Gananath Obeyesekeere Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

Understanding Culture: Conversation with Gananath Obeyesekere, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Princeton University; March 19, 2003, by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

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Advice for Students

One final question. If you were to advise students who wanted to do the kind of work that you have done in your career, what advice would you give them in terms of preparing for the future?

One advice that I'd give them is not to be seduced by current trends. Nowadays, when I read a Ph.D. dissertation, it is not ...  I mean, people have to use Foucault, for example. Virtually every dissertation I read has something to do with Foucault. I, myself, believe that Foucault was a wonderful person, a great thinker and so forth. But I'm also saying that one cannot be seduced to that degree. Like me, for example, I very much admire Foucault, but I like to go back into Nietzsche -- after all, the will to power was not Foucault's invention, it was Nietzsche's invention. In my way of thinking, though Nietzsche was not as systematic a thinker as Foucault was, there's more inside Nietzsche's thinking about the will to power, the creative aspect of the will to power, the destructive aspect of the will to power.

One should not be seduced by current fashion. One should approach current fashion critically, and one should not dump the past entirely, because, after all, in some sense all of us are creatures of tradition. To dump the past, to dump Freud, to dump Weber and so forth, in my view, is a mistake. One should adapt Freud, one should rethink Freud, one should rethink Weber, bring, perhaps, Freud and Weber in line with postmodernity to some degree. But I don't think one should be seduced by current fashions. That's my thought on the matter.

With that note, I want to thank you very much for joining us today and for coming to the campus to give the Foerster Lecture. Thank you.

It's a pleasure to be here.

And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.

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