Encompassing Others: The Magic of Modernity in Melanesia

Posted By: malii-m
Encompassing Others: The Magic of Modernity in Melanesia

Edward LiPuma, "Encompassing Others: The Magic of Modernity in Melanesia"
Publisher: University of Michigan Press | 2000 | ISBN: 0472088351 | PDF | 360 pages | 1.3 MB

Product Description:

An engaging, beautifully written account by an ethnographer who lived in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, Encompassing Others is at once a history of the encounter of two cultures and an attempt to challenge theoretically the main concepts that have informed the study of modernity. Going beyond accounts that grasp modernity solely in terms of domination, imperialism, and local resistance, it explores how capitalism, Christianity, and mass commercial culture enchant the senses, create a carnival of new goods, and open up new possibilities for thought and action.
Focusing on the Maring people of Highland New Guinea and on the Westerners who interacted with them, Edward LiPuma presents issues from the perspectives of both sides. We hear the voice of the Anglican priest from San Francisco as well as the most powerful Maring shamans. Further, the book seeks to develop a theory of generations that helps explain how change accelerates and societies take on new directions across generations.
Theoretical, descriptive, but almost entirely free of jargon, this book is intended for all those who are interested in how the West's encompassment of other peoples influences how these others conceive of their past, imagine their future, and experience the present. It will have wide appeal for anthropologists and others concerned with colonialism, globalization, and the formation of the nation-state.
Edward LiPuma is Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, University of Miami.

Summary: Creation of a Modernist Subjectivity
Rating: 4

Here, LiPuma does an increadible job of combining analyses of local and global forces in many registers. Through his lifelong study of the Maring (in Melanesia), LiPuma questions the conventional limits of ethnography which puts the Other on the stage for inquiry. Rather, his analysis of contemporary changes (he is concerned with a period of roughly 1950-1980) occurring within the Maring community incorporates a reflexive inquiry into the agents of Western modernity, such as missionaries, health care personnel, and ethnographers (including himself). In the context of late capitalist globalization, LiPuma charts out fragmented, and indeterminate courses which Western modernist projects inevitably take in any local settings. Furthermore, this contingency of local forces becomes complicated by the tensions and heterogenous motives of the agents of modernity themselves. This type of analysis cannot be achieved in those studies which overemphasize the power of global forces (i.e., capitalism, construction of nation-states in relation to int'l arena, commodities, etc) in imposing meta-narrative aspect of social changes. Against this background, LiPuma weaves out a story within which a modern and the Other are inextricably linked and mutually constituted. In the process of this storytelling, his analysis and emphasis on the power of epistemology in shaping social changes is crucial. It seems we need more studies on how the desires and subjects are constituted in a complex web of socio-historical conjunctures, such as the one exemplified by LiPuma's eloquent work.

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