The Value of Comparison
Peter van der Veer is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity at Göttingen, Germany and Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University. He is the author of several books, including The Modern Spirit of Asia: The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India.
A Short Conclusion
The conclusion explores the ways in which nationalism is both an object of inquiry in anthropology and a methodological challenge. More and more anthropological inquiry is hindered and sometimes made impossible by forms of policing that keep foreign anthropologists out. At the same time citizens who engage in anthropological inquiry are under pressure to avoid so-called sensitive topics. In India and China this has become a formidable obstacle for empirical research. Nevertheless, nationalism as the ideological expression of culture is one of the most important topics in social science research. The anthropological approach problematizes understandings of personhood in relation to the focus on the individual that dominates economic and psychological reasoning. The chapter concludes that anthropology offers a necessary critique of modern ideology that underlies a major part of the social sciences.