Originally published in 1972, Dell Hymes's edited collection of essays brought together a host of leaders in anthropology who were passionate about the need to "reinvent" the discipline in which they were all involved. Having determined that the scientific approach fostered by anthropologists earlier in the century disavowed the subjectivity inherent in observation, Hymes and his colleagues called for a more reflexive approach to ethnography. They also sought a solution to the fragmentation that they felt was splintering their field and proposed a progressive political awareness that embraced a liberatory, not a materialistic, end.
Clearly more revisionary than revolutionary, these commited scholars hoped that their call for liberation would allow anthropology to become truly a study of mankind by mankind. Knowing that there was no single institutional structure or formulated doctrine that could foster this, they nevertheless looked within instead of without, searching for the innovative approach that would move their discipline forward. Their call to arms: to keep attention focused on the fundamental questions.
As Hymes says in the introduction to the collection, "This book is for people . . . who ask of anthropology what they ask of themselves--responsiveness, critical awareness, ethical concern, human relevance, a clear connection between what is to be done and the interests of mankind." Now almost thirty years after its first appearance on the scene, attention is being redirected once again to this collection with the sense that its now historical essays can still speak to the issues of the day.
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