In the twentieth century, many anthropological comparisons were mounted on the base of the synchronic societal ethnographies being produced at the time. That work produced a valuable inventory of the range of variations and differences. Now, following quite a different track, and defining the task anew, a remarkable number of ethnographies consist of observations of processes of change as they go along. The considerable obstacles to comparing such temporally oriented, processual case histories distinguishes them from earlier studies of tradition and custom. In this review, five abbreviated case histories of ongoing development projects illustrate the difference of approach. The process by which plans to control particular aspects of a social field are designed, implemented, altered, and diverted are the object of these ethnographic studies. The cultures of control employed by the planners are noted, but the dynamic of the societal context into which projects are introduced is shown to be equally important to the outcome. No less than a redefinition of the anthropological field of observation is involved in this approach.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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