Anthropology and the colonial encounter | SpringerLinkFew topics in the discipline of anthropology are as important, and controversial, as colonialism. The historical origins of anthropology are rooted in the colonial enterprise, thus forever linking colonialism and anthropology. As such, colonialism is one of the most widely explored and written about subjects in the history of anthropology. Colonialism can be understood as the establishment of foreign rule over a distant territory and the control of its people. Generally associated with European imperial powers, colonialism and the colonial project include political and legal domination over a subordinate people, the exploitation of human and natural resources and the redistribution of those resources to benefit imperial interests, and the construction of racial and cultural difference that privileged the colonial ruler over the populations they ruled.
Talal Asad on Islam and Human Rights
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Often a combination of the three was applied to a broad analysis of colonial rule, central to a well grounded critique of policies and practices. With time, the third approach held sway amongst social scientists, thus broadening the debate on colonialism. Her pioneering work in Portuguese and post-colonial academia, which she applied above all to the study of Angola, was inspired by the need to understand cross-cultural interaction, negotiation and mediation of fluid identities and practices. The present essay focuses upon the way in which her work demonstrated the interconnected nature of social and cultural phenomena originally proposed by scholars such as Wolf and Geertz and others in the s. Given that this school of thought maintained that change resulted from external factors and was not internally induced Szasz, 7 cultural change was largely seen as a product of external intervention.
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Using a genealogical method developed by Friedrich Nietzsche and made prominent by Michel Foucault , Asad "complicates terms of comparison that many anthropologists, theologians, philosophers, and political scientists receive as the unexamined background of thinking, judgment, and action as such. By doing so, he creates clearings, opening new possibilities for communication, connection, and creative invention where opposition or studied indifference prevailed". His long-term research concerns the transformation of religious law the shari'ah in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Egypt with special reference to arguments about what constitutes secular and progressive reform. Asad graduated from the University of Edinburgh with an undergraduate degree in and from the University of Oxford with a Bachelor of Letters degree and, in , a Doctor of Philosophy degree. William E.
Austrian father in Medina, Arabia. He has been an important figure in religion and ritual studies. His magnum opus, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity has proven to be an extremely important intervention in problematizing the western experience of secularism. He is famous for his employment of Nietzsches genealogical method in the same vein as Foucault. He has worked with Evans-Pritchard and has served as a guide to Saba Mahmood, a prominent scholar of central and middle eastern studies. In his essay in Two European Images of Non-European Rule, Asad seeks out the basic assumptions of functional anthropology and orientalism.