Anthropology and the Will to Meaning

Anthropology and the Will to Meaning : A Postcolonial Critique

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Anthropology, the study of societies and cultures different to our own, is based on the humanist assumption that difference does not mean otherness and inferiority. In this book, Vassos Argyrou puts forward a powerful critique of both modern and postmodern anthropology that reveals the self centred logic of anthropological humanism, offering the controversial conclusion that the anthropological project is forever doomed to failure.

At the heart of the book is the idea that anthropologists are driven to produce knowledge not by a desire for power, as it is often assumed, but a by desire for meaning. Interpretation of Othered societies and cultures allows them to construct an image of a symbolically unified, ethically ordered and hence meaningful world.

Vassos Argyrou shows this assumption to be untenable because differentiation and distinction are in the nature of human being. He further argues that, paradoxically, by trying to uphold Sameness, anthropologists reproduce, inadvertently but inevitably, its contrary.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 136 pages
  • 164.6 x 224.5 x 14mm | 299.38g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • references, index
  • 0745318606
  • 9780745318608

Table of contents

1. Introduction: Of Scholars, Gamblers and Thieves

2. Has There Ever Been a Crisis in Ethnological Representation?

3. The Salvation Intent

4. What the Natives Don't Know

5. The Ethnological Will to Meaning


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Review quote

'An exceptionally original book. Argyrou has written one of the most stimulating and intellectually bracing books of anthropological theory in recent years' -- Joel Robbins, University of California, San Diego
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About Vassos Argyrou

Vassos Argyrou is Professor of Social Anthropology and Cultural Theory in the School of Social Sciences, University of Hull. His research interests include social and cultural theory, postcolonialism, ritual and myth, southern Europe. He is the author of Anthropology and the Will to Meaning: A Postcolonial Critique (Pluto, 2002).
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