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Stephan Dudeck

Abstract

The essay provides a review of a small but remarkable book on the work of two important Native American and Siberian poets, Meditations after the Bear Feast by Navarre Scott Momaday and Yuri Vella, published in 2016 by Shanti Arts in Brunswick, Maine. Their poetic dialogue revolves around the well-known role of the bear as a sociocultural keystone species in the boreal forest zone of Eurasia and North America. The essay analyzes the understanding of dialogicity as shaping the intersubjectivity of the poets emerging from human relationships with the environment. It tries to unpack the complex and prophetic bear dream in one of Vella’s poems in which he links indigenous ontologies with urgent sociopolitical problems.

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Faith beyond Belief

Evangelical Protestant Conceptions of Faith and the Resonance of Anti-humanism

Omri Elisha

This article explores the cultural significance of faith among US evangelical Protestants. It is argued that evangelical conceptions of faith provide an idiom for expressing religiosity that transcends conventional notions of belief, which alone do not account for the ideals of evangelical subjectivity. Through an analysis of group rituals in a Tennessee megachurch, along with a discussion of the historical roots of evangelical theology and the growing influence of charismatic Christianity, the article highlights an emphasis on radical intersubjectivity that calls upon the faithful to submit to the totalizing authority of divine agency. It is further argued that evangelical conceptions of faith feature a strand of anti-humanism that resonates with the increasingly authoritarian politics of the post-welfare era, which are explored in relation to the growing phenomenon of altruistic faith-based activism.

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Can Anthropology Make Valid Generalizations?

Feelings of Belonging in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

Susana de Matos Viegas

This article deals with connections between phenomenological approaches and the production of valid generalizations in the making of ethnography. The argument is constructed through the presentation of valid generalizations that have a bearing on the intersubjective feelings of belonging among the Tupinambá Indians (south of Bahia). These feelings arise both from living in a small kinship compound, with its sense of immediacy and personalized attachments to space, and from becoming part of the larger category of Tupinambá people and territory. The intertwining of lived experience and a broader comparative perspective on sociality, raised both by Americanist and more general theoretical debates in anthropology, is considered. From this perspective, the article presents different processes of connection making as epistemological tools for ethnographic generalizations, constructed in a constant overlapping of scales.

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Museums and the Educational Turn

History, Memory, Inclusivity

Jens Andermann and Silke Arnold-de Simine

Responding to feminist, postcolonial, and memorialistic critiques, museums have over the past decades radically revised their protocols of collection and display, aiming to register in their own curatorial and pedagogical practice the open and contested nature of the historical and ethnographic narratives on which their object lessons had traditionally conferred the status of hard evidence. In this new emphasis on the “museum encounter” as a performative and intersubjective “event”—sometimes referred to as the “educational turn” in museum curatorship—a new type of “inclusive museum” has emerged in diverse geographical and political settings. The inclusive museum seeks to recover the museum’s social role as a purveyor of shared, collective meanings precisely in departing from its high-modern predecessor and in forging “open representations” that acknowledge the diversity of the interpretative community thus interpolated. Inclusive museums, in short, aim to offer a new, contemporary stage for negotiating and performing cultural citizenship.

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Christianity and the City

Simmel, Space, and Urban Subjectivities

Anna Strhan

This article examines the growing scholarly interest in urban religion, situating the topic in relation to the contemporary analytical significance of cities as sites where processes of social change, such as globalization, transnationalism, and the influence of new media technologies, materialize in interrelated ways. I argue that Georg Simmel's writing on cities offers resources to draw out further the significance of “the urban” in this emerging field. I bring together Simmel's urban analysis with his approach to religion, focusing on Christianities and individuals' relations with sacred figures, and suggest this perspective opens up how forms of religious practice respond to experiences of cultural fragmentation in complex urban environments. Drawing on his analysis of individuals' engagement with the coherence of God, I explore conservative evangelicals' systems of religious intersubjectivity to show how attention to the social effects of relations with sacred figures can deepen understanding of the formation of urban religious subjectivities.

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Introduction

Explorations in Psychoanalytic Ethnography

Jadran Mimica

This collection of essays is about psychoanalytic ethnography. Its concern is the psychic depths of human cultural life-worlds as explored through psychoanalytic practice and/or the psychoanalytically framed ethnographic project. The authors engage various aspects of the human condition within a wide range of conceptual frameworks that are representative of contemporary psychoanalytic understanding and practice. The anthropological contributions come from scholars whose ethnographic research is grounded in psychoanalysis and whose overall approach to human existence is articulated in terms of or gravitates toward psychoanalysis as a foundational framework for anthropological understanding. A strong version of this position (not shared by all contributors) maintains that anthropological interpretation of human existence is not sustainable without psychoanalysis. Critical here is the primary level of concrete ethnographic research whose horizons are delimited by the psychoanalytic perspectives on the unconscious matrix of the human psyche and, correlatively, on the unconscious depths and dynamics of the intersubjective (social) reality of any given cultural life-world.

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The Stuff of Imagination

What We Can Learn from Fijian Children's Ideas About Their Lives as Adults

Christina Toren

Through an analysis of Fijian children's essays about the future, this article explores ideas of sociality, personhood, and the self that are the very stuff of intersubjectivity and thus of the imagination, as this gives rise to the lived social reality that is manifested in people's ideas and practices. The material presented here bears on a single aspect of data derived from 75 essays by Fijian village children aged between 7 and 15 years old, that is, their constitution over time of a spatiotemporal orientation toward a view of generations to come. I use this example of spatiotemporal orientation to show how, seen through the perspective derived from long-term participant observer fieldwork, data such as these enable an ethnographic analysis of meaning-making as a transformational, historical process.

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Susanne Bregnbaek

This article is based on anthropological fieldwork undertaken at two elite universities in Beijing. It addresses the paradoxical situation of the many instances of suicide among Chinese elite university students in Beijing, which constitute a public secret. The pressure of education weighs heavily on the shoulders of China's only child in each family, known as the generation of little emperors and little empresses. Since the 1980s, the suzhi jiaoyu reforms (education for quality) have involved various attempts to reduce the pressure of education. However, simultaneously the aim is to increase the competitiveness of individuals. Drawing on existential and phenomenological thought, I suggest that the discourse seems to objectify and quantify a concern for well-being, rather than recognising its intersubjective character. Finally, I argue that the suicides are controversial since they are seen as a form of social criticism.

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Otherwise than Meaning

On the Generosity of Ritual

Don Seeman

The thought experiment ‘ritual in its own right’ implies a suspension of dominant interpretive paradigms in anthropological research. This essay begins by juxtaposing the foundational accounts of Weber and Geertz—both of whom associate ritual with the quest for meaning in suffering—with the phenomenological account of Emmanuel Levinas, who argues that suffering is inherently “useless” and therefore resistant to meaning’s claim. All three theorists are then juxtaposed with the Warsaw ghetto writings of a twentieth-century Jewish mystic, Kalonymos Shapira, whose work exemplifies the tension between meaningful and useless suffering in a real social setting. Shapira’s work bears comparison with Levinas’s, and lends support to the idea that our preoccupation with meaning may stem from a particular religious genealogy of social theory. Ritual can be analyzed as a ground of intersubjectivity or transcendence rather than meaning, which makes it more akin to medicine, in Levinas’s terms, than to theodicy.

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Interpretation and Rationality

Developing Donald Davidson’s Ideas in International Political Theory

Nikolay Gudalov

Although influential in philosophy and relevant to international political theory’s (IPT) key concerns, Donald Davidson has not received commensurate attention in IPT. I aim here to commence filling this gap. I explore Davidson’s insights which fruitfully challenge established disciplinary views. The notions of rationality, objectivity and truth, and, on the other hand, those of intersubjectivity, language and interpretation are often needlessly separated and constricted by seemingly alternative approaches. Davidson firmly reconnects these notions. He helps rethink the realist, strong post-positivist, but also liberal, ‘thin’ constructivist and critical (not thoroughly contextualist) approaches. He bridges the normative cosmopolitan–communitarian distinction. Eventually, Davidson laid foundations for a perspective foregrounding possibilities for rational communication and agreement between very different contexts and also for the non-dogmatic, pluralist and dynamic nature of communication itself.