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The Ethnographic Moment
     

The Ethnographic Moment

by David Rees (Editor)
 

The first fifty years of the twentieth century were a time of ferment in American anthropology. American ethnographic work evolved from the "salvage" work of professionals affiliated with museums who undertook to document with artifacts and testimony the threatened traditional way of life among the Native American tribes, to the establishment of

Overview

The first fifty years of the twentieth century were a time of ferment in American anthropology. American ethnographic work evolved from the "salvage" work of professionals affiliated with museums who undertook to document with artifacts and testimony the threatened traditional way of life among the Native American tribes, to the establishment of anthropology as a science, represented in university departments, that sought to describe the "ethnographic present" of isolated primitive peoples, often in distant parts of the world.

By the beginning of the 1950s, cultural anthropology discovered the peasant. Robert Redfield, himself a leading figure in this paradigm shift, challenged anthropology's focus on a static model of the isolated primitive community, pointing out the dynamic nature of the "little communities" he studied in Mesoamerica. These were not isolated communities, but rather local, traditional cultures located well within the sphere of a complex urban culture. In order to distinguish the "great tradition" deriving from urban centers from the "little tradition" of a more primitive culture, Redfield believed anthropology needed to refer to other disciplines, such as theology, philosophy, economics, and sociology. In other words, anthropology had to develop from the collection of material artifacts to a concern with the immaterial realm of values and ideas.

This collection of essays and previously unpublished papers, The Ethnographic Moment, tells the story of a remarkable chapter in Redfield's pioneering efforts on what was then an anthropological frontier. The present volume covers the years from 1952 to 1958, the last of Redfield's life. It focuses solely on his study of peasant communities. At the core of the book is his correspondence with the philosopher-humanist F. G. Friedmann, who played an important role in Redfield's conceptualization of the complex urban-rural continuum that characterizes the peasant's world. The volume also includes an autobiographical introduction by Friedmann that illuminates both his own writings and the humanistic background that motivated his study of peasantry.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rees has provided a valuable service to scholars of twentieth-century social science. This collection provides an in-depth view not only of the development of a highly contentious sub-discipline that lay between anthropology, sociology, and philosophy, but also gives us a detailed view of the strengths and weaknesses associated with the efforts of scholars to cross disciplinary boundaries and engage in a broad exchange of ideas. Both intellectual and disciplinary historians will find this a provocative and informative collection." —Clifford Wilcox, Ph.D., author of Robert Redfield and the Development of American Anthropology "This important volume collects the materials of a little-known component of the mid-20th century investigations of comparative methodology and the anthropology of development: the corresponding symposium on peasants organized by Friedman and Redfield. Friedman's philosophical orientation complemented Redfield's ethnographic perspective, and other scholars contributed and critiqued from their individual experiences. This was a project of sweeping vision, and the format allows readers to follow the development of ideas with the clarity of organized informality. Although ultimately documenting a fascinating failure, the book records their attempt to create a network of focused intellectual correspondence that presages some recent efforts using the internet to facilitate group and multi-site investigations and analyses." —Frederic W. Gleach, Historical Anthropologist, Senior Lecturer and Curator of the Anthropology Collections,Cornell University "With the publication of this landmark volume, David Rees has performed an enormously important service to the profession. The correspondence, lectures and symposium proceedings collected here provide valuable insight into the emergence of peasant studies, the exploration of rural values, and the rise of cultural anthropology in Mesoamerica and Europe. They are an indispensable resource to an understanding of both Robert Redfield's thought and the development of our discipline in mid-twentieth century." —Stanley Brandes, University of California, Berkeley "David Rees has elegantly arranged a fine book that captures the exciting moments, in the early 1950s, when anthropologists were turning to the study of peasant cultures. The center- piece of this valuable book is the rich correspondence between anthropologist Robert Redfield and philosopher F.G. Friedman—it was a time when scholars wrote letters, and their lively exchanges trace how they laid much of the intellectual foundation for "peasant studies". Rees's excellent Introduction places these two highly civilized men and their ideas in a wide perspective. Well conceived and meticulously prepared, the book makes a genuine contribution to understanding anthropology's recent history. " —Alex Weingrod, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, Ben Gurion University of the Negev "Excellent as return to an issue which never lost its significance for the understanding of peasant visions but as much for alternative understanding of ourselves." —Teodor Shanin, University of Manchester, Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765803337
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Publication date:
08/15/2006
Pages:
302
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
16 Years

Meet the Author

David A. Rees has been a research assistant at the Department for Jewish History and Culture at the University of Munich, the Bucerius Institute for Contemporary German History and Culture, Haifa, and the University of Haifa.

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