Anthropology in Public

Anthropology in Public

Exotics at Home:
Anthropologies, Others, American Modernity
by Micaela di Leonardo
University of Chicago Press, 1998 272 pp $35

This book addresses an important problem: the place of anthropology in America’s public culture. Micaela di Leonardo, professor of anthropology and women’s studies at Northwestern University, is concerned that the American public’s conception of anthropology is highly stereotyped and mostly wrong, a point with which most anthropologists, including myself, would agree. Di Leonardo details the many stereotypes in play in the United States today: that anthropologists only study “primitive” societies, that we bring back “tribal wisdom” à la Carlos Castañeda, that we recover lost treasures while fighting off the “savage” à la Indiana Jones, that we teach the public’s children an amoral cultural relativism, and more. As a result of these misapprehensions, anthropologists, at least in the United States, are rarely asked to contribute to public discussions of social issues “at home”; when we do try to make such contributions we are misread, misheard, our ideas distorted.

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Lima