Critically Modern

Critically Modern

Alternatives, Alterities, Anthropologies
Edited by Bruce M. Knauft
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 09/27/2002
Format: Paperback 22 b&w photos, 2 figures, 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21538-3
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Critically Modern makes a critical intervention in one of the great debates of the moment. It offers a variety of rich and fascinating empirical analyses of 'modern' phenomena from diverse societies, and contributes a powerful (and largely missing) voice to the growing literature on globalization and modernity outside anthropology."
—Charles Piot

In these essays theory and ethnography are presented in ways that make them mutually enriching. The volume should appeal to scholars across the entire range of disciplines that deal with modernity and/or globalization."
—Edward LiPuma

Are there multiple ways of being "modern" in the world today? How do people in various parts of the world become modern in their own distinct ways? Does the current focus on modernity in the social sciences resurrect a series of dichotomies ("traditional" and "modern," "the West" and "the Rest," "developed" and "undeveloped") that social theorists have sought to move beyond in recent years? Or do inflections of modernity capture key features of ideology and influence in the contemporary world? Combining rich ethnographic analysis with incisive theoretical critiques, this timely volume is certain to make an important mark in anthropology and in all related fields in which modernity is a central problematic.

Contributors: Donald L. Donham, Robert J. Foster, Jonathan Friedman, Ivan Karp, John D. Kelly, Bruce M. Knauft, Lisa B. Rofel, Debra A. Spitulnik, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and Holly Wardlow.

Author Bio

Bruce M. Knauft is Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Anthropology at Emory University and Director of the Vernacular Modernities Program.


“Are there multiple ways of being "modern" in the world today? How do people in various parts of the world become modern in their own distinct ways? This timely volume focuses the attention of leading anthropologists on the theory and ethnography of modernity.”

“. . . a book of considerable intellectual sophistication. Lively, shrewd and persuasive, . . . this informative book marks an important event in the ongoing debte on multiple modernities.”
 — Net Book Review

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Table of Contents

Preliminary Table of Contents:


Critically Modern: An Introduction Bruce M. Knauft


1. Bargains with Modernity in Papua New Guinea and Elsewhere Robert J. Foster

2. Development and Personhood: Tracing the Contours of a Moral Discourse Ivan Karp

3. Trials of the Oxymodern: Public Practice at Nomad Station Bruce M. Knauft
4. "Hands-Up"-ing Buses and Harvesting Cheese-Pops: Gendered Mediation of Modern Disjuncture in Melanesia Holly Wardlow


5. Modernity's Masculine Fantasies Lisa B. Rofel

6. Accessing "Local" Modernities: Reflections on the Place of Linguistic Evidence in Ethnography Debra A. Spitulnik

7. The Otherwise Modern: Caribbean Lessons from the Savage Slot Michel-Rolph Trouillot


8. On Being Modern in a Capitalist World: Some Conceptual and Comparative Issues Donald L. Donham

9. Alternative Modernities or an Alternative to "Modernity"?: Getting Out of the Modernist Sublime John D. Kelly

10. Modernity and Other Traditions Jonathan Friedman