Research Seminar in Cultural Anthropology with Don Kulick

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Room 3-2028
  • Lecturer: Don Kulick, Uppsala University
  • Organiser: The Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
  • Contact person: Chakad Ojani och Ana Chiritoiu
  • Seminarium

"The smugness of privilege"

Abstract: This talk was written in response to an invitation from American Ethnologist to answer the question “What is Anthropology Good For?” I do that via a discussion of Susan Sontag’s review of photographer Diane Arbus’s 1972 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Sontag asserts that Arbus, in depicting individuals whom Sontag regards as “ugly”, necessarily is exploiting them. I perceive an exact comparison between Diane Arbus’s photographs and anthropology as an epistemological project and a representational practice. And I argue that anthropology, like Arbus’s photographs, is good for subverting the smug, privileged protocol articulated by critics like Sontag, who are prepared to contemplate “ugly” people, vastly different from themselves, but only through an optic of pity, or of vicarious indignation at the supposedly unrelentingly grim conditions under which such people are imagined to live their lives.