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 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.
The topic of pan-Africanism today brings to the fore questions of the unfinished humanistic project of decolonisation in Africa. When Kwasi Wiredu (1996) calls for the need for conceptual decolonisation in Africa, he recognises the intellectual price the continent continues to pay as a result of conceptual confusions and distortions caused by a colonial conceptual idiom implanted in the African mind. Reflecting on the potential which the ideology of pan-Africanism holds for the continent’s future, my position is that the same passion and energy which brought about political independence should now be redirected to the epistemic front. A new form of pan-Africanism on the intellectual front is required to galvanise Africans to develop and deploy in their thinking veritable categories of analysis born out of the experiences of being African in Africa. It is in the generation and application of these alternative epistemologies that the future of the continent lies.
Diasporic Epistemology and the Decolonized Curriculum
Jovan Scott Lewis
With educational campaigns that ask ‘Why isn’t my professor Black?’ and ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ there is a push directed towards institutions to provide an education that is diverse, inclusive and representative of the liberal ideals that many promote. This is being done primarily through a discourse of decolonization. In this article, I consider the formulation for a truly decolonized curriculum by first assessing what constitutes a ‘colonial’ education, especially one that is deserving of decolonization. I then discuss the parameters of educational decolonization, by thinking with decolonial and anti-colonial thinkers, to assess the tenability of a decolonized curriculum. Ultimately, I suggest what forms a decolonized curriculum might take by drawing on diaspora theory and by describing broader programmatic requirements within the framework of the Black Radical Tradition that offers decolonial epistemologies as a broad praxis for education.
An Accountability, Written in the Year 2108
This 'archaeology of the future' examines how we, as scholars and anthropologists, will be read—and judged—in the time to come. Twenty-second-century theoreticians may well ask (as we today ask of colonial-era scholarship): “Did the scholars in the early twenty-first century see in their analyses new kinds of warfare, unparalleled forms of violence, potentialities yet to be developed?“ Through an analysis of events likely to unfold over the course of the next 100 years (from changing power constellations to anthropology's attempt to commit disciplinary suicide), this article affirms an anthropology that takes ontological reflexivity seriously; that no longer accepts outdated heuristics dividing theory from theoretician from Being (production of the world); and that grounds this approach in an accountability recognizing epistemology as dynamic, honest, and emergent.
The Ontogeny of an Anthropological Epistemology in Eighteenth-Century Scotland
This article seeks to describe the social preconditions of the emergence of science in Scotland since the Enlightenment and what came to be unknown in the process. It addresses the way in which the geologist James Hutton generated a specific category of 'men of scientific observation' as opposed to 'men of common observation'. In doing so, he, like other Enlightenment thinkers, transformed an existing spatial ordering of social relations into a temporal one. This formed one of the early steps in the development of a genuinely anthropological epistemology, whereby knowledge of the human lies with the 'primitive' other and with his or her knowledge of the world. Anthropology is thus the scientific observation of common observation and, as Lévi-Strauss pointed out, a specific form of common observation.
The Life and Legacy of Marcus M. Jastrow (1829–1903)
Amongst the people from Europe immigrating to North America in the nineteenth century many Jews from Germany came to the New World trying to begin a new life. Their religious experience in Europe and Germany, and ideas of organising (religious) education shaped to a large extent Jewish religious life and education in North America, especially in the emerging United States. Marcus M. Jastrow (1829-1903) was amongst these Jewish immigrants. He came to America in 1866, and only when he took over the rabbinate of the Rodeph Shalom congregation in Philadelphia (Pa.) did the external conditions of his life settle down. Yet two cities - Berlin and Warsaw - and the encounter with distinguished scholars of the Science of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums) and their beliefs remained most formative in Jastrow's life and legacy in America. Through this article I aim to trace back the elements of Jastrow's education and experience in Germany and Poland and identify and measure the impact of it in his life and epistemology in America.
This article will analyse the power relations involved in social movement research, exploring alternative epistemological practices that resist and subvert academic conventions in order to create new modes of knowing. I will critique the production of a knowledge that aims at liberation and emancipation by conducting research 'about' or 'on behalf of' social movements, and I will show how this approach might lead to their very subjection. It will be argued that, in order to avoid the reproduction of power relations they seek to resist, research practices need to go beyond dialectical modes of knowing, departing from assumptions of the subject/object of knowledge, of objective/subjective research and from the hierarchy between theory and praxis. A precedent is found in the research approaches of post-colonial, activist, and queer studies that seek to experiment different modes of knowing, based not on observation and participation, but on learning from the experience of resistance in social movements: in this way resistant practices become an epistemological perspective rather than an object of study, and research can become a tool of resistance.
Perspectives from Africa
Henrietta L. Moore
There has been much discussion in anthropology of the problem of belief and of the difficulties inherent in understanding and interpreting alternative life-worlds. One consequence of anthropological understanding and interpretation being intimately tied to the epistemological and ethical project of contextualization is that other people's knowledge is often rendered as parochial, defined by its local contexts and scope. This article discusses the recent conversion to radical Protestant beliefs in a community in northern Kenya that has resulted in new forms of knowledge and agency. The moral continuities and discontinuities between researcher and researched cannot in this situation be glossed by making the informants rational in context or by asserting the existence of culturally distinct worldviews. The article explores how this sets up a series of epistemological and ethical dilemmas that shape both the research project and the research process.
Critical Activity as Encyclopaideia
In this article, I critically discuss the ambiguous notion of ‘discipline’ and the related constructions of inter-, multi-, post-disciplinarity, from an ‘epistemic’ and ‘socio-political’ point of view. Particularly, I focus on the role of ‘power’ and ‘authority’, and on the consequences that follow by assuming a ‘foundationalist’ or ‘post-foundationalist’ approach. Next, assuming a ‘Critical Theory’ perspective, I try to rethink the meaning of a ‘critical activity’ able to generate a real social and epistemic change. I contend that a new discipline of thought is needed, rather than new disciplines, and a new personal attitude, not only engaged in mere procedures of recording “facts”, but characterised by a serious concern for the role of generalization or theory. A ‘crossing homeless’ attitude is proposed, that is at the same time theoretical, intellectual and practical, concerning the ‘unreasonable’ discipline of a critical activity aimed at putting culture in circle (‘encyclopaideia’) by systematically discontinuing events of subjectifi cation.