Visions of Culture : An Introduction to Anthropological Theories and
Theorists, Second Edition
by Jerry D. Moore
An Introduction to Theory in Anthropology
by Robert Layton
I did some Googling for survey courses in anthro theory and found
their texts - these three seem like potential starting places - does
anyone have experience with any of these books? Or any others to add?
Or any other input on the material we might use?
By the way, do I detect in the notion of this group a response to the
report by Grant McCracken on the MSI meeting on ethnography?
If its anthropological practice, - What do anthropologists do? - then
we may be better off lookking towards specific texts on ethnographic
methods. But I'm assuming to from the discussion so far, that this
group has an interest in theory.
In this light, from the Amazon's 'Statistically Improbable Phrases,'
the Layton book looks as if it focuses very much on material culture
(in the archaeological sense). So a thumbs down here (unless you're
really interested in material culture). The McGee and Warms has 10-15
pages excerpts from a wide range of anthropologists (many of whom are
of historical interest, but whose ideas are no longer used). These
are in thematic sections, with short contextualizing introductions.
Moore has short intellectual bios of many of the people McGee and
Warms cover, but is shorter (and cheaper). I think of these as great
as on-the-shelf, social science reference books - and I can recommend
some more - but I'm not sure how much might be gained from reading and
then discussing 10 pages on Marx, for instance.
Rather than spending time on gaining an overall view, I'd recommend a
little initial recconaissance, and then some bold exploration. So I'd
Monaghan and Just, Social and Cultural Anthropology, A Very Short
Introduction (Oxford University Press).
I have not read this, but I have read other in the VSI series, and
these small books are very substantial. It gets good reviews, and
Then, I'd recommend Geertz's 'Interpretation of Cultures.' Whenever
non-anthropologists want to cite an anthropologist, it's often Geertz,
and this book, and in particular the first essay, "Thick description:
Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture." This is where the phrase
'thick description' comes from, although it did not originate with
Geertz, who took it from the philosopher Gilbert Ryle. Rightly or
wrongly, this is/was an enormously influential essay in anthropology,
even if many of the ideas have subsequently attacked or replaced.
However, the notion of 'thick description,' and also 'deep hanging
out,' as being things that anthropologists do, have endured in the
anthropological lexicon. We should at least read 'Thick Description'
(FYI there's a scan here, but the book has other interesting essays as
As a starting monograph that looks at scientists and technologists,
I'd recommend Diane Forsythe's "Studying Those Who Study Us." This is
a posthumous collection of essays by an anthropologist who spent years
studying artificial intelligence. As an essay collection it can get a
bit repitive, but the advantage is that you can see her ideas
evolving. Further, she also deals in places with questions that have
emerged in other lists, regarding who can (and who is trained to do)
ethnography of science and technology. She advances the pov (to
paraphrase it broadly) that watching users test something for a few
hours, is not ethnography, and certainly not anthropology. This is a
good, readable, introductory text I think, that interweaves
ethnographic, anthropological and theoretical observations in
Note the second reviewer!
Marcus Fischer is interesting for people who would like to know about
cultural anthropology since the 80s, but unfortunately it's my opinion
that applied anthro/"what we do here" hasn't become post-modern yet.
Maybe that's a topic for discussion.
Geertz is an excellent place to begin.
I am wholeheartedly motivated to put some shape (theory) around my
knowledge of ethnography and am delighted to participate. I appreciate
the books that some of you have mentioned. I like Tom Fisher's idea of
reading chapters and discussing piecemeal. I would like to dive into
an Anthropological theory book and am absolutely overwhelmed with the
choices, I have no idea where to begin. Recommendations and direction
from peers (all of you) would be fabulous.
There are a couple of triggering events for me, that post being one
http://www.cultureby.com/trilogy/2006/05/_the_marketing_.html is the
post in question.
I posted some of my thoughts in the comments there and had some
- and also a difficult experience at EPIC last year.
(this last one is about four conferences, with a section about EPIC)
Some of what I've linked to above is negative or critical, involves
our community or even some of us, and I post here it here with some
hesitation because I don't want to re-enter a debate, I want to
(within this group here) address some of the issues I'm facing (and
clearly others) in our own development.
I'd suggest if you want to engage in a discussion on this stuff, post
comments on those blog entries. I'd prefer to see the discussion here
focused on how to most effectively come together to learn more of the