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Richardson, Michael (1991) The Crisis of Objectivity in Anthropology: A Consideration Through Romanticism and Surrealism. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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One of the central concerns in recent anthropological theory has been the status of objectivity. In the influential writing of James Clifford, it is argued that anthropology needs to recognise that it can only establish 'partial truths' and that holistic and integrated disciplinary approaches are untenable. The re-evaluation of the subjective brings any concept of objectivity into question. Clifford's work has had such an influence that it suggests a generalised crisis is perceived in relation to how anthropological conceptions of objectivity have been established. The thesis will consider this question by looking back to aspects of the romantic tradition. It will especially consider surrealism in anthropological perspective and will question the way in which Clifford has founded his subjectivism in his understanding of surrealism. It will be argued that surrealism sought its own standard of objectivity which issued out of romanticism and needs to be considered in such historical perspective. It will be further argued that romantic concepts of objectivity have been systematically distorted by positivism, something which has had important consequences for the history of anthropology. This was particularly so in that romanticism provided anthropology with a methodological tool, in the concept of empathy, against which positivist and empiricist inductive methodologies based on intensive fieldwork have reacted. This entails a re-consideration of the nature of anthropological evidence and its effects, particularly in the way we construct images of other people. The aim will be to show that it is only through an understanding of the process of reciprocity that takes account not only of the nature of otherness but also our notions of the familiar that a genuine anthropological objectivity can be established. It will be argued that the current idea of a reflexive anthropology is inadequate to engage with all the implications of such an approach.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:31

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