In this modern-day anthropological manifesto, Roger Magazine proposes a radical but commonsense change to the study of people whose understanding of the world differs substantially from our own. Specifically, it argues for a major shift in the prevailing approach to the study of rural highland peoples in Mexico. Using ethnographic material, Roger Magazine builds a convincing case that many of the discipline's usual topics and approaches distract anthropologists from what is truly important to the people whose lives they study. While Western anthropologists have usually focused on the production of things, such as community, social structure, cultural practices, identities, and material goods - since this is what they see as the appropriate objective of productive action in their own lives - residents of rural highland communities in Mexico (among others) are primarily concerned with what Magazine calls the production of active subjectivity in other persons. According to Magazine, where Western anthropologists often assume that persons are individuals capable of acting on their own to produce things, rural highland Mexicans see persons as inherently interdependent and in need of others even to act. He utilizes the term ""active subjectivity"" to denote the fact that what they produce in others is not simply action but also a subjective state or attitude of willingness to perform the action. The author's goals are to improve understandings of rural highland Mexicans' lives and to contribute to a broader disciplinary effort aimed at revealing the cultural specificity or ethnocentricity of our supposedly universally applicable concepts and theories.
Roger Magazine is a professor of social anthropology at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. He is the author of Golden and Blue Like My Heart: Masculinity, Youth, and Power Among Soccer Fans in Mexico City, also published by the University of Arizona Press.