Christoph Brumann is Head of Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany, and Honorary Professor of Anthropology at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.
Managing Ambiguity follows how neoliberal insistence on local community, flexibility, and self-responsibility was translated into clientelist modes of relating and back, and how this fostered a specific mode of power.
Fischer is particularly concerned with cultural anthropology’s interactions with science studies, and throughout the book he investigates how emerging knowledge formations in molecular biology, environmental studies, computer science, and bioengineering are transforming some of anthropology’s key concepts including nature, culture, personhood, and the body. In an essay on culture, he uses the science studies paradigm of “experimental systems” to consider how the social scientific notion of culture has evolved as an analytical tool since the nineteenth century. Charting anthropology’s role in understanding and analyzing the production of knowledge within the sciences since the 1990s, he highlights anthropology’s aptitude for tracing the transnational collaborations and multisited networks that constitute contemporary scientific practice. Fischer investigates changing ideas about cultural inscription on the human body in a world where genetic engineering, robotics, and cybernetics are constantly redefining our understanding of biology. In the final essay, Fischer turns to Kant’s philosophical anthropology to reassess the object of study for contemporary anthropology and to reassert the field’s primacy for answering the largest questions about human beings, societies, culture, and our interactions with the world around us. In Anthropological Futures, Fischer continues to advance what Clifford Geertz, in reviewing Fischer’s earlier book Emergent Forms of Life and the Anthropological Voice, called “a broad new agenda for cultural description and political critique.”
This book, based on extensive fieldwork and interviews, provides an ethnographic study of this particular social field. It analyses how people in Kyoto deal with their most cherished traditions, such as the traditional town houses and the famous Gion matsuri festival, which calls into question several of the standard social scientific assumptions about the functions of cultural heritage for present-day societies. The book looks at the way concerned citizens, government bureaucrats, and other important players interact with each other over contentious modern buildings, often with the best intentions but constrained by set role expectations and by the superior power of national-level regulations and agencies. This book contributes to debates on the social uses of tradition and heritage, and the question of how to create sustainable, liveable urban environments.