American Anthropologist

American Anthropologist 122 (2): 259-71.This provocative review published in one of the major anthropology journals in the US by a Black anthropologist at the prestigious University of Chicago is sure to provoke, anger and inspire difficult but long overdue discussions in the discipline. Jobson’s call to reimagine traditional (and I would add predominantly white and male) anthropological questions, assumptions, theories, and methods is a welcome and necessary plea at a moment of cascading calamities for the planet but also for the discipline of anthropology itself. The author argues that in order to survive, anthropology must reject the tradition of liberal humanism and instead embrace a radically new, relevant, and engaged anthropology that is capable of confronting the present “ecological catastrophe and authoritarian retrenchment.” What would it mean, Jobson asks, for anthropologists to dialogue and work collaboratively across boundaries to produce different kinds ofknowledge that explore complex and contested spaces and places? He cites key ethnographic research published in 2019 that grappled imaginatively with the twin crises of climate change and authoritarian governance. Arguing against technological and state “fixes” and in favor of an anthropology that confronts its origins “in the wake of the plantation,” Jobson suggests that “letting anthropology burn” could lead us to a radical, necessary, abolitionist anthropology that embraces a “new humanism as its political horizon.”

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