Seminar “Making sense of Eurasia: Anglophone anthropologists discover world history”

5 April 2017, 3 p.m.
Academic Conference Centre
Czech Academy of Sciences, Husova 4a, Prague 1


Centre of Global Studies, Institute of Philosophy at the Czech Academy of Sciences, invite you to a seminar “Making sense of Eurasia: Anglophone anthropologists discover world history”, with prof. Chris Hann (Max Planck Institut für ethnologische Forschung, Halle, Germany).

In the 19th century, anthropology developed as a holistic science concerned with the “Naturvölker” and was emphatically evolutionary. In the 20th, disciplinary specialization and the emphasis placed on fieldwork by the schools of Malinowski and Boas led most socio-cultural anthropologists to concentrate their efforts on synchronic investigations, with little or no historical depth. Gradually, the “Kulturvölker” of Asia and Europe were drawn into the purview of the discipline, and in the last decdaes of the century a few scholars sought to revive older agendas. For example, Eric Wolf was influenced by Marxism and world systems theory, Jack Goody was inspired by Childean archaeology, and Ernest Gellner wrote an elegant philosophical history that privileged cognition. In the 21st century, David Graeber has offered an anarchist’s perspective on “Debt: the first 5000 years”. Drawing on these examples, I shall argue that one way for anthropologists to renew their engagement with the “big picture” of global history is to emphasize the common features of the dominant Eurasian civilizations since the Bronze Age. In a further step, I shall argue that recognizing unity in this Eurasian civilizational diversity is anything but an antiquarian exercise.

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