Is anthropology simply a continuation of colonial domination and cultural imperialism by other means, or has it - since its nineteenth-century rebirth as a purportedly scientific discipline - produced reliable knowledge about the cultures it studies? Is anthropology a mirror - which reflects only the preoccupations of the (Western) anthropologist - or a window, through which it is possible to see, though not with the same eyes as their members, other cultures? Godelier places social anthropology in its historical perspective, with its origins in the West and, more particularly, colonialism, while also arguing that it has to some extent transcended its origins, achieving a measure of scientific objectivity and validity that cannot be reduced to a continuation of the colonial project. A final chapter discusses issues surrounding the presentation of non-western cultural artefacts to a Western general public.
Maurice Godelier is an internationally acclaimed anthropologist best known for his fieldwork among the Baruya, a New Guinea Highlands tribe, detailed in his ethnography The Making of Great Men. He is also the author of Metamorphoses de la parente, The Enigma of the Gift and The Mental and the Material, among other important contributions. He is Directeur d'etudes at the Ecole des hautes etudes en sciences sociales in Paris.