The others’ others: when taking our natives seriously is not enough

Guilherme Moreira Fians*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Since Malinowski, taking the natives seriously has been a core issue for ethnographers, as this principle encloses two terms nurturing much theoretical debate in sociocultural anthropology: ‘native’ and ‘point of view’. Yet, this entails a parallel issue: aside from taking one’s natives seriously, have anthropologists been taking other anthropologists’ natives equally seriously? The discipline came to take for granted the legitimacy of Others constituted by discourses of race, sex, class, ethnicity and colonialism. However, anthropology seems to continuously marginalize groups – from children and speakers of ‘invented’ languages to UFO witnesses – whose practices are routinely mocked or dismissed as foolish. This article analyzes certain anthropologists and their ethnographies of unsanctioned interlocutors who were cast aside by scholarship. I argue that ‘taking seriously’ must be not only an experiment that builds rapport between individual anthropologists and natives, but also one that makes room for the natives’ viewpoints to flow within the discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-184
Number of pages18
JournalCritique of Anthropology
Volume43
Issue number2
Early online date12 May 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2023

Keywords

  • Native
  • Point of view
  • Ontological turn
  • Relativism
  • Anthropological theory
  • Malinowski
  • Geertz
  • Children
  • Constructed languages
  • Gatekeeping

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