economic anthropology

Candice Bradley (Candice.Bradley@LAWRENCE.EDU)
Thu, 2 Mar 1995 12:05:44 -0600

As lurkers and sometime participators on Anthro-L, we are
concerned that the focus of the list often turns away from issues
of central concern in anthropology. We would like to offer a
partial remedy by posing a question of deeper disciplinary
interest to us.

Both of us claim "economic anthropology" as one of our
anthropological identities. We are also both members of the
Society for Economic Anthropology, which has been around for a
couple of decades. It seems to us that economic anthropology has
changed considerably recently, both in practice and orientation.
On the one hand, we are moving away, due partly to the post-
modern critique, from universalising models and formal cross-
cultural comparison. This poses an incredible dilemma for many
of us, and especially to those who do economic anthropology,
because so much depends upon the economic model which itself
tends to universalize. On the other hand, there is very little
"pure" economic anthropology any more, and a lot more political
economy, with its emphasis on power relationships and inequality.
Traditional Marxist analysis has fallen by the wayside.

Given these changes, there are a series of questions we can ask.

1) Can one be a postmodern economic anthropologist? And if so,
how? If not, why not?

2) How can we talk across ethnographic examples using economic
models, given contemporary postmodern critiques of comparison?

3) Are all contemporary economic anthropologists really
political-economic anthropologists?

4) Who are some examples of people doing economic anthropology
in a new way?

5) What is the future of economic anthropology?

These are just some of the issues that interested us. We would
like to see other anthropologists respond to and add to this

Candice Bradley & Lynn Sikkink
Department of Anthropology
Lawrence University
Appleton, Wisconsin