This special issue of the Cambridge Journal of Anthropology entitled ‘Witnessing: truths, technologies, transformations’ is guest edited by Liana Chua and Omri Grinberg.
‘Truth’ has been central to the human condition for as long as people have valued justice, belief or reason. That these three things in no way imply one another is what makes truth so challenging to understand. Meeting this challenge is critical at a time when doubts about the integrity of political process, the veracity of science and the trustworthiness of reporting are resistant to rebuttal. Perhaps the notion of a ‘post-truth’ world will evaporate into history as a curiosity from an anxious age. But in early 2021, struggles over the ability to witness the truth are part of our Zeitgeist.
The anthropological endeavour is especially concerned with issues of this type. Most ethnographers implicitly trust their research participants to show them something ‘real’ (whether as demonstration of objective facts, or revelations of thoughts, values and beliefs). Research participants should also expect ethnographers to produce analyses that are insightful and accurate. Anthropology confronts the limitations of these principles by debating the nature of subjectivity, evidence and representation. For that reason, the discipline might shed unique light on how truth is witnessed in a range of social contexts. The collection you are reading makes an excellent and creative contribution to this most enduring of anthropological issues.
The special issue is made up of an introduction by the Guest Editors; articles by Raffaella Fryer-Moreira, Valerie Hänsch, Rachel Douglas-Jones, Eray Çaylı, Omri Grinberg and Liana Chua; a virtual conversation between Asale Angel-Ajani, Carolyn J. Dean and Meg McLagan; and an afterword by Naisargi N. Dave. The issue ends with Zora Kostadinova's review of Li's The Universal Enemy and Chakad Ojani's review of Knox's Thinking Like a Climate.
I hope that you find the issue interesting.