artigos e ensaios - 1991 / Mariza Peirano

The anthropology of anthropology: The Brazilian case

"... class-explanation of the social beliefs and ideals implicit in sociological theory is no longer sufficient in the twentieth century. In this period we must also take account of the development of national ideals transcending social classes in order to understand the ideological aspects of sociological theories".

(Elias, 1978a: 241-2)

It is often accepted that anthropological questions have changed over time. One can trace developments in the study of kinship, magic, religion, social organization, and symbolism, in both the sequence of themes and the internal elaborations through which each of these themes went in the past hundred years.

However accepted the idea of historical change in anthropology may be, and however we may take for granted the variability over time of scientific problems in general, little attention has been paid to the way in which anthropological problems vary across socio-cultural contexts. The scientific reality of today is neither the scientific reality of yesterday nor will it be the scientific reality of tomorrow, but does it not change also in different contexts? The assertion that "Anthropology sees everything as culturally bound ... everything but itself" is a good statement of this state of affairs.

This study seeks to explore the variability of anthropological questions in different socio-cultural contexts, using the Brazilian case as its object of inquiry. A comparative approach is implicit, although other examples will only occasionally be brought into the text. I start from the premise that 1) the anthropologist's thought is embedded in his own socio-cultural configuration and 2) given that anthropology’s development coincided with the formation of the European nation-states, the ideology of nationhood is a powerful parameter for the characterization of the social sciences in any particular country. Leia na íntegra...