Designs on the ContemporaryAnthropological Tests

Designs on the ContemporaryAnthropological Tests

Paul Rabinow and Anthony Stavrianakis

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780226138336

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


The book presents a highly original reflection on the status of an “anthropology of the contemporary”. Following on the same authors’ Demands of the Day, this new and convincing manuscript gives a coherent elaboration of the central arguments, movements and shifts from research rooted in the experience of the present to a contemporary one understood as an ethos. The book contains two highly original case studies which illustrate the relevance and richness of this approach. In Part 1, the authors undertake an erudite discussion of philosophical grounds and concepts necessary for an anthropology of the contemporary by way of an ongoing engagement with arguments established by Max Weber, John Dewey and Michel Foucault (e.g. his notion of ‘foyers d’expérience’), as well as with other authors (e.g. Kant, Blumenberg, Warburg, Geertz). Central to this engagement is the guiding idea of anthropological inquiry as ‘practice of form-giving’ linked to an ongoing attention to questions of ethics. The book considers inquiry--and its aftermath—where a near future is at stake, one, however, which is not (or only in part) determined by the past and the present. Part II consists of two case studies: one on the Rushdie Affair, the second one on ‘Gerhard Richter’s Pathos’. Based on different kinds of texts (interviews, letters, printed articles, anthropological research, etc.), they demonstrate the basic ideas of an exploration of the contemporary and its key challenge (for anthropology and contemporaries): how to conceptualize and give form to breakdowns of truth and conduct.