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.
Thoughts on Sartre, Lacan, and Contemporary Psychoanalysis
understand language as practico-inert. We must also make a place for speech and other human world-making activity as praxis. If we are going to emphasize intersubjectivity, which Sartre like the postmodernists thinks we must do, it must be an
Reflexivity and Emotion in 'End of Life' Research
Fiona M. Harris
This article explores the embodied nature of training in social anthropology and reveals how, while working in multidisciplinary teams and drawing on research methods and approaches more commonly associated with other disciplines, one might still be 'outed' in one's interpretation and analysis. I draw on the experience of working on a project exploring methodological issues and challenges to conducting research with terminally ill cancer patients to reveal the importance of situating ourselves as researchers firmly within the prejudices of our own societies. While personal experience of losing a parent to cancer should have alerted me to other ways of seeing cancer, I was nevertheless obliged to confront sociocultural constructions of cancer and recognise them as my own. Through understanding the power of 'imagined experience', I gained further insight into how intersubjectivity and reflexivity are crucial to the research process.
Restoring Viable Relations in Emigrant Gambia
The article argues for an intersubjective understanding of mobility among aspirant migrants in the Gambia. Among other factors, Gambian young men’s desire to reach Europe and other destinations may stem from an experience of dispersal and abandonment in migrant households. Emigration becomes a way of restoring the viability of relationships, in a socioeconomic sense of regenerating ties and flows between migrants and nonmigrants, as well as in an existential-kinetic sense of experiencing others as moving closer to oneself. By highlighting intersubjective mobility, the article contributes to widening the scope of an existential take on movement and stasis. It further revises popular and scholarly views on the role of families and migrants in shaping aspirations to emigrate.
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.
Simmel, Space, and Urban Subjectivities
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.
Evangelical Protestant Conceptions of Faith and the Resonance of Anti-humanism
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.
Photography and Ethnographic Complexity in Central Cape York Peninsula
Benjamin R. Smith
This essay addresses anthropological engagement with photography in indigenous Australian contexts. Following the work of Gell and Edwards, and drawing on the history of photography and ethnography in central Cape York Peninsula, I explore some ways that photographs may exceed relations of objectification and exoticism. Many ethnographic photographs have continued to circulate within and beyond Cape York Peninsula, while others have been returned to the descendants of those portrayed. This process of circulation may be accompanied by shifts in the meanings drawn from images, and increasing numbers of photographs are being taken by Aboriginal people themselves. Both these photographs and the engagement of earlier photographs by Aboriginal people demonstrate differences with the ways that photographs are dealt with in ‘Western’ contexts. Whether as ‘social things’, as objects, or as distributed aspects of the agency of those taking or featuring in them, photographs remain active in their interaction with viewers and demand a more nuanced analysis of colonial relationships.
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.
Ugly Emotions and the Politics of Accusation
Geoffrey Hughes, Megnaa Mehtta, Chiara Bresciani, and Stuart Strange
Ugly emotions like envy and greed tend to emerge ethnographically through accusations (as opposed to self-attribution), de-centring the individual psyche and drawing attention to how emotions are deployed in broader projects of moral policing. Tracking the moral, social dimension of emotions through accusations helps to account concretely for the political, economic and ideological factors that shape people’s ethical worldviews – their defences, judgements and anxieties. Developing an anthropological understanding of these politics of accusation leads us to connect classical anthropological themes of witchcraft, scapegoating, and inter- and intra-communal conflict with ethnographic interventions into contemporary debates around speculative bubbles, inequality, migration, climate change and gender. We argue that a focus on the politics of accusation that surrounds envy and greed has the potential to allow for a more analytically subtle and grounded understanding of both ethics and emotions.