[URBANTH-L] REV: Weston on Wolff/Cipolloni, eds., _Anthropology of the Enlightenment_

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Wed Mar 12 11:21:43 EDT 2008

[forwarded from H-German at h-net.msu.edu]

Published by H-German at h-net.msu.edu (March 2008)

Larry Wolff and Marco Cipolloni, eds. _The Anthropology of the
Enlightenment_. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007. xvii + 414
pp. Notes, index. $70.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-8047-5202-2; $29.95 (paper),
ISBN 0-8047-5203-9.

Reviewed for H-German by Nathaniel P. Weston, Department of History,
University of Washington, Seattle

Enlightenment Encounters in Anthropology

Scholars who contribute to a growing historiographical genre that might
be termed "encounter studies," which finds its heritage in travel
literature, anthropology, colonial history, and their study, originate
in a similar vein to that of the texts from which they argue. Since the
unmatched impact of Edward Said's _Orientalism_ (1978) on the study of
(particularly colonial) cultural encounters as an unparalleled influence
on the construction of the Other, scholars from diverse academic
backgrounds have turned to the question of "the encounter." Some of them
have identified anthropology as a rich source of inquiry for traces of
cross-cultural engagement. This parallel between Said's recovery of "the
Other" and scholars' general reconsideration of anthropological texts
from the past has run concurrent to further questioning of the roles of
social science in colonial enterprises. Even so, anthropology as a
discipline has become a self-conscious beneficiary of greater attention
to moments of encounter, as have history, literary criticism, and
cultural studies, to name only the most prominent fields.

The collection reflects the next generation of scholarly work on
encounters that has continued to attend to questions surrounding
anthropology and in this instance, how the field's genesis intersected
with the intellectual aims of the Enlightenment. Scholars from a variety
of fields provide the sixteen essays contained in the book. In this
interdisciplinary endeavor, the work carries forward the spirit of Denis
Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert's _Encyclopedia_ (1751-72), possibly
the central text of the Enlightenment, in its engagement with experts
from differing backgrounds collaborating for the common project of the
progression of knowledge. The editors, Larry Wolff and Marco Cipolloni,
provide the introduction and conclusion respectively with the remaining
chapters arranged in three parts: "Philosophical History and Enlightened
Anthropology ," "Ethnography and Enlightened Anthropology," and "Human
Nature and Enlightened Anthropology." What is "Enlightened
Anthropology"? As Wolff remarks in his introduction, "Enlightened
Anthropology" may be understood as "proto-anthropology" (p. 21). Wolff's
introduction provides a straightforward general overview of the
intellectual roots of anthropology, which he locates in the
Enlightenment engagement with cultural perspective.

Part 1 of the book addresses several eighteenth-century thinkers and the
ways their ideas grappled with questions surrounding cultural
perspective. J.G.A. Pocock examines the concept of "barbarism" (p. 35)
as discussed in Edward Gibbon's third volume of _The History of the
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_ (1776). Anthony Pagden analyzes
selected philosophes' parallel constructions of Europe and Asia, while
Sunil Agnani looks at D iderot's writings about "the Indies" (p. 65),
both East and West. Christian Marouby writes about Adam Smith's
assessments of economic growth based on particular ethnographic texts,
whereas Neil Hargraves dissects William Robertson's _History of America_
(1777) for its treatment of Aztecs, Incas, and the subsequent Spanish
conquest. The section concludes with Nicholas A. Germana's investigation
of Johann Gottfried Herder's interest in "Morgenland" (p. 119), a
figurative space interchangeable with India.

Part 2 focuses more on ethnographic rather than philosophical writings
involving European encounters with non-Europeans. John Gascoigne
examines the work of Johann Reinhold Forster and his son George, German
naturalists who traveled to the Pacific on Captain James Cook's second
global circumnavigation; Michael Harbsmeier studies Danish involvement
with the inhabitants of Greenland. Giulia Cecere observes Russian
imperial ethnographies of Russia's subject peoples; Jean-Philippe E.
Belleau researches French ethnographies of Haiti. The book's final part
concerns itself with Enlightenment authors who confronted questions
related to human nature. Mary Baine Campbell writes on dreams as
constructed on both the European as well as the American sides of the
Atlantic; Michael Kempe assesses the theory of natural law of German
scholar Samuel Pufendorf. Philippe Huneman excavates the origin of
psychiatry in the eighteenth-century notion of the "animal economy" (p.
262), a construction of the body as an interconnected system; Jonathan
Lamb traces metropolitan narrative representations of colonial societies
during the Enlightenment. The volume concludes with Cipolloni's
discussion of the movement to Enlightenment cultural perspective via its
foundation in Renaissance discoveries.

This collection is well suited for a variety of graduate seminars. The
feeling after moving through this text could be called a "cosmopolitan
effect," due to the numerous areas of Europe represented and active in
"enlightened" anthropological projects. This cosmopolitanism seems
appropriate for a study eighteenth-century Europe, considering that
nations were less stable entities than they would aspire to be in
subsequent centuries. Conjuring the figure of the nation-state suggests
future possibilities for inquiries pursued in this text: namely, the
conjunction of ideas about anthropology with the formation of nations.
Other potentially fruitful questions aim in the opposite direction: for
example, how did ancient and medieval authors, writing about
trans-cultural encounters, presage anthropological thought? Whatever the
specific directions encounter studies eventually adopts in the future,
the paths to and from this genre will continue to demonstrate a
cosmopolitanism that seeks sources closer to the encounter.

Copyright (c) 2008 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits
the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit,
educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the
author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and
H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For other uses
contact the Reviews editorial staff: hbooks at mail.h-net.msu.edu.

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list