Anthropology is having something of an intellectual moment:
Anthropologically, we have been informed and influenced throughout time by the people around us, and that’s equally true on Facebook as it is offline,” said Facebook’s advertising chief, David Fischer. “Now we look at the networks people communicate in”
This sentence above could not have been said five years ago. But somehow something has happened to make the tech and business worlds recognise anthropological thinking to be relevant and valuable.
Yet this is a new scientised, technicalised anthropology – an anthropology that’s presumed to be the natural partner of comp sci network analysis.
It’s a depoliticised anthropology, too. Not that anthropology has ever had an official political position – left-leaning, to be sure, but not didactically so. Anthropology is, however, fundamentally concerned with understanding hierarchies and the operation of power – the ways in which social norms (the status quo) are socially reproduced and come to be seen as immutable.
Arguably this new corporate anthropology is only interested in that as far as it can further its own ends – which is to say it’s not interested in doing it properly at all.
To be interested in “anthropology” but not anthropological criticism, not critical anthropology – what does that mean? Is it intellectually coherent? How does it change the discipline?