Culture, Power, Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology / Edition 1

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Overview

Anthropology has traditionally relied on a spatially localized society or culture as its object of study. The essays in Culture, Power, Place demonstrate how in recent years this anthropological convention and its attendant assumptions about identity and cultural difference have undergone a series of important challenges. In light of increasing mass migration and the transnational cultural flows of a late capitalist, postcolonial world, the contributors to this volume examine shifts in anthropological thought regarding issues of identity, place, power, and resistance.

This collection of both new and well-known essays begins by critically exploring the concepts of locality and community; first, as they have had an impact on contemporary global understandings of displacement and mobility, and, second, as they have had a part in defining identity and subjectivity itself. With sites of discussion ranging from a democratic Spain to a Puerto Rican barrio in North Philadelphia, from Burundian Hutu refugees in Tanzania to Asian landscapes in rural California, from the silk factories of Hangzhou to the long-sought-after home of the Palestinians, these essays examine the interplay between changing schemes of categorization and the discourses of difference on which these concepts are based. The effect of the placeless mass media on our understanding of place-and the forces that make certain identities viable in the world and others not-are also discussed, as are the intertwining of place-making, identity, and resistance as they interact with the meaning and consumption of signs.

Contesting the classical idea of culture as the shared, the agreed upon, and the orderly, the contributors consider the complex and sometimes ironic political processes through which cultural forms are imposed, invented, reworked, and transformed. An important intervention in the discipline of anthropology, Culture, Power, Place will be read by students and scholars in the fields of anthropology, history, postcolonial and cultural studies, geography, sociology, and history.

Contributors. George E. Bisharat, John Borneman, Rosemary J. Coombe, Mary M. Crain, James Ferguson, Akhil Gupta, Kristin Koptiuch, Karen Leonard, Richard Maddox, Lisa H. Malkki, John Durham Peters, Lisa Rofel

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Culture, Power, Place is exciting, timely, and consequential. This fine book promises to be a contribution of real intellectual significance—and should attract a very large audience both within anthropology and in cultural studies and related fields. This is mature, provocative, well-grounded and imaginative scholarship of the highest quality.”—Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz

“This collection presses forward the agenda of rethinking the anthropological keywords of ‘culture’ and ‘society,’ and towards an expansion of flexible yet rigorous ways of understanding the shifting terms of cultural tradition and political economy in the contemporary world.”—Orin Starn, Duke University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822319405
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 7/28/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 361
  • Sales rank: 423,310
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

Akhil Gupta is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University. James Ferguson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.

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Read an Excerpt

Culture Power Place

Explorations in Critical Anthropology


By Akhil Gupta, James Ferguson

Duke University Press

Copyright © 1997 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8223-8208-9



CHAPTER 1

Beyond "Culture": Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference


AKHIL GUPTA AND JAMES FERGUSON

For a subject whose central rite of passage is fieldwork, whose romance has rested on its exploration of the remote ("the most other of others" [Hannerz 1986]), whose critical function is seen to lie in its juxtaposition of radically different ways of being (located "elsewhere") with that of the anthropologists' own, usually Western culture, there has been surprisingly little self–consciousness about the issue of space in anthropological theory. (Some notable exceptions are Appadurai 1986, 1988b; Hannerz 1987; Rosaldo 1988, 1989a). This essay aims at a critical exploration of the way received ideas about space and place have shaped and continue to shape anthropological common sense. In particular, we wish to explore how the renewed interest in theorizing space in postmodernist and feminist theory (for example, in Foucault 1980; Jameson 1984; Baudrillard 1988c; Deleuze and Guattari 1987; Anzaldúa 1987; Kaplan 1987; Martin and Mohanty 1986) — embodied in such notions as surveillance, panopticism, simulacra, deterritorialization, postmodern hyperspace, borderlands, and marginality — forces us to reevaluate such central analytic concepts in anthropology as that of "culture" and, by extension, the idea of "cultural difference."

Representations of space in the social sciences are remarkably dependent on images of break, rupture, and disjunction. The distinctiveness of societies, nations, and cultures is predicated on a seemingly unproblematic division of space, on the fact that they occupy "naturally" discontinuous spaces. The premise of discontinuity forms the starting point from which to theorize contact, conflict, and contradiction between cultures and societies. For example, the representation of the world as a collection of "countries," as on most world maps, sees it as an inherently fragmented space, divided by different colors into diverse national societies, each "rooted" in its proper place (compare Malkki, this volume). It is so taken for granted that each country embodies its own distinctive culture and society that the terms "society" and "culture" are routinely simply appended to the names of nation–states, as when a tourist visits India to understand "Indian culture" and "Indian society" or Thailand to experience "Thai culture" or the United States to get a whiff of "American culture."

Of course, the geographical territories that cultures and societies are believed to map onto do not have to be nations. We do, for example, have ideas about culture areas that overlap several nation–states, or of multicultural nations. On a smaller scale perhaps are our disciplinary assumptions about the association of culturally unitary groups (tribes or peoples) with "their" territories: thus "the Nuer" live in "Nuerland" and so forth. The clearest illustration of this kind of thinking are the classic "ethnographic maps" that purported to display the spatial distribution of peoples, tribes, and cultures. But in all these cases, space itself becomes a kind of neutral grid on which cultural difference, historical memory, and societal organization is inscribed. It is in this way that space functions as a central organizing principle in the social sciences at the same time that it disappears from analytical purview.

This assumed isomorphism of space, place, and culture results in some significant problems. First, there is the issue of those who inhabit the border, that "narrow strip along steep edges" (Anzaldúa 1987:3) of national boundaries. The fiction of cultures as discrete, objectlike phenomena occupying discrete spaces becomes implausible for those who inhabit the borderlands. Related to border inhabitants are those who live a life of border crossings — migrant workers, nomads, and members of the transnational business and professional elite. What is "the culture" of farm workers who spend half a year in Mexico and half in the United States? Finally, there are those who cross borders more or less permanently —immigrants, refugees, exiles, and expatriates. In their case, the disjuncture of place and culture is especially clear: Khmer refugees in the United States take "Khmer culture" with them in the same complicated way that Indian immigrants in England transport "Indian culture" to their new homeland.

A second set of problems raised by the implicit mapping of cultures onto places is to account for cultural differences within a locality. "Multiculturalism" is both a feeble recognition of the fact that cultures have lost their moorings in definite places and an attempt to subsume this plurality of cultures within the framework of a national identity. Similarly, the idea of "subcultures" attempts to preserve the idea of distinct "cultures" while acknowledging the relation of different cultures to a dominant culture within the same geographical and territorial space. Conventional accounts of ethnicity, even when used to describe cultural differences in settings where people from different regions live side by side, rely on an unproblematic link between identity and place. While such concepts are suggestive because they endeavor to stretch the naturalized association of culture with place, they fail to interrogate this assumption in a truly fundamental manner. We need to ask how to deal with cultural difference, while abandoning received ideas of (localized) culture.

Third, there is the important question of postcoloniality. To which places do the hybrid cultures of postcoloniality belong? Does the colonial encounter create a "new culture" in both the colonized and colonizing country, or does it destabilize the notion that nations and cultures are isomorphic? As discussed below, postcoloniality further problematizes the relationship between space and culture.

Last and most important, challenging the ruptured landscape of independent nations and autonomous cultures raises the question of understanding social change and cultural transformation as situated within interconnected spaces. The presumption that spaces are autonomous has enabled the power of topography successfully to conceal the topography of power. The inherently fragmented space assumed in the definition of anthropology as the study of cultures (in the plural) may have been one of the reasons behind the long–standing failure to write anthropology's history as the biography of imperialism. For if one begins with the premise that spaces have always been hierarchically interconnected, instead of naturally disconnected, then cultural and social change becomes not a matter of cultural contact and articulation but one of rethinking difference through connection.

To illustrate, let us examine one powerful model of cultural change that attempts to relate dialectically the local to larger spatial arenas: articulation. Articulation models, whether they come from marxist structuralism or "moral economy," posit a primeval state of autonomy (usually labeled "precapitalist") that is then violated by global capitalism. The result is that both local and larger spatial arenas are transformed, the local more than the global to be sure, but not necessarily in a predetermined direction. This notion of articulation allows one to explore the richly unintended consequences of, say, colonial capitalism, with which loss occurs alongside invention. Yet, by taking a preexisting, localized "community" as a given starting point, it fails to examine sufficiently the processes (such as the structures of feeling that pervade the imagining of community) that go into the construction of space as place or locality in the first instance. In other words, instead of assuming the autonomy of the primeval community, we need to examine how it was formed as a community out of the interconnected space that always already existed. Colonialism then represents the displacement of one form of interconnection by another. This is not to deny that colonialism or an expanding capitalism does indeed have profoundly dislocating effects on existing societies. But by always foregrounding the spatial distribution of hierarchical power relations, we can better understand the processes whereby a space achieves a distinctive identity as a place. Keeping in mind that notions of locality or community refer both to a demarcated physical space and to clusters of interaction, we can see that the identity of a place emerges by the intersection of its specific involvement in a system of hierarchically organized spaces with its cultural construction as a community or locality.

It is for this reason that what Fredric Jameson (1984) has dubbed "postmodern hyperspace" has so fundamentally challenged the convenient fiction that mapped cultures onto places and peoples. In the capitalist West, a Fordist regime of accumulation, emphasizing extremely large production facilities, a relatively stable work force, and the welfare state combined to create urban "communities" whose outlines were most clearly visible in company towns (Harvey 1989; Mike Davis 1986; Mandel 1975). The counterpart of this in the international arena was that multinational corporations, under the leadership of the United States, steadily exploited the raw materials, primary goods, and cheap labor of the independent nation–states of the postcolonial "Third World." Multilateral agencies and powerful Western states preached and, where necessary, militarily enforced the "laws" of the market to encourage the international flow of capital, whereas national immigration policies ensured that there would be no free (that is, anarchic, disruptive) flow of labor to the high–wage islands in the capitalist core. Fordist patterns of accumulation have now been replaced by a regime of flexible accumulation — characterized by small–batch production, rapid shifts in product lines, extremely fast movements of capital to exploit the smallest differentials in labor and raw material costs —built on a more sophisticated communications and information network and better means of transporting goods and people. At the same time, the industrial production of culture, entertainment, and leisure that first achieved something approaching global distribution during the Fordist era led, paradoxically, to the invention of new forms of cultural difference and new forms of imagining community. Something like a transnational public sphere has certainly rendered any strictly bounded sense of community or locality obsolete. At the same time, it has enabled the creation of forms of solidarity and identity that do not rest on an appropriation of space where contiguity and face–to–face contact are paramount. In the pulverized space of postmodernity, space has not become irrelevant: it has been re territorialized in a way that does not conform to the experience of space that characterized the era of high modernity. It is this reterritorialization of space that forces us to reconceptualize fundamentally the politics of community, solidarity, identity, and cultural difference.


IMAGINED COMMUNITIES, IMAGINED PLACES

People have undoubtedly always been more mobile and identities less fixed than the static and typologizing approaches of classical anthropology would suggest. But today, the rapidly expanding and quickening mobility of people combines with the refusal of cultural products and practices to "stay put" to give a profound sense of a loss of territorial roots, of an erosion of the cultural distinctiveness of places, and of ferment in anthropological theory. The apparent deterritorialization of identity that accompanies such processes has made James Clifford's question (1988:275) a key one for recent anthropological inquiry: "What does it mean, at the end of the twentieth century, to speak ... of a 'native land'? What processes rather than essences are involved in present experiences of cultural identity?"

Such questions are, of course, not completely new, but issues of collective identity do seem to take on a special character today, when more and more of us live in what Edward Said (1979:18) has called "a generalized condition of homelessness," a world where identities are increasingly coming to be, if not wholly deterritorialized, at least differently territorialized. Refugees, migrants, displaced and stateless peoples — these are perhaps the first to live out these realities in their most complete form, but the problem is more general. In a world of diaspora, transnational culture flows, and mass movements of populations, old-fashioned attempts to map the globe as a set of culture regions or homelands are bewildered by a dazzling array of postcolonial simulacra, doublings and redoublings, as India and Pakistan seem to reappear in postcolonial simulation in London, prerevolution Teheran rises from the ashes in Los Angeles, and a thousand similar cultural dramas are played out in urban and rural settings all across the globe. In this culture–play of diaspora, familiar lines between "here" and "there," center and periphery, colony and metropole become blurred.

Where "here" and "there" become blurred in this way, the cultural certainties and fixities of the metropole are upset as surely, if not in the same way, as are those of the colonized periphery. In this sense, it is not only the displaced who experience a displacement (compare Bhabha 1989:66). For even people remaining in familiar and ancestral places find the nature of their relation to place ineluctably changed and the illusion of a natural and essential connection between the place and the culture broken. "Englishness," for instance, in contemporary, internationalized England is just as complicated and nearly as deterritorialized a notion as Palestinian–ness or Armenian–ness, for "England" ("the real England") refers less to a bounded place than to an imagined state of being or a moral location. Consider, for instance, the following quote from a young white reggae fan in the ethnically chaotic neighborhood of Balsall Heath in Birmingham:

There's no such thing as "England" any more ... welcome to India brothers! This is the Caribbean! ... Nigeria! ... There is no England, man. This is what is coming. Balsall Heath is the center of the melting pot, 'cos all I ever see when I go out is half–Arab, half–Pakistani, half–Jamaican, half–Scottish, half–Irish. I know 'cos I am [half–Scottish/half–Irish] ... who am I? ... Tell me who I belong to? They criticize me, the good old England. Alright, where do I belong? You know, I was brought up with blacks, Pakistanis, Africans, Asians, everything, you name it ... who do I belong to? ... I'm just a broad person. The earth is mine ... you know we was not born in Jamaica ... we was not born in "England." We were born here, man. It's our right. That's the way I see it. That's the way I deal with it. (In Hebdige 1987:158–59)


The broad-minded acceptance of cosmopolitanism that seems to be implied here is perhaps more the exception than the rule, but there can be little doubt that the explosion of a culturally stable and unitary "England" into the cut–and–mix "here" of contemporary Balsall Heath is an example of a phenomenon that is real and spreading. It is clear that the erosion of such supposedly natural connections between peoples and places has not led to the modernist specter of global cultural homogenization (Clifford 1988). But "cultures" and "peoples," however persistent they may be, cease to be plausibly identifiable as spots on the map.

But the irony of these times is that as actual places and localities become ever more blurred and indeterminate, ideas of culturally and ethnically distinct places become perhaps even more salient. It is here that it becomes most visible how imagined communities (Anderson 1983) come to be attached to imagined places, as displaced peoples cluster around remembered or imagined homelands, places, or communities in a world that seems increasingly to deny such firm territorialized anchors in their actuality. In such a world, it becomes ever more important to train an anthropological eye on processes of construction of place and homeland by mobile and displaced people.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Culture Power Place by Akhil Gupta, James Ferguson. Copyright © 1997 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Culture, Power, Place: Ethnography at the End of an Era 1
Beyond "Culture": Space, Identity, and the Politics of Difference 33
National Geographic: The Rooting of Peoples and the Territorialization of National Identity among Scholars and Refugees 52
Seeing Bifocally: Media, Place, Culture 75
State, Territory, and National Identity Formation in the Two Berlins, 1945-1995 93
Finding One's Own Place: Asian Landscapes Re-visioned in Rural California 118
The Country and the City on the Copperbelt 137
Rethinking Modernity: Space and Factory Discipline in China 155
The Song of the Nonaligned World: Transnational Identities and the Reinscription of Space in Late Capitalism 179
Exile to Compatriot: Transformations in the Social Identity of Palestinian Refugees in the West Bank 203
Third-Worlding at Home 234
The Demonic Place of the "Not There": Trademark Rumors in the Postindustrial Imaginary 249
Bombs, Bikinis, and the Popes of Rock 'n' Roll: Reflections on Resistance, the Play of Subordinations, and Liberalism in Andalusia and Academia, 1983-1995 277
The Remaking of an Andalusian Pilgrimage Tradition: Debates Regarding Visual (Re)presentation and the Meanings of "Locality" in a Global Era 291
Works Cited 313
Index 347
Contributors 359
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