Venezuelan Democracy and the Politics of Knowledge Production

Anthropology News

By Cristobal Valencia

What is the responsibility of anthropology to area studies? Anthropologists focusing on social movements effectively argue that knowledge production is political. However, rarely is this important finding applied to the academy itself. For instance, can anthropology affect a paradigmatic shift in Latin American Studies? Juan Poblete (2003) explained that Area Studies positioning of the US as the unmarked center of knowledge production on Latin America claimed for itself the space of universality against which all other perspectives, practices and conceptual understandings were evaluated. As an example he showed how the ethnocentric centralizing logic of development theory deemed most of Latin America underdeveloped and thus the third world. Poblete stressed that this was not just a matter of scholarship responding to US national interests but a serious epistemological problem. Over the last decade a similar problem emerged with regards to the concept of democracy.

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