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Agony and the Anthropos

Democracy and Boundaries in the Anthropocene

Amanda Machin

The Anthropocene diagnosis, in which humanity has become a disruptive geological force, indicates an irresolvable political paradox. The political demos is inevitably and necessarily bounded. The Anthropocene, however, heralds the anthropos—the globalized more-than-human identity. The anthropos challenges the maintenance of political boundaries, yet any robust response to ecological predicament must be underpinned by a decisive demos. This article, informed by theories of political agonism, suggests that this paradox importantly provokes ongoing political contestation of the inevitable yet contingent exclusions from politics and the proper place of political boundaries in the Anthropocene. The article concludes that the Anthropocene diagnosis provides an opportunity for a lively democratic politics in which the demos is always prompted to reimagine itself and asks, who are “we” in the Anthropocene?

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Avatars and Robots

The Imaginary Present and the Socialities of the Inorganic

Henrietta L. Moore

This article explores the frailty of particular notions of 'actant' and 'affect' for an understanding of the emergent socialities that cross virtual and actual worlds. It uses work on robots and avatars to explore a humanly grounded theory of sociality. It discusses the virtual character of selves and social relations, and how forms of presence apparent in robotics and virtual worlds both enhance and augment our understanding of specifically human forms of sociality. It suggests that critiques of subject-object dualisms do not depend on a rejection of the distinctiveness of anthropos.

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In Vitro Anthropos

New Conception Models for a Recursive Anthropology?

Sarah Franklin

Drawing on fieldwork in U.K. stem cell labs, where early human development is modelled in vitro using cell culture systems, and cultured cell lines are used to make new diagnostic tools, this article explores a new meaning for the phrase 'conception model'. In the London labs where the author has conducted fieldwork since the 1990s are many examples of how human reproductive cells are being used to manufacture and 'road test' new diagnostic tools. This article explores the recursion involved in modelling early development 'in man' (as opposed to mouse, axolotl or sea urchin), and develops anthropological analyses of living human cell systems grown in Petri dishes that are aimed at illuminating the causes of human pathology. It is argued that several different levels of recursive modelling occur via 'in vitro anthropos', and that these cellular models introduce a useful perspective on the debate over 'reflexive' anthropology, and the more recent turn to a 'recursive' anthropology. However, different kinds of difference are at stake in these two projects. Using cell culture modelling practices, and the 'conception model' offered by dish life as an analytic vantage point, the article offers a 'looped' view to illustrate what the 'recursive turn' might look like, or reveal, as an ethnographic project. In contrast to the 'loopy' view of much reflexive anthropology, fieldwork through the looking glass, including the explicit turn to a recursive anthropology, is argued to be both an empirically robust and a conceptually creative practice.

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Hannah Landecker, Charis Thompson and Sarah Franklin

What’s in the Dish? Comments on Franklin’s In Vitro Anthropos Hannah Landecker

Conceptual Clarity for Conception Frameworks: Comments on Franklin’s In Vitro Anthropos Charis Thompson

Reply Sarah Franklin

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Beyond the Anthropocene

Un-Earthing an Epoch

Valerie Olson and Lisa Messeri

As “the Anthropocene” emerges as a geological term and environmental analytic, this paper examines its emerging rhetorical topology. We show that Anthropocene narratives evince a macroscale division between an “inner” and “outer” environment. This division situates an Anthropocenic environment that matters in the surface zone between Earth's subsurface and the extraterrestrial “outer spaces” that we address here. We review literature in the sciences and social sciences to show how contemporary environmental thinking has been informed by understandings of Earth's broader planet-scaled environmental relations. Yet, today's Anthropocene conversation draws analytic attention inward and downward. Bringing in literature from scholars who examine the role of the extraterrestrial and outer environmental perspectives in terrestrial worlds, we suggest that Anthropocenic theorizations can productively incorporate inclusive ways of thinking about environments that matter. We argue for keeping “Anthropocene” connected to its spatial absences and physical others, including those that are non-anthropos in the extreme.

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Emotions and Authority in Religious Organisations

The Case of a New Prayer Group in Contemporary Transcarpathia

Agnieszka Halemba

This article reflects on the place of emotionally arousing ex- periences within religious organisations. Using data obtained through participant observation and interviews, it outlines a research approach for investigations of the interrelationships between particular features of religious practices. Those features have been pointed out in many previous anthropo- logical and sociological works, but few works attempted to analyse connections and interdependencies between con- crete features of religious traditions. The present article takes inspiration from contemporary 'modes of religiosity' theory to explore further the relationships between highly emotion- ally arousing religious experiences and centralised religious authority. Going beyond Whitehouse's theory, it is argued that centralised religious organisations can influence the so- cial features of a religious movement through management of emotionality in ritual practice.

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Jonathan Skinner

I am pleased to present five articles in this special issue of Anthropology in Action. They show a lively, challenging and engaged set of interventions that cross social and applied anthropology boundaries, doing so through combined arts health practices. That many of them take place in Northern Ireland and are propelled by anthropology graduates is an additional boon to a challenging and economically deprived part of the U.K. Three – Raw, McCaffery, Zeindlinger – were originally presented at the Arts Care 21st anniversary conference held in Belfast, ‘Sustainable Creativity in Healthcare’, May 2012. They represent work by publicly engaged anthropologists, a number living, working and practising in Northern Ireland. Other presenters from the conference could not join us but were also anthropologists practising anthropo - anthropologically informed community-relations work in Northern Ireland on deprived and segregated estates(Emma Graham) and in creative dance choreography with special needs and third-age performers (Lauren Guyer). Not so ‘half-baked’ applied anthropology, to challenge Lucy Mair’s (1969: 8) original castigation of such intervention work.