Losing Culture: Nostalgia, Heritage, and Our Accelerated Times (Paperback)

Losing Culture: Nostalgia, Heritage, and Our Accelerated Times Cover Image
By David Berliner, Dominic Horsfall (Translated by)
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We’re losing our culture… our heritage… our traditions… everything is being swept away.

Such sentiments get echoed around the world, from aging Trump supporters in West Virginia to young villagers in West Africa. But what is triggering this sense of cultural loss, and to what ends does this rhetoric get deployed?

To answer these questions, anthropologist David Berliner travels around the world, from Guinea-Conakry, where globalization affects the traditional patriarchal structure of cultural transmission, to Laos, where foreign UNESCO experts have become self-appointed saviors of the nation’s cultural heritage. He also embarks on a voyage of critical self-exploration, reflecting on how anthropologists handle their own sense of cultural alienation while becoming deeply embedded in other cultures. This leads into a larger examination of how and why we experience exonostalgia, a longing for vanished cultural heydays we never directly experienced.

Losing Culture provides a nuanced analysis of these phenomena, addressing why intergenerational cultural transmission is vital to humans, yet also considering how efforts to preserve disappearing cultures are sometimes misguided or even reactionary. Blending anthropological theory with vivid case studies, this book teaches us how to appreciate the multitudes of different ways we might understand loss, memory, transmission, and heritage.

About the Author

David Berliner is a professor of anthropology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. Between 2011 and 2015, he was co-editor of Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, the journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists.

Dominic Horsfall is a translator, editor and writer with a special focus on anthropology. He received his MA in Modern Languages at the University of Cambridge and now lives and works in London.

Praise For…

Losing Culture is about nostalgia, combining self-reflection and rich ethnographic examples from Africa and Asia with a critical view of the disciplinary anxieties of anthropology. Nostalgia, in this wonderful book, is treated as one more thing that is, in our tormented world, no longer what it used to be.”
— Arjun Appadurai

"David Berliner stands at the crossroads, observing the natives, the philosophers, the heritage bureaucrats, the tourists, and other anthropologists as well, from all nationalities, when they come to look at – or even live – the past in the present. But what does he become himself? A cultural chameleon? When you have read Losing Culture, perhaps your anthropology will never be the same again."
— Ulf Hannerz

“By linking the chameleon figure of the anthropologist with the theme of nostalgia, Berliner demonstrates anthropologists’ important role in disabusing the general public of the illusion that “cultures” can be rebuilt in their original form. This subtle departure from conventional studies of heritage places a new and desirable emphasis on the ethical choices facing anthropologists when confronted with the politics of contested pasts. Of particular value is the unusual but well-grounded comparative perspective that Berliner draws from his findings in West Africa and Southeast Asia.”
— Michael Herzfeld

Product Details
ISBN: 9781978815353
ISBN-10: 1978815352
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication Date: May 15th, 2020
Pages: 162
Language: English