Class: reminder there’s no class next Monday. Instead we’ll meet on Wednesday, 2/15 at 6:30.
Here are next week’s prompts. Choose only one of the three prompts below. (And even within each prompt, you do not need to consider every question posed — just the ones that are more productive for you.) Reply in the comments below.
One of the tenets of structuralist anthropology is that the structures of behavior (rituals, symbolism, etc.) are similar across cultures, even if the details differ. For example, in Purity and Danger, Mary Douglas argues that rituals of dirtiness and cleanliness recur in all cultures, whether or not they are “primitive” or modern. While the particular object or behavior that is considered “dirt” or “dirty” may differ, the underlying structure is essentially the same.
1. Do the tenets of structuralist anthropology outlined above—that common structures recur across cultures—also hold true within Tom McCarthy’s novel Satin Island, about an in-house corporate anthropologist called U? For example, does U.’s style of anthropology at the corporation differ from the ways that classical anthropologists would characterize their work (as beginning with “field work” in an “exotic” location)? What’s similar and what’s different? You can draw on U.’s own views for your response (though bear in mind that he is often an unreliable narrator).
2. Why do you think the author Tom McCarthy makes his protagonist an anthropologist? What special meanings and vantage points does it provide him? What if anything does it say about the relationship between fiction and fact as we normally think of these categories?
3. What meanings do figures of excess and pollution hold in the novel (for example, the oil spill)? What if anything do they help U. understand about the systems he is trying to describe? Do they help us understand anything about the world the author is describing?