Is "Closer and Closer" Ever Close Enough? Dereification, Diacritical Power, and the Specter of Evolutionism

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Recent work in anthropology dereifies Western and non-Western societies and demonstrates that they are much more similar than previous paradigms supposed. Moreover, anthropologists assume that by deconstructing such essentializations, they also demonstrate cultural equality between the West and the Other. I suggest that the division of the world does not deny similarity but identity, in the double sense of the word. In more general terms I argue that the effort to dereify and unify the world is a symbolic denial of a mode of being in which "to know" is "to discriminate" and "to be" is "to be different." Inadvertently, but perhaps inevitably, the work of dereification reproduces the very structures of power and inequality that it sets out to undermine.

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