Metropolitan Ethnography: Rural Imaginaries in the Age of Urban Academies

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The history of anthropology has often been that of the history of discovery: of reaching out across frontiers to describe poorly known peripheries. In recent years, partly because of the post-colonial critique, the discipline has tried to reform itself into one which studies human and non-human predicaments anywhere and increasingly also within metropolitan spaces. Rather than turning its back on its colonial past, this paper argues that the turn to urban anthropology in many ways reinvents the stereotypes and assumptions of previous generations perhaps more through silence than through categorisation. A strong marker of Euroamerican (including Eurasian) anthropology has always been its urban headquarters. Metropolitan laboratories have been the places where the rules and frames of ethnography have been distilled. Although the overt subject of anthropology might shift, the discipline continues to play an important role in how rural places are imagined. In this paper I discuss the way that anthropological objects have been constructed primarily across the global North. I argue that a significant challenge for the discipline today is not to learn to imagine the urban experience but instead to unlearn it. The challenge is to imagine how anthropological knowledge can be rooted in other than urban places.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event10th Congress of Russian Ethnographers - Moscow, Russian Federation
Duration: 2 Jul 20135 Jul 2013


Conference10th Congress of Russian Ethnographers
Country/TerritoryRussian Federation


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