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Emergent Forms of Life and the Anthropological Voice

By
Michael M. J. Fischer
Michael M. J. Fischer

Michael M. J. Fischer is Professor of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Lecturer in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of Iran: From Religious Dispute to Revolution and coauthor of Debating Muslims: Cultural Dialogues in Postmodernity and Tradition and Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences.

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Duke University Press
ISBN electronic:
978-0-8223-8495-3
Publication date:
2003

Anthropology as Cultural Critique helped redefine cultural anthropology in the 1980s. Now, with Emergent Forms of Life and the Anthropological Voice, pathbreaking scholar Michael M. J. Fischer moves the discussion to a consideration of the groundwork laid in the 1990s for engagements with the fast-changing worlds of technoscience, telemedia saturation, and the reconstruction of societies after massive trauma. Fischer argues that new methodologies and conceptual tools are necessitated by the fact that cultures of every kind are becoming more complex and differentiated at the same time that globalization and modernization are bringing them into exponentially increased interaction. Anthropology, Fischer explains, now operates in a series of third spaces well beyond the nineteenth- and twentieth-century dualisms of us/them, primitive/civilized, East/West, or North/South. He contends that more useful paradigms—such as informatics, multidimensional scaling, autoimmunity, and visual literacy beyond the frame—derive from the contemporary sciences and media technologies.

A vigorous advocate of the anthropological voice and method, Fischer emphasizes the ethical dimension of cultural anthropology. Ethnography, he suggests, is uniquely situated to gather and convey observations fundamental to the creation of new social institutions for an evolving civil society. In Emergent Forms of Life and the Anthropological Voice Fischer considers a dazzling array of subjects—among them Iranian and Polish cinema, cyberspace, autobiographical and fictional narrative, and genomic biotechnologies—and, in the process, demonstrates a cultural anthropology for a highly networked world. He lays the groundwork for a renewed and powerful twenty-first-century anthropology characterized by a continued insistence on empirical fieldwork, engagements with other disciplines, and dialogue with interlocutors around the globe.

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