Introduction: Place and Voice in Anthropological Theory

Essay Excerpt

More than with any of the other human sciences, anthropology is based on circumstantial evidence. The circumstances in which the evidence is gathered (those of fieldwork) and the circumstances of the writing up of fieldwork have been much discussed recently and do not need to be revisited here. But it is worth noting that the spatial dimension of this circumstantiality has not been thought about very much. This spatial dimension has many aspects, including the issue of maps and terrains, regions and areas, landscapes and environments, distance and scale, centers and boundaries. The articles in this collection do not by any means deal with all of these issues, though some of them are touched on. What they do focus on is one aspect of the problem of space in anthropology, and that is the problem of place, that is, the problem of the culturally defined locations to which ethnographies refer. Such named locations, which often come to be identified with the groups that inhabit them, constitute the landscape of anthropology, in which the privileged locus is the often unnamed location of the ethnographer. Ethnography thus reflects the circumstantial encounter of the voluntarily displaced anthropologist and the involuntarily localized "other." One problem that the articles discuss, in their various ways, is the light shed on this circumstantiality by attending to the dimension of place. (Appadurai, 16)

 About the Author

Dr. Appadurai is  Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Dr. Appadurai is a prominent contemporary social-cultural anthropologist, having formerly served as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at The New School in NYC. He has held various professorial chairs and visiting appointments at some of top institutions in the United States and Europe. In addition, he has served on several scholarly and advisory bodies in the United States, Latin America, Europe and India. Dr. Appadurai is a prolific writer having authored numerous books and scholarly articles. The nature and significance of his contributions throughout his academic career have earned him the reputation as a leading figure in his field.

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