Prologue: value as theory: value, action, and critique

Otto, Ton, and Willerslev, Rane (2013) Prologue: value as theory: value, action, and critique. HAU: journal of ethnographic theory, 3 (2). pp. 1-10.

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Abstract

In the introduction to part one of this special issue we addressed the thorny question of whether an anthropological theory of value is needed or indeed possible at all. By way of a Socratic debate, we argued respectively for one of two opposite positions. Ton Otto suggested that anthropology can make a major and quite coherent contribution to the issue of value in social theory and he was in favor of bringing the papers together from a “history of ideas” perspective, thereby tracing how the authors’ varied perspectives and approaches to questions of value advanced particular—and easily specified—trends in social theory. Rane Willerslev, to the contrary, proposed that anthropology is an ethnographically driven discipline, which can only produce idiosyncratic “antitheories” of value. In Willerslev’s view, anthropologists are and should be, primarily, warriors of the periphery—that is, “guerrilla warriors,” using indigenous conceptual productions as tactics to fight dominant theoretical traditions. The debate reflects an underlying disagreement, which runs through the collection of articles themselves, about the place of anthropology in relation to other disciplines and, in particular, whether anthropology is primarily theory-driven or ethnography-driven, and whether or not these two abstractions (“theory” and “ethnography”) can be reconciled. This debate continues in part two of this special issue, but with new fields of inquiry and objects of analysis. The contributions of part one were largely concerned with aspects of value in exchange theory and with the radical comparison of diverse cultural structures. Part two addresses the relationship between value and action, including actions deemed to occur outside the sphere of reciprocal exchanges. Additionally, part two raises questions about what value means for anthropological practice by considering how anthropologists engage with their field sites and projects via critique and collaboration.

Item ID: 29417
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2049-1115
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2013 22:37
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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