Christian but not ideological? Doesn’t promote perspectives in controversy but centers theological devotion? Biblical differences of opinion, but not anthropological ones? The centrality of “belief” as both a core concept and as a linguistic turn of phrase (i.e., “anthropologists believe…” which appears all over the text) is also telling. This isn’t just a Christian perspective, it’s an unexamined recapitulation of Euro-American religious concepts (like “belief”) that formed the Eurocentric academic study of culture two centuries ago and that modern anthropologists have spent a fair amount of time deeply critical of.
I found it helpful when Eriksen drew the line in the sand about the fundamental questions that anthropology concerns itself with. Here's his Big Three: 1) What is that makes people do whatever they do? 2) How are societies or cultures integrated? 3)To what extent does thought vary from society to society, and how much is similar across cultures?
Are we seeing a shift away from explicitly imagining alternatives to the status quo? Are we even still capable, as a society, of envisaging these alternative imaginaries? There is a ‘discursive regime’ - ie. a way of speaking and discussing ideas that is so pervasive as to become inescapable - at play in discussions of universities (and indeed, the world at large) that precludes the consideration of alternatives to neoliberalisation, marketisation and capitalism more broadly. But systematic application of the imagination can create ideas, and “ideas can change reality, for ideas can turn into reasons for action, which in turn can become causes of change.” (Barnett, 2013, p. 7).
As Helene Mialet’s ethnography examines the role of his assistants, his students, and the media in the social construction of ‘Stephen Hawking: the great genius’, she also shows the subtle ways that some part of Hawking the man remains present, imposes himself on each interaction within his extended network.