Bronislaw Malinowski, practical anthropology, politics and colonialism
This essay aims at reconstructing – from an historical-critical point of view – the growing interest, in Bronislaw Malinowski’s work, for practical anthropology, for the relations between politics and anthropological research, and finally for the relations of the discipline with colonialism. At the same time, the essay seeks to assess the critical literature of the last decades, frequently based on undocumented and superficial assumptions on the relations between anthropology and colonialism. These critiques are often excessively severe, quick and superficial, and hardly based on a careful analysis of the specific socio-cultural contexts of the different types of colonies. Those studies often had the tendency to “project” onto the past, ideas, sensibilities and political choices of the present. Then, we have appreciated and considered valuables some accurate and documented studies on Malinowski as those by E. Gellner, B. Berman, I. Niehaus, F. Focks, and then the general essays of H. Kuklick and G. Stocking. Finally, great importance is devoted to Malinowski’s posthumous books The dynamics of culture change. An inquiry into race relations in Africa (1945), and Freedom and civilisation (1947).
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