The Anthropological Lens: Harsh Light, Soft Focus
Cambridge University Press
James L. Peacock
Anthropology is a complex, wide-ranging, and ever changing field. Yet, despite its diversity, certain major themes do occur in the understandings of the world that anthropologists have offered. In this clear, coherent, and well-crafted book, James L Peacock spells out the central concepts, distinctive methodologies, and philosophical as well as practical issues of cultural anthropology. Designed to supplement standard textbooks and monographs, the book focuses on the premises that underlie the facts that the former kinds of works generally present. Free from unnecessarily abstract theoretical language and based on compelling concrete anecdote and engaging illustration, it is written in terms understandable to the anthropological novice, as well as being of value to the professional. The book's three main concerns are the substance, method, and significance of anthropology. In his discussion of substance, method, and significance of anthropology, such as the concept of culture, as well as holism. In writing about method, he explores the distinctive character of ethnographic fieldwork and raises questions of interpretation and comparison. Finally, he considers the relevance of anthropology with respect to both its practical application and what it contributes to understanding of human affairs. Using the photographic metaphors of 'harsh light' and 'soft focus', Peacock characterizes the anthropological worldview as consisting of two elements: on the one hand, a concern with the basic reality of the human condition, free of cultural influence; on the other, a broadly based holism that attempts to grasp all aspects of that condition, including its relation to the anthropologist. His book will appeal widely to readers interested in anthropology, at all levels.