Annotation: Fabian, Johannes. 1983. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object

Fabian, Johannes. 1983. Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object. New York : Columbia University Press.

The book discusses how anthropology has been defining/constructing the Other. The term denial of coevalness referstothepersistent and systematic tendency to place the referent(s) of anthropology in a Time other than the present of the producer of anthropological discourse” (31). The anthropologist’s use of Space and Time are “ideologically construed instruments of power” (144). In his discussion of the “rhetoric of vision” in anthropology, Fabian introduces the concept of visualism – the“cultural, ideological bias toward vision as the ‘noblest sense’” that uses “graphic-spatial conceptualization as the most ‘exact’ way of communicating knowledge” (106). It includes metaphors, models and schemes, patterns, configuration, structure, etc (107). Fabian argues that it is due to the bias towards the visual that the production of knowledge in anthropology is “based upon, and validated by, observation” rather than participation (107). These strategies of visualization and spatialization, from the assembling of a cabinet of curiosities to the use of symbolic anthropology, have become the centerpieces of knowledge-making in anthropology, and have also shaped the program for the discipline itself (121). Symbolic anthropology (which was fashionable at the time of writing) – a sort of strategy for reducing the anthropologist’s anxieties – is rooted in this visualist bias as it concentrates on representation, exchange, and meaning, rather than on production, creation, and praxis (151). Visualism is an ideology that produces visualist reductions of different cultural expressions, such a language, dance, social relations, etc. (123). On the applications of visualism in visual anthropology, Fabian writes that while some anthropologists recognize the intersubjectivity of Time and the interpretative approaches to visual data, visual ethnography sometimes tends to be subjected to excessive methodologization. Fabian offers some solutions: 1) recuperate the idea of totality, and 2) attention to consciousness and praxis – leading to a processual and materialist theory of knowledge that begins with the recognition of individual and collective consciousness (in Marxist terms) as the starting point.


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