Anthropologist and educator James Clifford and anthropologist and filmmaker Massimiliano (Mao) Mollona have been sustaining a long-term conversation around the concept of “(im)possible realism”: a realism that accepts the contradictions of micro and macro scales, local and global, and thus the impossibility of telling a singular and unifying composite historical story. One of these exchanges was recorded and subsequently discussed in the context of the 2021–2022 Fellowship for Situated Practice, in connection to and as part of the Spectral Infrastructure research trajectory.
Anthropologist and educator
James Clifford, Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is best known for his historical and literary critiques of anthropological representation, travel writing, and museum practices. He co-edited (with George Marcus) the influential intervention, Writing Culture, the Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (1986). Clifford’s most recent book, Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the 21st Century (2013), is the third in a trilogy. The first volume, The Predicament of Culture (1988), juxtaposed essays on twentieth-century ethnography, literature, and art. The second, Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late 20th Century (1997) explored the dialectics of dwelling and traveling in postmodernity. The three books are inventive combinations of analytic scholarship, meditative essays, and poetic experimentation.
Clifford is currently investigating the colonial legacies and future possibilities of ethnological museums in the former “First World.” He continues to follow the politics of “indigenism” in diverse conjunctures.