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Anthropological Perspective

Essay by   •  July 13, 2011  •  Essay  •  674 Words (3 Pages)  •  2,058 Views

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The notion of the "other" has become very prevalent in social sciences. Here the "other" is examined as it occurs in

Anthropology and Philosophy, primarily through Levinas and Derrida. Based on this, a radical revision of anthropological knowledge "ethically" oriented and incorporating subjectivity as an essential element, is suggested

M N Srinivas's view on Otherness:

M N SRINIVAS makes a few provocative and timely comments in his recent article on Indian anthropology [Srinivas 1996]. Two important observations have to do with the notion of self-in-the-other and the suggestion that Indian anthropologists should now move to the study of the self from self-in-the-other. Unfortunately, he has not developed these concepts in more detail.

Jacob Pandian's view on otherness:

Jacob Pandian in his clear exposition on anthropology and the other, suggests that the "Judio-Christian symbol(s) of divinity and the Christian conception of the human self" [Pandian 1985:5], underlies the modern anthropological discourse. The construction of the other was with 'characteristics which are alien to the western tradition'[Pandian 1985:6]. Modern anthropology arose when it began to contrast and alienate the cultures which were different from the west, and in fact the uniqueness of anthropology itself 'stems from the use of the human other'. There is a plethora of human others which appear in anthropology. Pandian lists some of the dominant others used in this discourse which includes the fossil other, savage other, black other and the ethnographic other.

In the discourse on progress, development and rationality which had become characteristic of the west as described by them, the search for the basic human condition gave rise to the fossil other. The non- western people were seem to embody what the primeval west was before its 'progress' and thus were seen as 'living fossils'. The historical growth of these ideas shows inherent ideas of domination. The idea of the non-western people as the living fossil drew support from the historical and biological theories of the times.

Much of these ideas overlap in the construction of the savage other, primarily oriented towards the Africans and which subsequently encompassed even the Indian people. Similarly, for the black other, whose continued importance lies in the validation of racism itself.

Anthropological Problem With otherness:

The basic problem in the anthropological other is that it is never recognition of other; rather it is just an epistemological other which perhaps says more about the epistemological systems of the ethnographer rather than any 'honest' description

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