Jan 2, 2011

This essay argues that modern cultural anthropology is a product of early-modern astronomical science.

Analyzing a variety of texts from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries, this text shows how the conceptual tools that early-modern astronomers developed, beginning in the fifteenth century, were transferred to anthropological thought, during the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The end result was an anthropological tradition that this essay calls celestial anthropology. This tradition formed around 1700 and ran, uninterrupted, until 1850, when the astronomical backdrop to anthropological thought receded from discussions about the human being and left behind contemporary anthropological approaches, including above all cultural anthropology.

This essay further argues that celestial anthropology lives on in contemporary theology and science writing and concludes that anthropological discussion should pay more attention to the methods and approaches of these heirs to celestial contemplation.

The Liminality of Man: Astronomy and the Birth of Anthropology in ...


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