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Angela Kristin VandenBroek

In: 21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook

Chapter 49: Agency and Practice Theory

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Agency and Practice Theory
Agency and practice theory

In 1984, Sherry Ortner predicted that practice would be the key symbol of anthropology in the 1980s. Research on practice, agency, structure, and power actually filled not only the 1980s, but also the 1990s and extended into the 2000s as well. Issues of inequality, oppression, and resistance have been a staple of anthropological literature and have influenced its many theories, both before and after the 1980s. However, time, from the 1980s up to and including today, has seen a steady strengthening and thickening of agency-related theories.

The critiques of feminism, postcolonialism, and race and ethnicity studies brought to light the many problems with earlier constructions of agency. Two main lessons were taken from these critiques. First, agency is not ...

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