Anthropology and Human Studies

Essay Excerpt

The editor of this journal asked me to report on the activities of an interdiscipli­nary faculty group at the University of Il­linois called the Unit for Criticism and In­terpretive Theory. He felt that much intel­lectual vitality in contemporary anthropology goes on in such groups, but that their existence or concerns are rarely reported.              

At Illinois, a core of about 15 faculty members from the humanities and social sciences have been meeting every other week since 1977. The disciplines repre­sented include anthropology, communica­tions, comparative literature, education, English, French, philosophy, political sci­ence, sociology, and, somehow, microbi­ology. At each meeting, assigned readings are discussed from major theories of inter­pretation such as hermeneutics, Marxism, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, structur­alism, poststructuralism, and semiotics, but we have also done readings in the so­cial sciences (Bateson,  Turner,  Geertz, Sahlins, Goffman, Blumer, Garfinkel, Giddens), in theories of desire (Barthes, Jacqueline Rose, Kristeva,  Montrelay, Deleuze and Guattari, Lyotard), in femin­ism (Cixous, Mary Daly, Le Doeuff, Michele Barrett, Bev Brown, Elisabeth Lyon), and in pragmatism (Pierce, Wil­ liam James, Dewey, Mead). Major schol­ars whose works have occupied a full se­mester or an entire year include Heidegger, Nietzsche, Gadamer, Marx, Freud, Der­rida, and Foucault. The fall 1985 readings are Postmodernism, which won out in a faculty vote over Lacan. Other activities of the Unit include joint teaching of courses such as structuralism and semiotics, and theories of interpretation. The Unit also sponsors guest speakers and has a collo­ quium series in which faculty present their research (121).

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