Dark anthropology and its others: Theory since the eighties

Sherry B. Ortner


In this article I consider several emergent trends in anthropology since the 1980s against a backdrop of the rise of neoliberalism as both an economic and a governmental formation. I consider first the turn to what I call “dark anthropology,” that is, anthropology that focuses on the harsh dimensions of social life (power, domination, inequality, and oppression), as well as on the subjective experience of these dimensions in the form of depression and hopelessness. I then consider a range of work that is explicitly or implicitly a reaction to this dark turn, under the rubric of “anthropologies of the good,” including studies of “the good life” and “happiness,” as well as studies of morality and ethics. Finally, I consider what may be thought of as a different kind of anthropology of the good, namely new directions in the anthropology of critique, resistance, and activism.


anthropological theory, neoliberalism, Marx, Foucault, well-being, morality, critique, resistance

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.1.004