Kamari M. Clarke and Ryan C. Jobson
IS IT POSSIBLE TO DECOLONIZE ANTHROPOLOGY?
28 January 2021
Since the 1970s, several important critical interventions have been made in the field of anthropology questioning its disciplinary history of complicity with colonialism. Yet methodologically and theoretically, we still encounter unresolved problems of power and representation which continue to reproduce the lifeworlds of the poor and the marginalized in the global South and minorities of the global North as a neo-oriental data mine. Both the authors reflect on the question of ethics and politics in anthropology. Prof. Clarke’s “Toward a Critically Engaged Ethnographic Practice” ‘interogates what it means for anthropologists as “social critics” to be engaged in doc- umenting efforts that not only have explanatory power but connect that power to praxis’. Dr. Jobson’s “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn: Sociocultural Anthropology in 2019” unsettles ‘the conceptual and methodological preoccupations of the discipline in service of political projects of repatriation, repair, and abolition. By abandoning the universal liberal subject as a stable foil for a renewed project of cultural critique, the field of anthropology cannot presume a coherent human subject as its point of departure but must adopt a radical humanism as its political horizon.’
Kamari Maxine Clarke is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Toronto. For more than twenty years, she has conducted research on issues related to legal institutions, human rights and international law, religious nationalism and the politics of race and globalization. She has spent her career exploring theoretical questions concerning culture and power and detailing the relationship between new social formations and contemporary problems. One of her key academic contributions has been to demonstrate ethnographically the ways that legal and religious knowledge regimes produce practices that travel globally. In addition to her scholarly work, she has served as a technical advisor to the African Union (AU) legal counsel and produced policy reports to help the AU navigate various international law and United Nations challenges. Clarke has published nine books (3 monographs and 6 edited volumes) with over 50 peer-refereed journal articles and book chapters. She is the author of Affective Justice: The International Criminal Court and the Pan-Africanist Pushback (2019, Duke), Fictions of Justice (Cambridge, 2010), and Mapping Yorùbá Networks (Duke, 2004). Clarke is the recipient of the 2019 Royal Anthropological Institute’s Amaury Talbot Book Prize, as well as the 2019 finalist for the Elliot Skinner book award for her latest book, Affective Justice (Duke, 2019). She is also a recipient of a Distinguished Chair in Transnational Justice sand Socio-legal Studies and a recipient of the 2021 Guggenheim Prize for career excellence.
Ryan Cecil Jobson is Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is an anthropologist and social critic of the Caribbean and the Americas. His research and teaching engage issues of energy and extractivism, states and sovereignty, climate and crisis, race and capital. His first book manuscript, The Petro-State Masquerade, is a historical ethnography of fossil fuel industries and postcolonial state building in Trinidad and Tobago. Excavating more than a century of commercial oil, gas, and petrochemical development, Jobson theorizes how the tenuous relationship between hydrocarbons and political power—enshrined in the hyphenated form of the petro-state—is upheld through a “masquerade of permanence” sustained by speculative offshore and deepwater extraction. Meanwhile, working class Trinbagonians play a mas of their own—in the form of strikes, protests, and the Carnival road march—to stage direct democratic alternatives to the fossil economy. Jobson holds faculty appointments in the Committee on Environment, Geography, and Urbanization (CEGU), the Center for Latin American Studies, and the Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity. He is Associate Editor of the journal Transforming Anthropology and sits on the editorial boards of Current Anthropology and Small Axe.