International anthropology or national ethnology?
In a special issue of the Nordic journal Ethos, Thomas Gerholm and Ulf Hannerz raised the question of ?the bases of unity and diversity of international social and cultural anthropology.? ?Anthropology is an interpretation of culture? ? they argued. ?Could it be that this interpretation is itself shaped by culture? Could some of the differences between national anthropologies be derived from differences between the cultural systems which have formed the anthropologists?? (Gerholm and Hannerz, 1982: 13) Their answer runs like this:
?There are both cosmopolitan and local strands to any national anthropology, i.e. traits that are more or less reflexes of the major international traditions, more or less products of purely national conjunctures. (?) Although these typical orientations are found both in centers and peripheries, it may be the case (?) that a country?s position in the center/periphery model has an influence on the particular balance struck in that country between cosmopolitanism and localism? (idem: 14-15).
Let?s start with cosmopolitanism. What makes anthropology a distinct science, what is its common international denominator? At the end of the same issue, George Stocking tries to give an answer:
?The ultimate basis for such underlying unity as Euro-American anthropology manifests ? and by extension, for the unity of ?international anthropology? ? has probably been what Kenelm Burridge has called the ?reach into otherness? (Burridge 1973:6). Allowing also for its manifestation in relation to the ?internal? otherness of European diversity, it is the fascination with the external ?other? encountered during the expansion of modern Europe that has provided historically the lowest common denominator of Euro-American anthropology ?(Stocking, 1982: 173).
Indeed, when August Comte decided that the new born science, sociology, should address only ?the latest born societies,? a historical split was produced between ?sociology,? having to study our European, modern societies, and the ?anthropological? studies, having to deal with the others. ?Thus, whereas sociology is the science of internal difference, anthropology is the science of external difference. Whereas sociology is the science of the Self, anthropology is the science of Other? (Kearney, 1996: 25). Many anthropologists would still agree that ?science of Other? may be a good brief definition of anthropology.
But here comes already a difference: there is more then just one ?Other!? In this common ground of ?the lowest common denominator,? there is a second split: the one between external and inner ?Other.? The first one was, originally, the Primitive; the second one was, and to some extent still is, mainly the Peasant. These two main heroes of anthropology are also the products of different political conjunctures: the first one was the product of what Stocking calls an ?empire-building anthropology,? the second one was the invention of a ?nation-building anthropology:?