Evolution Of Political Anthropology

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The anthropological study of politics has long been a part of a historical process (Vincent, 2002); moreover the intellectual and social understanding of politics has conditioned the anthropological inquest into it. It is necessarily superfluous to note that political anthropology observes and catalogues the world around it, though the mercurial relationship between the politic world and anthropology begs greater insight. To delve into a more thorough understanding of this process, the rise and fall of political anthropology in the framework of the swing from the colonial to the post-colonial world will be examined. The scope of such consideration would prove to be much too broad however. Therefore this paper will largely aim to emphasize the…show more content…
This statement brings to light an important constant in the study of political anthropology: the manner in which the design of the political structure of colonial rule was instrumental in the molding of the social imagination of the colonizer and the ruled or colonized. Colonialism has left behind an indelible print of the face of the world, thus ensuring that social vocabulary and political institutions will be marred (overtly or subtly) by it. To a large extent, the outburst of political anthropology came both late and its popularity short lived; its heyday was the 1960s and its recent rediscovery came hand in hand with the resurgence of examinations of power (Vincent, 2002). Prior to this, anthropology went hand in hand as a tool of empire. This is underlined in the understanding of the political as something disparate from the cultural – “We attempt to discover some of the general principles in political manoeuvre which transcend cultures and which provide questions which could be tools of research in a variety of cultures” (Bailey, 1969). Reinforcing this is the emphasis on observation instead of interpretation. The colonial climate of the time ensured that there was a perfunctory drawing of lines in the sand, where anthropologists would categorize certain aspects of life as meriting of observation, and others were simply…show more content…
Take into account Geertz’s account of politics in a post-colonial world, where he attempted to juggle the perhaps irreconcilable forces of “primordial attachments” and “civil sentiments” (1963). The primordial sentiments can essentially refer to those associated with kinship, ethnicity and others, while civil sentiments offer the lures of a modern state. The primordial is something that necessitates in-depth observation and research to even comprehend, while civil sentiments can be understood through its opposition to the primordial. Despite Anthropologists having switched their focus to the post-colonial, they still function within the framework of their fascination with the “other.” This nationalism is understood as “the ‘calls to blood and land’, by nationalism in its bloodier and most exotic mode” (Spencer, 1997). Moreover, this focus is on the role of invented traditions, rituals and symbols, rather than any overarching institutions or framework of these new states. What accounts for this? The post-World War II era proposed some growing pains for anthropologists, and it is possible that they still reflected some form of historical colonial

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