A Possible Anthropology

Methods for Uneasy Times

Book Pages: 168 Illustrations: 10 illustrations Published: October 2019

Author: Anand Pandian


In a time of intense uncertainty, social strife, and ecological upheaval, what does it take to envision the world as it yet may be? The field of anthropology, Anand Pandian argues, has resources essential for this critical and imaginative task. Anthropology is no stranger to injustice and exploitation. Still, its methods can reveal unseen dimensions of the world at hand and radical experience as the seed of a humanity yet to come. A Possible Anthropology is an ethnography of anthropologists at work: canonical figures like Bronislaw Malinowski and Claude Lévi-Strauss, ethnographic storytellers like Zora Neale Hurston and Ursula K. Le Guin, contemporary scholars like Jane Guyer and Michael Jackson, and artists and indigenous activists inspired by the field. In their company, Pandian explores the moral and political horizons of anthropological inquiry, the creative and transformative potential of an experimental practice.


“Incorporating the current movements beyond 'writing culture' of twentieth-century anthropology, Anand Pandian reinstantiates the poetics of an ethnographic method that anticipates futures. In the midst of a surge of multimodal experimentation, Pandian stunningly reinvests in the narrative character of ethnography.” — George E. Marcus, coauthor of Ethnography by Design: Scenographic Experiments in Fieldwork

“Offering the daring gambit of revisiting anthropology's past to make it new, and critically meditating, too, upon the field's latest theoretical moves, Anand Pandian's captivating book is a stirring brief for ethnography as a method for exploring that which is and may yet be possible.” — Stefan Helmreich, author of Sounding the Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond

"This is a book that practicing anthropologists and students of anthropology must both read."

— Shweta Krishnan, Anthropology Book Forum

"A Possible Anthropology is bold, caring, and creative in trying to confront these issues head on, in trying to imagine some other kind of world." — Andrés Romero, Cultural Anthropology


Availability: In stock
Price: $23.95

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Anand Pandian teaches anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. His books include Reel World: An Anthropology of Creation and the coedited volume Crumpled Paper Boat: Experiments in Ethnographic Writing, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction. An Ethnographer among the Anthropologists  1
1. The World at Hand: Between Scientific and Literary Inquiry  15
2. A Method of Experience: Reading, Writing, Teaching, Fieldwork  44
3. For the Humanity Yet to Come: Politics, Art, Fiction, Ethnography  77
Coda. The Anthropologist as Critic  110
Acknowledgments  123
Notes  127
Bibliography  141
Index  155
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