After objectivity: An historical approach to the intersubjective in ethnography

Peter Pels


Intersubjectivity in anthropology has rarely been studied against the broader background of the place of intersubjective exchanges in the long-term history of anthropology. This article attempts to do so by setting the history of anthropology against the history of objectivity since the Enlightenment as outlined by Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison’s seminal Objectivity (2007). On that basis, it concludes that the currently popular romantic ideal of a dyad of interchanges between researcher and researched does not give a proper impression of what anthropology is about. Instead, it argues that the mission of anthropology is based on an expertise about cultural classification that cannot be divorced from the asymmetrical breaks with everyday perceptions provided by ethnographic methodology.


intersubjectivity, objectivity, history of anthropology, classification, methodology

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau4.1.009