Paths to freedom: Political prospecting in the ethnographic record

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21 Scopus citations


The recent discovery that Southeast Asia's highland peoples had not been traditional tribals but were instead clever freedom-seekers brings up various questions regarding the politics of ethnographic prospecting. The ostensible anarchism of standing outside the state dismisses the possibility of political negotiation. It offers instead liberalist moral geography that celebrates individualism and the cutting of social connections, as it disregards anyone - at home or far afield - who may have to bargain for basic rights and services. I offer historical, ethnographic, and political counters to the case. Aristotle and feminist history deny categorical certainties in favor of practical concerns with equality and justice. Analytical mastery and academic point-scoring distract from ethical concerns: subversive levity may offer the only non-authoritarian counter-move.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-172
Number of pages15
JournalCritique of Anthropology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • anarchism
  • anthropology
  • difference
  • representation
  • the state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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