Conference 2001

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Literature and Anthropology

Writing is central to what anthropologists do in the field and later. The makers of an anthropological or ethnographic text use tropes, allegories that select and impose meaning as they translate it. Many anthropologists and ethnographers have shown an interest in literary practice and have identified with writers in authorial terms. This idea is not new. However, in recent times some anthropologists have begun to look at their discipline and its claim to be a neutral, scientific enterprise (as against the subjective, imaginative one of literature) more critically. This rethinking has come in the context of debates in literary theory, philosophy and the social sciences in general about the interpretation and representation of other cultures, which is a specific object of the anthropological enterprise.

The issues debated by anthropologists have been significant in literature too. Literature too is concerned with questions that are central to anthropology - "What is man?" and "Who am I" - though its methods and epistemological claims are different. The writer is also concerned with the Other, variously defined, and with the simultaneous definition and redefinition of the Self. Though anthropology is not literature, it involves writing and issues of representation have become part of its central concerns.

The seminar will focus on the convergence and divergence of the literary and the anthropological enterprises and more specifically on the implications of their responses to questions of common concern in our current age of globalisation. Among other things, globalisation has also paradoxically engendered both a transcending of national barriers and an assertion of cultural identities. We are thus said to be both at the "end of history" and in an era of the "clash of civilisations".

The seminar will look at how writers and anthropologists have engaged with some of the questions that have been thrown up in the course of recent debates: universalism vs. cultural relativism, culture vs. history, the role of social, economic and political change, the epistemological limitations of perspectives based on notions of the Self and the Other, the usefulness and implications of the ideas of multiculturalism and intercultural hermeneutics. It will investigate how writers and anthropologists have shaped and reshaped their methodological tools as part of their engagement with these questions.


Wednesday, 7 March 2001, Room 22, Arts Faculty, University of Delhi

10.15 am Opening Remarks A.V. Parasnis, Shaswati Mazumdar
11.00 am Rosa Maria Perez Contradictory Partners - Anthropology and Literature from fieldwork to cultural studies
12.00 am Nirmalangshu Mukherji Literature and Cognitive Agency
    Chair: A.V. Parasnis
12.45 pm   LUNCH BREAK
1.45 pm Dominique de Gasquet When Literature meets Anthropology
2.30 pm Julieta Lozano Allegory: a figure placed between the anthropological and literary uses
3.30 pm Ana Ayuso &
Pablo Ballesteros
Magic: An Anthropological and Literary Reality
    Chair: J.S. Bandari

Thursday, 8 March 2001, Room 22, Arts Faculty, University of Delhi

10.15 am Ashley Tellis Distorting Mirrors: Colonial Entanglements and Postcolonial Homosexualities
11.00 am


11.15 am Rekha Kamath Literary Anthropology: Hubert Fichte's Representation of the Other
12.00 am Franson Manjali Philosophy, Literature and the Discourse of Purity
    Chair: J.P.S. Uberoi
12.45 pm   LUNCH BREAK
1.45 pm Karl Acham The Relativity of Human Culture and the Immutability of Human Nature: Some considerations on anthropology
2.30 pm Sorin Alexandrescu In Search of Identity: The case of Romania
3.30 pm Manfred Stassen "How Much 'Other' is Too Much?" - The Political Anthropology of Inclusion vs. Exclusion in the Construction of National Identity
    Chair:Anil Bhatti

Friday, 9 March 2001, Room 22, Arts Faculty, University of Delhi

10.15 am Sabina Finaru The Aesthetics of Creation and/or the Aesthetics of Existence
11.00 am


11.15 am Pascale Rabault Who speaks in the text? Literary and scientific travel accounts in Bonsel's Indienfahrt
and Dahlmann's Indische Fahrten
12.00 am Annie Curien The dictionary of Maqiao by Han Shaogong, or the "language-novel"



Chair:  Harish Trivedi

12.45 pm



1.45 pm

Margit Köves

Anthropology in the Aesthetics of the Young Lukács

2.30 pm

Rolf-Peter Janz

Kafka's A Report to an Academy. Or how to survive between two identities

3.15 pm



3.30 pm

Kathleen Kerr

Empire as Machine: Ethnography and the Necessity of Deconstruction



Chair: Abhai Maurya

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