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Does anthropology really add to our understanding of foreign cultures or is it the continuation of colonial domination by other means? Is this academic discipline a mirror—one reflecting the preoccupations of predominantly Western anthropologists—or a window, through which it is possible to observe lives very different to our own?
Maurice Godelier places social anthropology in its historical context, with its origins in the West, and more particularly, colonialism. He also argues that it has to some extent transcended its origins, achieving a measure of scientific objectivity and validity that cannot be reduced to the self-interested concerns of imperial ideology. The final chapter discusses the issues surrounding the presentation of non-Western cultural artefacts to a Western general public.