An Anthropology of Knowledge
TypeJournal article; Peer reviewed
MetadataShow full item record
Whereas previous Sidney Mintz lectures have celebrated Mintz’s work on inequality, racism, and ethnicity, I have chosen to speak to the broadest scope of his research and teaching in anthropology. A comparative perspective on human knowledge allows us to unravel a number of aspects of the cultural worlds which people construct. I argue that knowledge always has three faces: a substantive corpus of assertions, a range of media of representation, and a social organization. Using ethnographic materials from New Guinea and Bali and also from our own universities, I try to show how in different traditions of knowledge these faces will interrelate in particular ways and generate tradition-specific criteria of validity for knowledge about the world. Thus the trajectory of a tradition of knowledge will be to a large extent endogenously determined. This implies not a diffuse relativism of “anything goes” but a relativism in which we can demonstrate how already established thoughts, representations, and social relations to a considerable extent configure and filter our individual human experience of the world around us and thereby generate culturally diverse worldviews.