Anthropology is an odd subject: Studying from the outside and from the inside

Maurice Bloch


This essay considers the contribution that social and cultural anthropology can make to other disciplines. This contribution is of two sorts. First, anthropology offers a glimpse of what society may have been like for most of human history when the state and its invading presence are absent. Such knowledge cannot be obtained directly but studying communities where the state is remote does give a flavor of what such life is like. Second, anthropology has developed a method of studying others through participation. This method is apparently deceptively straightforward but, nonetheless, it has profound theoretical implications. It is based on the recognition that we can only know those people who at first seem different by sharing what is implicitly involved as they go about their normal life.


ethnography, knowledge, participation, points of view

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau7.1.007