– a refusal to simply sit alone and panic at the complexity of the world – often trinketising, but can be more (contextualisation, attention to commodification, critique)
– an anti-racist sentiment that has morphed at last into a recognition that rhetoric and reflexive angst is not enough (and the question of what would it would mean to win is on the agenda)
– a more or less well-intentioned tendency towards political and social intervention, or at least an ethic of this (often wrong, but in any case at least not dead)
– recognition of the co-constitution of self and other, near and far, metropole and colonial, empire and transition. Multi-site ethnography (transnational flows, North South, South South, Centre-Borders, In betweens.)
– project of going to have a look for yourself, to get involved as a means of understanding, constituent power of the knowledge industry may have its problems but not resigned to withdrawal and mere speculation (spectacle)
– critique of institutionalised context of knowledge production, of disciplinary formations, of the commercialization of knowledge, of the teaching factory
– ideology critique, suspicion of appearances, recognition that appearances are also all we have to go on. Representation issues not just in the claim for visibility mode, but a politics of making visible, mainstraeaming, as step one of something that goes further, demands more.
– collaborative work – ahh, collaboration has its tainted history, but nevertheless, some degree of co-production
– attention to all possible aspects of human life, and a growing awareness that this quite possibly facilitates real subsumption
– widest possible interest, Open principle, even when habits of thought and contextual (political, historical, personal) constraints block this.
Of course there are limits and more failings than successes. The scandals of anthropology are legion. But the project for trying to think through our circumstances and find ways to name what is going on around us is still a worthwhile pursuit – a reason to be alive and productive, even in the most desperate of conditions (global chaos – it can be explained, and is – as Mao said, an opportunity – ‘Everything under heaven is chaos: the situation is excellent’).
Of course there is also no reason to take yourself too seriously all the time. Theory is hard, but not without fun. Gawd, save us from the dire and dull philosophers