Why do we read the classics?

Giovanni da Col, Claudio Sopranzetti, Fred Myers, Anastasia Piliavsky, John L. Jackson, Jr., Yarimar Bonilla, Adia Benton, Paul Stoller


Debates on the epistemological, ethical, and historical constitution of the anthropological corpus are one of the reasons why anthropology has always thrived. Whether in terms of the complex relation between the production of anthropological knowledge and the political systems in which it takes place, or the proliferation of the language of “mutual constitution” as a way to bypass questions of causality, the question of the “suffering” vs. the “good,” the attribution of “colonial” or “white male privilege” to ethnographic classics, or the hackneyed debates on the precariousness of academic life, contemporary anthropology is traversed by critical shortcuts, worn paths we often take, without reflecting on them. This first installment of a new journal section titled “Shortcuts” aims to investigate and question the analytical, historical, and interpretive arguments that have become common knowledge in anthropology, intuitively true and agreeable, yet rarely subject to rigorous scrutiny and discussion. The first “Shortcut” engages with the question “Why read the classics?” and offers six varied responses by scholars who deal with how the anthropological canon is produced and what is at stake in preserving it, going back to it, or getting away from it.


classics, canon, colonialism, culture, anthropology, education, curriculum

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau7.3.002