Culture, Education, Anthropology


Hervé Varenne has conducted research in various settings with a dual interest in advancing culture theory and producing more careful accounts of “America” as a social fact. In the 1980s he began collaborating with Ray McDermott. Together they look at the historical contingencies that disable as well as enable. Currently, Varenne is collaborating with Ed Gordon on a project dedicated to exploring how to study education “comprehensively” (


This article argues that the anthropology of education must focus on what people do to educate themselves outside the constraints constituting the problematics of schooling. Anthropologists must do this precisely to fulfill their public role as legitimate participants in the conversations about understanding and transforming schooling. When anthropologists work at losing control in their research practice, they discover the breadth of the educative efforts that are triggered by the arbitrariness of cultural forms and, most interestingly, produce new forms. If this is the case, then the anthropology of education is the anthropology of cultural transformation that it has been difficult for the discipline to produce. [cross-cultural research, culture change]