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Anthropology is a discipline studying flux and change in human communities and definitions of identity, mirroring the dynamic play of modernist reconceptualizations of meaning. As an academic discipline, anthropology demands a realization of the interconnectedness between human groups, a heightened abstraction of vocabulary and tools with which to articulate these connections, and self reflexive sensitivity to its history. In this same vein, modernism, as a movement of avant-garde ideas and art forms, draws community to study of itself, demands its own vocabulary of critique, and harkens back to the history of events that prompted the movement.
Perhaps the clearest reflection of modernity in anthropology is found in dynamic cities and the birth of “industrial mass societies” (Rodrigues and Garratt 94). Just as modernist ideas were stimulated by rivers “of images and sounds jostling for attention” in the city, so to did this urban growth invigorate modern anthropology (33). Pursuing new forms of recording field work and transcending common modes of thought, modern anthropologists enjoy a veritable playground of new anthropological themes and circumstances. Evolving consumer items, fashions and entertainment demand an exponential reconfiguration of vocabulary to fit new inventions of community and individual identity. Methods of describing human beings through enhancing quantitative data and statistical information create more distinct categories of people, and provoke internal deconstructions of purpose and intention in field work. Reconfigurations of self within city communities blooms with exposure to different systems of living and thinking.
In these reconfigurations, anthropology confronts the “glaring blind spots” of gender and race representations within the discipline, as modernity did through post-modernism (128). Today, women and minorities are anthropologists vital to the field, and anthropologists embrace a fuller reconceptualizing of their own identity in political-economic and socially roles. Self-reflexive, anthropologists reinterpret their motives within new communities again and again, just as modernist artists challenge audiences to reinterpret assumptions and motives of art, music and literature.
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