What exactly is 'an explanation?' What can it add? What makes it authoritative, clarifying or misleading? Who cares? These questions arise from recent attacks on experts and lie at the heart of public crises of confidence in expertise, political representation and classic liberal visions of those we rely on for true and trustworthy accounts. Beyond Description is a new book in which authors Matei Candea and Paolo Heywood bring anthropologists and other social scientists together to examine the problem of explanation.
In a world beset by events and processes that seem to defy expert predictions of their impossibility, and in which post-hoc accounts can often feel more like rationalizations than explanations, competing voices vie for public presence and seek to silence one another. Anthropology and the social sciences face such questions too, making contemporary explanatory practice both an empirical and a reflexive challenge.
By combining ethnographic studies of practices of explanation in a range of contemporary political, medical, artistic, religious, and bureaucratic settings, the essays in Beyond Description offer critical examinations of changing norms and forms of explanation in the world and within anthropology itself.
Matei Candea is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of Corsican Fragmentsand Comparison in Anthropology. Paolo Heywood is Assistant Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Durham. He is the author of After Difference.
Cornell University Press, 264pp, 15.2cm x 23cm, paperback, 2023
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