Keynote Address: 1996 Annual Conference of the Australian Anthropological Society.
Interior Landscapes and External Worlds: the Return of Grand Theory in Anthropology1
Version of Record online: 10 FEB 2009
© 1997 Australian Anthropological Society
The Australian Journal of Anthropology
Volume 8, Issue 3, pages 125–144, December 1997
How to Cite
Moore, H. (1997), Interior Landscapes and External Worlds: the Return of Grand Theory in Anthropology. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 8: 125–144. doi: 10.1111/j.1835-9310.1997.tb00346.x
- Issue online: 8 MAR 2010
- Version of Record online: 10 FEB 2009
This paper argues that the retreat from ‘theory’ characteristic of the postmodernist turn in anthropology has not had the impact on the ethics and politics of disciplinary practice that was hoped for. One reason for this is the problematic relationship between cultural relativism and identity politics which has paralysed the critical project in the discipline and prevented a more radical interrogation of two fundamental questions: ‘what is anthropology?' and ‘who is the anthropologist?'. Discussions in anthropological writing on hybridity and postcoloniality have more often highlighted the hybrid nature of `informants' than that of ‘anthropologists’. Feminist, native and minority writing in the discipline are areas where these questions have been seriously addressed through debates on positionality and location. However, the impact of these discussions on the politics of knowledge in the discipline are rarely recognised by ‘mainstrean anthropology’. One particularly noticeable lacuna is the fact that so little attention is paid to disciplinary education and its impact on theorising. Anthropology, rather than turning away from theory, should spend more time ‘anthropologising’ the concepts of ‘value’, ‘relativism’, ‘humanism’ and ‘comparison’ which underlie disciplinary theorising. The paper concludes by arguing for a return to theory in anthropology accompanied by a critical politics.