Colonial Subjects

Essays on the Practical History of Anthropology
Peter Pels and Oscar Salemink, Editors
Probes the relationship between the conditions of colonial "modernization" and the methods of anthropological knowledge


It is often forgotten that anthropology—the scientific study of cultural difference—arose from situations that required a practical management of cultural differences. Out of the practical contexts of colonial contact—administration, mission, nationalism, policing, settler cultivation, tourism, warfare—emerged methods, and images of otherness, that inform anthropological notions of cultural difference to this day.

The essays in this volume share the assumption that "ethnography," far from being the unique purview of anthropology, is a broader field of practice out of which and alongside which anthropology attempted to distinguish itself as a scientific discipline. They explore a variety of situations in colonial South and Southeast Asia and Africa and in the treatment of the indigenous inhabitants of North America and Australia to provide genealogies of present-day anthropological practices, tracing them back to the subjects of colonial ethnography.

This book introduces into the history of anthropology many of the insights developed in recent studies in history, cultural studies, and the anthropology of colonialism. It can serve as a course book in the history of anthropology and the anthropology of colonialism, while at the same time addressing a much larger audience of students of colonial history, of the history of science and modernity, and of globalization.

Peter Pels is Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Amsterdam.

Oscar Salemink is Program Officer for Social Sciences and Humanities, The Ford Foundation-Vietnam.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . introduce[s] a new rigor to the debates concerning ethnography, anthropological discourses, and imperialism."
    --Nicholas Thomas, Australian National University

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 432pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08746-4

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  • $39.95 U.S.