By means of a tale of food poisoning as retribution, this article describes a kind of reasoning that consciously defies commonsense logic. The lived validity of this form of reasoning emphasizes the necessity of an epistemology for anthropology that puts the analysis of relations between people at the heart of our understanding of human reasoning and its ontogeny. An ethnographic analysis of how certain island Fijians give form to kinship relations through the production, exchange, circulation, giving, and consumption of food suggests that it is the very specificity of intersubjective relations between particular persons that make them a proper focus for the anthropologist's attention. It follows that intersubjectivity is central to anthropology as an epistemological project whose fugitive object of study can only be ourselves, even while its focus is bound to be on others.
What We Can Learn from Fijian Children's Ideas About Their Lives as Adults
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.
The Revelation of Ontogeny
To analyse the ontogeny of sociality in any given case is to throw into question various current ideas of sociality as instinct, or as based in an innate theory of mind, or as the artefact of actor-networks, or as necessitating certain ideas of agency. This article argues that an understanding of human autopoiesis as an historical process provides for a unified model of human being in which all the many and manifold forms of sociality can be seen to be the emergent artefact of human ontogeny.
What Is Happening to Epistemology?
Christina Toren and João de Pina-Cabral
Anthropologists debate the primacy of epistemology over ontology, and vice versa, or whether the one is bound always to implicate the other. Our collective and personal history, however, makes the lived world what it is for us, and not all explicit knowledge is constituted in the same way, with the same purposes in mind and within the same sets of binding parameters. Thus, the task of ethnography is to inquire into the different nature of the different forms and modes of constituting knowledge, even while we strive to understand what our own histories make us take for granted as self-evident. This article argues that as a profoundly radical endeavor after knowledge, ethnography goes to the very roots of inquiry into what it is to be human and thus provides for anthropology as a continuing comparative project of fundamental importance to the human sciences.