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Glossolalia and Linguistic Alterity

The Ontology of Ineffable Speech

Evandro Bonfim

This article proposes a revised definition of glossolalia based on the ritual value of incomprehensible speech, which allows for an approach to meaning emergence in non-human languages and the issue of extreme linguistic alterity. The main social and acoustic features associated with glossolalia will be presented through the case study of a Christian charismatic community in Brazil (the Canção Nova), showing us how linguistic evidence supports different notions of Christian personhood and an iconic-based communication between human and divine beings.

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Sabrina Melenotte

Since 1994, the Zapatista political autonomy project has been claiming that “another world is possible”. This experience has influenced many intellectuals of contemporary radical social movements who see in the indigenous organization a new political alter-native. I will first explore some of the current theories on Zapatism and the crossing of some of authors into anarchist thought. The second part of the article draws on an ethnography conducted in the municipality of Chenalhó, in the highlands of Chiapas, to emphasize some of the everyday practices inside the self-proclaimed “autonomous municipality” of Polhó. As opposed to irenic theories on Zapatism, this article describes a peculiar process of autonomy and brings out some contradictions between the political discourse and the day-to-day practices of the autonomous power, focusing on three specific points linked to economic and political constraints in a context of political violence: the economic dependency on humanitarian aid and the “bureaucratic habitus”; the new “autonomous” leadership it involved, between “good government” and “good management”; and the internal divisions due to the return of some displaced members and the exit of international aid.

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Narratives of the Invisible

Autobiography, Kinship, and Alterity in Native Amazonia

Vanessa Elisa Grotti and Marc Brightman

Shamanic knowledge is based on an ambiguous commensality with invisible others. As a result, shamans oscillate constantly between spheres of intimacy, both visible and invisible. A place of power and transformation, the spirit world is rarely described by native interlocutors in an objective, detached way; rather, they depict it in terms of events and experiences. Instead of examining the formal qualities of accounts of the spirit world through analyses of ritual performance and shamanic quests, we focus on life histories as autobiographical accounts in order to explore what they reveal about the relationship between personal history (and indigenous historicity) and the spirit world. We introduce the term ‘double reflexivity’ to refer to processes by which narratives about the self are produced through relationships with alterity.

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Ontography and Alterity

Defining Anthropological Truth

Martin Holbraad

This article holds that deeply entrenched assumptions about the nature, provenance, and value of truth can be brought into view and examined critically when set against the backdrop of a radically different set of concepts and practices that are associated with truth seeking in contemporary Afro-Cuban divination. Drawing briefly on an ethnographic analysis of the ways in which Cuban cult practitioners use oracles, the article seeks to formulate a radically alternative concept of truth. This viewpoint eschews common premises about the role of 'representation' in the pursuit of truth in favor of a notion of truth as 'conceptual redefinition'. If the ethnography of divination in Cuba forces the analyst radically to reformulate the concept of truth, what effect might this new approach have on the project of anthropology itself?

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Johannes Fabian

These comments—made originally in my role as discussant for the panel in Ljubljana—address the recent history of the question of world anthropologies and identify three issues for further critical debate: (1) hegemonic claims concerning our discipline (including the issue of hegemony within our discipline), (2) the difference between power and authority, and (3) reasons that alterity continues to be a crucial concept in post-colonial anthropology.

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Rini Cobbey

Stephen Alter, FANTASIES OF A BOLLYWOOD LOVE THIEF: INSIDE THE WORLD OF INDIAN MOVIEMAKING, New York: Harcourt, 2007, x + 260 pp., $15.00 (paperback).

Ranjani Mazumdar, BOMBAY CINEMA: AN ARCHIVE OF THE CITY, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007, xxxvii + 257 pp., $67.50 (hardback).

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'Seeing’ Papua New Guinea

Making Order and Disorder through a Petroleum Project

Steffen Dalsgaard

This article contributes to debates about how capitalist corporations ‘see’, and how they concurrently relate to the places where they are located. It argues that an analytical focus on ‘seeing’ illuminates how internal organization and outward relation making are tied together in complex ways. Even so, corporations of the extractive industries in particular cannot be assumed to encompass a single coherent view. The empirical case is a critical examination of how a gas project employed strict health, safety, and security measures to generate order when encountering alterity in an unfamiliar environment in Papua New Guinea. It reveals how the project was organized around two conflicting ways of seeing its host country—trying to separate itself from it while simultaneously having to engage and provide benefits for it.

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Michael A. Di Giovine

It has become a Structuralist truism in the social sciences to state that individuals define themselves by what they are not. It has equally become evident that travel—and particularly the voluntary, temporary, and perspectival type that we call tourism—is predicated on interaction with the Other. Travelogues are particularly salient “social facts” in this regard, for they both index such processes of identity formation, as well as contribute to them. Two edited volumes, Rolf-Hagen Schulz-Forberg's Unraveling Civilisation: European Travel and Travel Writing (2005) and John Zilcosky's Writing Travel: The Poetics and Politics of the Modern Journey (2008) provide compelling examples of how the multifarious and complementary processes of travel and travel writing not only index, but construct, European identity.

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Betsy Bowman and Bob Stone

Alongside recent world-historical dates such as 11 September 2001, we would place 15 February 2003. On that day, around 10 million people—some estimates are much higher—demonstrated on the streets of the world's cities in opposition to the US war on Iraq, then being merely threatened. Sartre's study of the elements of history in Critique of Dialectical Reason and its unpublished ethical sequel, Morality and History, illuminate, and are illuminated by, the movements that contest today's global system. From the Critique, we'll engage his notions of negative universality as threat of death and the "fusing" of "series" into "groups" as response. From Morality and History, we'll take "integral humanity" as a goal and standard; it seems to us built into the global act of February 15 and into the wider movement of which that day was a moment. After comparing a Sartrean take on February 15 with the famous Habermas-Derrida appeal inspired by that day, we'll close with some reciprocal illuminations between Sartre's theories and Zapatista practice.

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A New Sociobiology

Immunity, Alterity, and the Social Repertoire

A. David Napier

The relation between biological processes and social practices has given rise to a sociobiology heavily defined through experimental, cause-and-effect theorizing, applying biology to society, culture, and individual action. Human behaviour is largely understood as the outcome of biological processes, with individual autonomy and survival, and social order and stability, prioritized. Building on an argument first made about selfhood in 1986, and about immunology from 1992 onwards, this article argues that advances in science reframe our understanding of the boundaries between self and other ('non-self'), and thereby also our awareness of the importance of risk and danger, and the social contexts that encourage or discourage social risks. Because the assimilation of difference is not only crucial to survival, but critical for creation, the argument here for 'a new sociobiology' is for a less biologically determined sociobiology. Difference can destroy, but it is necessary for adaptation and creation. A new sociobiology, therefore, must prioritize organic relatedness over organic autonomy, attraction to 'other' over concern with 'self', if the field is to advance our understanding of creation, survival, and growth.