From the Margins

Historical Anthropology and Its Futures

From the Margins

Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: Published: June 2002

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Historical anthropology: critical exchange between two decidedly distinct disciplines or innovative mode of knowledge production? As this volume’s title suggests, the essays Brian Keith Axel has gathered in From the Margins seek to challenge the limits of discrete disciplinary epistemologies and conventions, gesturing instead toward a transdisciplinary understanding of the emerging relations between archive and field.
In original articles encompassing a wide range of geographic and temporal locations, eminent scholars contest some of the primary preconceptions of their fields. The contributors tackle such topics as the paradoxical nature of American Civil War monuments, the figure of the “New Christian” in early seventeenth-century Peru, the implications of statistics for ethnography, and contemporary South Africa's “occult economies.” That anthropology and history have their provenance in—and have been complicit with—colonial formations is perhaps commonplace knowledge. But what is rarely examined is the specific manner in which colonial processes imbue and threaten the celebratory ideals of postcolonial reason or the enlightenment of today’s liberal practices in the social sciences and humanities.
By elaborating this critique, From the Margins offers diverse and powerful models that explore the intersections of historically specific local practices with processes of a world historical order. As such, the collection will not only prove valuable reading for anthropologists and historians, but also for scholars in colonial, postcolonial, and globalization studies.

Talal Asad, Brian Keith Axel, Bernard S. Cohn, Jean Comaroff, John L. Comaroff, Nicholas B. Dirks, Irene Silverblatt, Paul A. Silverstein, Teri Silvio, Ann Laura Stoler, Michel-Rolph Trouillot


“[F]ascinating. . . . Collectively, the essays, most of which are written by senior scholars with long records of publication in their areas of expertise, insightfully reveal the ways in which anthropological subjects have been discursively produced in the writings of colonial administrators and ethnographers and how those representations have so profoundly effected for identity formation, political mobilization, and nation-state formation during and after colonialism.” — Garth L. Green , Anthropological Quarterly

"[A]n impressive collection of essays by leading scholars in the area of historical anthropology." — Anna Cole , Critique of Anthropology

"In this highly readable and informative collection of essays, Brian Axel has brought together a group of prominent scholars to reexamine the dilemma of 'interdisciplinarity' in the study of history and anthropology to facilitate a 'critical exchange' between two 'sister disciplines.' . . . . [T]his volume represents an important contribution to world history as well as to our understanding of historical anthropology as a critical and analytical field that can transcend or bridge the discrete conventions and disciplinary boundaries." — Theodore Jun Yoo , Journal of World History

“There is a great deal of talk in academia about the promise of interdisciplinary work, but the dialogue between anthropology and history is one of the few cases that already exhibits a substantial payoff. This volume corroborates that dialogue as vital, fruitful, and very much a site of innovation. From the Margins, thankfully, does not represent yet another ‘normal’ discipline.” — Dan Segal, Pitzer College

"From the Margins exemplifies the best of current thinking in anthropology. It cuts through a haze of recent theoretical developments in the discipline and opens the way for new syntheses. With this exemplary piece of intellectual history, Brian Axel and the authors he has assembled also provide the conditions for a renewal in the dialogue between anthropology and other discursive fields." — Achille Mbembe, author of On the Postcolony


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Brian Keith Axel is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Swarthmore College. He is the author of The Nation’s Tortured Body: Violence, Representation, and the Formation of a Sikh “Diaspora,” also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Introduction: Historical Anthropology and Its Vicissitudes / Brian Keith Axel 1

Part 1 Ethnography and the Archive

Annals of the Archive: Ethnographic Notes on the Sources of History / Nicholas B. Dirks 47

Ethnographic Representation, Statistics, and Modern Power / Talal Asad 66

Part 2 Colonial Anxieties

New Christians and New world Fears in Seventeenth-Century Peru / Irene Silverblatt 95

The Kabyle Myth: Colonization and the Production of Ethnicity / Paul A. Silverstein 122

Developing Historical Negatives: Race and the (Modernist) Visions of a Colonial State / Ann Laura Stoler 156

Part 3 Marginal Contexts

Culture on the Edges: Caribbean Creolization in Historical Context / Michel-Rolph Trouillot 189

Race, Gender, and Historical Narrative in the Reconstruction of a Nation: Remembering and Forgetting the American Civil War / Bernard S. Cohn and Teri Silvio 211

Part 4 Archaeologies of the Fantastic

Fantastic Community / Brian Keith Axel 233

Occult Economies and the Violence of Abstraction: Notes from the South African Postcolony / John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff 267

Contributors 303

Index 305
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2888-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2861-2
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