Ethnography and the Meta‐Narratives of Modernity

  • Englund H
  • Leach J
201Citations
Citations of this article
192Readers
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
Get full text

Abstract

Current attempts to increase the relevance of sociocultural anthropology encourage anthropologists to engage in the study of modernity. In this discourse dominated by sociologists, the contribution of anthropology is often to reveal cultural diversity in globalization, leading to the notion of multiple modernities. Yet such ethnographic accounts draw upon familiar sociological abstractions such as time-space compression, commodification, individualization, disenchantment, and reenchantment. This article shows how an underlying meta-narrative preempts social scientific argument by making shifts in analytical scales look natural, as in the alleged need to "situate" the particular in "wider" contexts. This analytical procedure undermines what is unique in the ethnographic method-its reflexivity, which gives subjects authority in determining the contexts of their beliefs and practices. Two ethnographic case studies are presented to support this argument, one from Melanesia on current interests in white people, money, and consumption and the other from Africa on born-again Christianity and individuality. The article ends by reflecting not only on the limits of metropolitan meta-narratives in returning relevance to anthropology but also on the contemporary conditions of academic work that undermine the knowledge practices of ethnography and render such meta-narratives plausible.

Cite

CITATION STYLE

APA

Englund, H., & Leach, J. (2000). Ethnography and the Meta‐Narratives of Modernity. Current Anthropology, 41(2), 225–248. https://doi.org/10.1086/300126

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free