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Volume 1

Ethnography, Theory, Experiment

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An Anthropological Trompe L'Oeil for a Common World

An Essay on the Economy of Knowledge

Alberto Corsín Jiménez

192 pages, 6 figs & illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-911-4 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Published (June 2013)

eISBN 978-0-85745-912-1 eBook

Hb   Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Buy the ebook from these vendors


This is a brilliant, extraordinarily learned, innovative, thought-provoking, and invaluable exploration into contemporary practices of knowledge-making…. It explores key elements in early modern political philosophy with zest and insight—and explores the ways, sites, and practices within which such key elements of perception…figure in contemporary social analysis.”  ·  Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz

 “…a daring, well-written and potentially refreshing genealogical foray into the ontological, epistemological, even cosmological underpinnings of modernity.”  ·  Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, University of Bergen


Our political age is characterized by forms of description as ‘big’ as the world itself: talk of ‘public knowledge’ and ‘public goods,’ ‘the commons’ or ‘global justice’ create an exigency for modes of governance that leave little room for smallness itself. Rather than question the politics of adjudication between the big and the small, this book inquires instead into the cultural epistemology fueling the aggrandizement and miniaturization of description itself. Incorporating analytical frameworks from science studies, ethnography, and political and economic theory, this book charts an itinerary for an internal anthropology of theorizing. It suggests that many of the effects that social theory uses today to produce insights are the legacy of baroque epistemological tricks. In particular, the book undertakes its own trompe l’oeil as it places description at perpendicular angles to emerging forms of global public knowledge. The aesthetic ‘trap’ of the trompe l’oeil aims to capture knowledge, for only when knowledge is captured can it be properly released.

Alberto Corsín Jiménez is an Associate Professor at the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid. He is the editor of Culture and Well-Being: Anthropological Approaches to Freedom and Political Ethics (Pluto, 2008) and The Anthropology of Organisations (Ashgate, 2007). His current work examines the rise of an urban commons movement and the development of open-source urban hardware projects by architects, artists and academics.

Subject: Theory & Methodology in Anthropology






A Myth of Origins

Chapter 1. Surviving Comparison
Chapter 2. The Strabismic Eye
Chapter 3. Reversibility / Proportionality



Chapter 4. Political / Phantasmagoria
Chapter 5. Predation / Production
Chapter 6. Exteriority / Interiority



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