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Modernity: Anthropological Aspects

Abstract

© 2001 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Anthropology is a modern study of human existence in which the anthropos becomes an object of knowledge and also a technique of modern power. The field readily acknowledges that it is both a product, and an interrogator, of modernity. This relationship has given anthropology its existential doubling, as an extension, and as an undoing, of the taken for granted aspects of Western modernity. For much of the twentieth century, anthropologists have used ethnographic findings to question the assumed aspects of the historical framing of modernity and its others. Another feature of anthropology"s approach to modernity is through the notion of plural modernisms, which seeks to capture the particularistic experiences of others in encounters with modern Western forms. The most promising approach has been to treat modernity as a specific ethnographic project, one that tracks the spread of political and social rationalities, and their production of new techniques, social forms, and subjects in a variety of ethnographic settings. Anthropology as a field and an ethnographer"s craft is especially well suited to identify the ever shifting webs of rationalities that constitute our plural worlds, and to pose the question of modernity itself as a paradox about humanity.

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