From the Introduction:
The fundamental perspectives of an academic discipline too often go unmentioned in textbooks. Texts aim to present orderly answers to every question and final solutions to every problem. But fundamental perspectives contain unsolved problems and unanswered questions. Such perspectives are difficult to articulate because the elemental ideas they contain are both extremely simple and extremely complicated. Basic perspectives and ideas are also the most controversial and therefore the most exciting ones. Because of this, they are precisely what should be available to the nonprofessional. In anthropology, they are views of and ideas about cardinal concerns of our own culture--the nature of human nature; the difference between theory and fact, or knowledge and beliefs; the connections between love and marriage, or scarcity and surplus, or power, honor, and glory; the relationship between individual will and the laws of the cultural and natural universes.
I have, therefore, written this book for the person who, in or out of a classroom, has perhaps heard of anthropology, does not really know what it is, and would like to find out. I have written the kind of book I myself would like to read to learn about an unfamiliar discipline.
Praise for The Anthropological Imagination:
"This book is a new kind of book. The Anthropological Imagination explores the new vistas and understandings opened up by anthropology, but it also does so with a ew vibrancy ad a new voice.
"The way most of us teach is still medieval. In the Middle Ages, one person owned the manuscript which contained the sacred text, and that person recited the text to the students. We still do the same thing. The teacher recites 'the facts,' and the students right them down. The teacher names a concept and defines it; the students underline the term and copy out the definition. Then they are tested on whether they remember the facts and the definitions. All to rarely do we encounter a person or a book that does it differently, that imparts a sense of the concept as a tool of the mind, as an instrument created to grasp a part of reality, to make that part of reality one’s own. In this book, Muriel Dimen-Schein has done this nearly impossible thing: to present the instruments of anthropological understanding in ways which flow form experience itself, to allow her audience to comprehend their own reality by themselves and for themselves. The Anthropological Imagination is a new and vital introduction to a new and vital way of understanding the world."
Eric R. Wolf, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, CUNY