions, now actively contested in post-colonial contexts. His c The Predicament of Culture is a critical ethnography of the West in its changing relations with other societies. Analyzing cultural practices such as anthropology, travel writing, collecting, and museum displays of tribal art, James Clifford shows authoritative accounts of other ways of life to be contingent fictions, now actively contested in post-colonial contexts. His critique raises questions of global significance: Who has the authority to speak for any group's identity and authenticity? What are the essential elements and boundaries of a culture? How do self and "the other" clash in the encounters of ethnography, travel, and modern interethnic relations? In chapters devoted to the history of anthropology, Clifford discusses the work of Malinowski, Mead, Griaule, L�vi-Strauss, Turner, Geertz, and other influential scholars. He also explores the affinity of ethnography with avant-garde art and writing, recovering a subversive, self-reflexive cultural criticism. The surrealists' encounters with Paris or New York, the work of Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris in the Coll�ge de Sociologie, and the hybrid constructions of recent tribal artists offer provocative ethnographic examples that challenge familiar notions of difference and identity. In an emerging global modernity, the exotic is unexpectedly nearby, the familiar strangely distanced.


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The Predicament of Culture is a critical ethnography of the West in its changing relations with other societies. Analyzing cultural practices such as anthropology, travel writing, collecting, and museum displays of tribal art, James Clifford shows authoritative accounts of other ways of life to be contingent fictions, now actively contested in post-colonial contexts. His c The Predicament of Culture is a critical ethnography of the West in its changing relations with other societies. Analyzing cultural practices such as anthropology, travel writing, collecting, and museum displays of tribal art, James Clifford shows authoritative accounts of other ways of life to be contingent fictions, now actively contested in post-colonial contexts. His critique raises questions of global significance: Who has the authority to speak for any group's identity and authenticity? What are the essential elements and boundaries of a culture? How do self and "the other" clash in the encounters of ethnography, travel, and modern interethnic relations? In chapters devoted to the history of anthropology, Clifford discusses the work of Malinowski, Mead, Griaule, L�vi-Strauss, Turner, Geertz, and other influential scholars. He also explores the affinity of ethnography with avant-garde art and writing, recovering a subversive, self-reflexive cultural criticism. The surrealists' encounters with Paris or New York, the work of Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris in the Coll�ge de Sociologie, and the hybrid constructions of recent tribal artists offer provocative ethnographic examples that challenge familiar notions of difference and identity. In an emerging global modernity, the exotic is unexpectedly nearby, the familiar strangely distanced.

30 review for Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art

  1. 4 out of 5

    James

    Clifford is excellent for understanding the construct of culture between the first and third world. For anyone studying art that traverses cultural and temporal lines, this is a must read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susanna

    What I like about this book besides its marriage of anthropology, history, and literary studies is its form. Clifford argues that collage is a more representative form of culture than a linear, cohesive narrative. And then he does it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dagezi

    The beginning of "the Pure Products Go Crazy" and the first strains of "Summer Babe" by Pavement both marked thresholds that I knew I was crossing as I was crossing them. The beginning of "the Pure Products Go Crazy" and the first strains of "Summer Babe" by Pavement both marked thresholds that I knew I was crossing as I was crossing them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    just finished a frankly amazing book that treats many of the issues surrounding the topic of repatriation fairly extensively. james clifford's "the predicament of culture: twentieth-century ethnography, literature, and art" from 1988, a collection of essays about art collecting and about the colonial context of that collecting is an exceedingly relevant and up-to-date exploration, despite having been written some 30-35 years ago. there was a huge vogue in indigenous, native, "tribal," and african just finished a frankly amazing book that treats many of the issues surrounding the topic of repatriation fairly extensively. james clifford's "the predicament of culture: twentieth-century ethnography, literature, and art" from 1988, a collection of essays about art collecting and about the colonial context of that collecting is an exceedingly relevant and up-to-date exploration, despite having been written some 30-35 years ago. there was a huge vogue in indigenous, native, "tribal," and african work/ culture in the early 20th century, which vogue governments and museums fed via missions to plunder these places. given that the colonial age wasn't beginning to end until around 1950, that's a good long time to be plundering. this is a very complicated topic but clifford tackles it deftly. if you are interested in the intersection of art and culture, I can unequivocally recommend this book to you (but with one proviso given below). clifford is an extremely engaging writer. this is actually some of the best academic prose I've come across, especially in the realm of art. though a small proviso is in order: I can't imagine that the book would be easy/ sensible reading if you are completely new to surrealism (a topic that forms much of the book's "plot"). also if you are completely unfamiliar with cultural anthropology, this is probably not the best book to start out with. as it presupposes a bit of familiarity with some of cultural anthropology's basic conceptual tools and many of surrealism's keynotes and leitmotifs, I think most of the book will simply go over your head and you'd be left wondering what the point of the author's efforts were if you don't have already a familiarity with these two topics.

  5. 4 out of 5

    VAle

    preso in biblioteca Ah, il vecchio Clifford! Questo era un testo a scelta in un esame. Lui mi era piaciuto, volevo capire di più... Ma al terzo capitolo avevo capito. Avevo capito che non sarei riuscita a finire il libro. No, questo tipo di analisi non mi hanno mai appassionata. Magari sarà per la prossima volta, eh?

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christine Elsey

    Excellent book. Good glimpse of where culture is today and the nature of complexity. His message is bitter/sweet !

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    collecting art and culture

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paige

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kåre

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tom Graves

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lee Gallagher

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steven Lubar

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alejo Petrosini

  16. 4 out of 5

    Frebienamosiggmail.Com

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vivek

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gustav

  19. 5 out of 5

    Donald Quist

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  23. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

  25. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Severson

  26. 5 out of 5

    M

  27. 4 out of 5

    Robert Mead

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dinah W

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alessia N'Ja

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aoife

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