The Anthropological Research Team is happy to announce the visit of Joel Robbins, one of the world’s leading scholars in the anthropology of religion and cultural change and soon-to-be professor at Cambridge to the Arctic Center. On Thursday 17 Jan. 14:30-16:00, in the Borealis lecture room 313, Joel Robbins will talk about his subject of the Comparative Study of the Good.
Joel Robbins is professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego and currently Jane and Aatos Erkko Visiting Professor in Studies on Contemporary Society at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies. He is currently co-editor of the journal Anthropological Theory. His background is in symbolic, semiotic and structural anthropology. He has widely published on the anthropology of religion, ritual, morality, Christianity and conversion, and on ideas of culture, values, and secrecy in general. You can check his full list of publications here, or learn about his research through his website.
Robbins criticizes anthropology’s universalistic approach toward suffering over the last several decades. He suggests a departure from the focus on the subject living in pain, in poverty, or under conditions of oppression, which so long has been at the center of anthropological work. Robbins warns that anthropology has begun to risk relinquishing its special role of insisting on bringing questions of cultural difference to bear on all manner of intellectual discussions. He seeks to turn attention towards an anthropology of the good capable of recovering some of the critical force of an earlier anthropology without taking on many of its weaknesses.
In his lecture on Thursday, Robbins will explore how anthropology arrived at the point of considering the surrender of its place in Western conversation, and he will suggest that it may recover some of its former critical potential by turning to the cross-cultural study of different ways human beings living in diverse societies define and try to achieve the good. As an example of what an anthropological contribution to such a discussion might look like, he will illustrate how Melanesian ideas about the crucial role of relationships in human life-ideas about what we might call the rights of relationships-raise important issues relevant to contemporary discussions of the global applicability of the notion of human rights. Robbins will illustrate that if we can use such cross-cultural material about the diversity of human values, we can re-introduce a truly comparative component to currently vigorous and sometimes strident conversations about human rights. Then we will have a good indication of the promise of an emerging anthropology of the good.
You are all welcome to this event. We look forward to an interesting day with Joel Robbins.