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Polyglot Perspectives: giving prominence to non-English anthropology

20 January, 2009

In light of Third Tone Devil’s post about anthropology in The Netherlands, I wanted to draw attention to an initiative by Anthropological Quarterly to expose the English speaking world to more anthropology from the non-English speaking world. Despite anthropology’s enduring engagement with cultural difference and goal of studying the full breadth of human experience, it is remarkable how separate national and language-based traditions remain within the discipline. One of the consequences of this is for English-speaking anthropologists to assume that the history, debates and anxieties of English-language anthropology are those of the discipline of anthropology more generally.  Any attempt to create more linkages between different national and language-based boundaries should help to give a better sense of the true breadth of anthropological enquiry and should help to show the English-language traditions as one group among many.

Here is the message that has been circulated by Prof. Michael Herzfeld, “Editor at Large” for Polyglot Perspectives:

In Polyglot Perspectives, scholars will present essays on books written in languages other than English. Such languages may include those in which there is a long tradition of anthropological scholarship, but we hope to give particular emphasis to less widely used languages in which a nascent anthropology is already making important contributions that may be invisible to the larger international community.

In launching this new section, we acknowledge that, in many ways, the English language has been allowed to define the anthropological mainstream.  We also acknowledge that in many disciplines, English has become the language of scholarship in countries where English is not the locally dominant language.  Anthropology, however, is both a cosmopolitan discipline and one that seeks to recognize and study politically less powerful cultures and languages.

AQ wishes to apply to our collegial relations the same ethic that we bring to our fieldwork.  With Polyglot Perspectives, Anthropological Quarterly seeks a more just balance while also expanding the scope of the journal’s content.  We encourage scholars familiar with a recent work in a language other than English to submit a brief proposal (1-2 single-spaced pages), outlining the work’s significance for an international audience. If the potential contributor has already been involved in the production of the work (for example, as a consultant or commentator), we see no conflict of interest: we are looking less for reviews than for informed presentations that are original, substantive, provocative, and analytically powerful.  All proposals should be sent to Michael Herzfeld at herzfeld [at] or +1-801-457-0717 (fax).  Please do not send a completed manuscript in the first instance.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 January, 2009 7:50 pm

    Here is a similar attempt by anthropologies from the “periphery”:

  2. 20 January, 2009 9:34 pm

    Thanks for the link Irene! I’d completely forgotten about the World Anthropologies Network although I saw something circulated about it a while ago by Sandy Toussaint.


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