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Thoughts and Hallucinations

Public Lecture on Contemporary Anthropology for Linköping University

Abstract for Public Anthropology Lecture
Linköping University
April 26, 2010

It’s Not Your Grandparent’s Anthropology.

Since Boas and Malinowski in the early 20th century, the image of the anthropologist has been the same: A European or American, alone, living with people of color in a small impoverished isolated community, in Africa or Oceania or Latin America or Asia. Part science, part adventure, always exotic. Now cut to 2010. Just before this trip to Sweden, the presenter worked in a city near where he lives to help explain housing developments for an ecology project and he helped an academic information science department and a private company put culture into language learning software.

What happened to anthropology here? In this presentation, we first of all look at a dramatic change in anthropology as a response to a dramatic change in our world. Next, we explore how the anthropological species may have adapted, but it is still the same species. Across the changes of the last decades, some unique and critical threads from that earlier tradition continue, threads that will be described: 1) A different kind of logic; 2) Endlessly iterated questions meant to reveal another perspective; 3) Translations with a capital T between different worlds: and 4) A nonlinear dynamic learning model different from traditional notions of science. And finally, we look at how the linked changes in the world and in anthropology have inspired requests for and delivery of useful applications beyond the wildest dreams--and worst fears--of the founding mothers and fathers.

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