Moreover, since the late s it has come to designate a new interdisciplin- ary field of study, departing from the traditional methods of art historical inquiry to incorporate theoretical insights from literature, anthropology, sociology, cultural theory, gender studies, film, and media studies in order to examine a wider range of visual materials. Largely a disciplinary off- shoot of cultural studies, which gained prominence in England from the s onward,2 the more narrowly defined field of visual culture has not been without its problems and critics. Debates continue to unfold, calling into question, for instance, whether visual culture is indeed an academic discipline with specific methodologies and objects of study, or, conversely, an interdisciplinary movement whose course may be more short-lived than expected.
Claude Levi-Strauss is praised by Said, but other major anthropo- logical approaches to culture are ignored. Said assumes anthropology is on the wrong side of the colonial divide, although he holds out hope for those who are now reading the work of literary and cultural critics.
Perhaps anthropology as we have known it can only continue on one side of the imperial divide, there to remain as a partner in domination and hegemony. My purpose, as the analysis will show, is also rhetorical — questioning how Said approaches anthropology rather than what he, as an outsider, eventually concludes about a discipline not his own.
His passing in late was a loss for all who engage critically with the ineffable notion of culture. However, in the extensive literature about Said, little attention has been given to how he reads anthropological concepts of culture.
Several questions guide my analysis. Which anthropological texts on the culture concept does Said consult? I refer to those that are cited or conspicu- ously absent in his writings rather than the range of academic books adorning his bookshelves. Is there theory in his worldly-finessed corner of cultural critique that anthropologists find worth traveling for, let alone with?
It is best to situate my own con textual attitude as an anthropologist who reads literary and cultural critics.
In Saidian terms I begin with two strikes against me: Said has no trouble listing and branding anthropologists — more on the hindsight end — but seminal anthropological texts remain unopened. I consider my response here a gentler knock, a pacifist polemic for a rhetorical quarrel that has gone on far too long.
Paraphrasing Gellner, the issue of culture is too important to be left to point-counterpoint across barbed defenses. Since that time I have received four post-doctoral grants for the study of Arabic texts, mainly on thirteenth century Yemeni agriculture and folk astronomy.
Anthropology, for Said, is thus a closed circuit — a politically charged one — in which pouvoir defines savoir.
Ironically, the essentialist view of German Kulturkreislehre, a major influence on historian von Grunebaum, was a particular target of the early American anthropolo- gist Franz Boas In this parading of Colonel Creighton, who is clearly aligned on the wrong side of the imperial divide, Said Edward Tylor, the Englishman who inaugurated the modern field in the s, was a Quaker pacifist, not a be k nighted colonial administrator.
On the American side, Lewis Henry Morgan, architect of a model of cultural evolution, was an early advo- cate of Native American rights.
Not only did Boas exemplify an academic scholar unambiguously critical of essentialized scientific models, but, in the words of Marvin Harris From this grounding, his student Ashley Montagu concluded: The means by which we exorcise demons.
It is the contemporary myth.Writing Culture did not go far enough to challenge this basic divide, Abu- Lughod argues, because it did not directly address the situations of feminist scholars and what she calls halﬁes (people of mixed national or cultural identity).
Writing Against the Image of the Monstrous Crack Mother Aline Gubrium University of Massachusetts-Amherst Anthropologist Lila Abu Lughod’s idea of “writing against culture” is the.
On the critique of culture as a bounded concept, see Abu-Lughod, “Writing against Culture”; and Fox and King, eds., Anthropology beyond Culture. See, for example, Armbrust, Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt; and Winegar, Creative Reckonings. Their combined citations are counted only for the first article.
Writing against culture. L Abu-Lughod. The Cultural Geography Reader, , Veiled sentiments: Honor and poetry in a Bedouin society.
F Ginsburg, L Abu-Lughod, B Larkin. Univ of California Press, 43 Writing Against Culture Lila Abu-Lughod Writing Culture (Clifford and Marcus ), the collection that marked a major new form of critique of cultural anthropology's premises, more or less excluded two critical groups whose situations neatly expose and challenge the most basic of those prem-.
Reading Against Culture in Edward Said Throughout her essay Abu-Lughod wavers between criticism of anthro- pologists who seem to take culture for granted and acknowledgement that some have been actively deconstructing older notions.