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Different Species, One Theory

Reflections on Anthropomorphism and Anthropological Comparison

Matei Candea

This article compares recent anthropological accounts of animist and perspectivist ontologies with evolutionary explanations of animal behaviour in contemporary behavioural ecology. It argues that some unexpected echoes between these two very different ways of encountering non-humans raise a set of fascinating issues both ethnographic and theoretical. On the ethnographic side, thinking of behavioural ecology as akin to a 'naturalist perspectivism' illuminates some of the complex ways in which the discipline deals with worries about anthropomorphic projection. On the theoretical side, the comparison raises some questions about the ease with which us/them contrasts associated with the recent 'ontological turn' in anthropology find themselves echoing contrasts internal to Western philosophical and scientific debate. The resulting problem of mirroring (the concern that 'others' may be called upon to play the role of an anti-'us', rather than encountered on their own terms) is in turn considered as an analogue of the scientific problem of 'anthropomorphism', and some potential responses to both are considered.

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The Return of the Animists

Recent Studies of Amazonian Ontologies

Luiz Costa and Carlos Fausto

The ethnography of lowland South American societies has occupied a central place in recent debates concerning what has been called the 'ontological turn' in anthropology. The concepts of 'animism' and 'perspectivism', which have been revigorated through studies of Amerindian ontologies, figure increasingly in the ethnographies of non-Amerindian peoples and in anthropological theory more generally. This article traces the theoretical and empirical background of these concepts, beginning with the influence of Lévi-Strauss's work on the anthropology of Philippe Descola and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, and proceeding with their impact on Amazonian ethnography. It then investigates the problems that two alternative traditions—one combining a cognitivist with a pragmaticist approach, the other a phenomenological one—pose to recent studies of Amazonian ontologies that rely on the concepts of animism and perspectivism. The article concludes by considering how animism and perspectivism affect our descriptions of Amerindian society and politics, highlighting the new challenges that studies of Amerindian ontologies have begun to address.

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Relations and Relatives

Aparecida Vilaça

; Wagner 1975 ), and Amazonian ethnologies, including potential affinity, perspectivism, and dualism in disequilibrium ( Lévi-Strauss 1995 ; Lima 1999 ; Viveiros de Castro 1993 , 1996 , 1998 ). Given that over at least the last two decades an intense

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The Multiplied Mind

Perspectival Thinking in Arendt, Koestler, Orwell

Milen Jissov

for a special kind of thinking—a thinking from many perspectives. For him, this thinking is the road to knowledge. Nietzsche terms this thinking “perspectivism.” 3 This article explores a significant aporia in modern European thought related to

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Learning to See in Western Amazonia

How Does Form Reveal Relation?

Els Lagrou

the ‘ontological turn’ in Amerindian ethnology and the definition of perspectivism and multi-naturalism (or animism) as diametrically opposed to naturalism ( Descola 2005 ; Viveiros de Castro 1998 ), attention shifted from social relations and kinship

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Unsettling the Land

Indigeneity, Ontology, and Hybridity in Settler Colonialism

Paul Berne Burow, Samara Brock, and Michael R. Dove

overcoming the ontological hurdles of Eurocentric imaginings of post-humanism that these authors critique. Perspectivism Many of today’s studies of nonhuman others cite the canonical work of Jakob von Uexküll (2010 [1934]) on the concept of the umwelt

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Looks Like Viscera

Folds, Wraps, and Relations in the Southern Andes

Francisco Pazzarelli

on merographic connections ( Arnold and Yapita 2001 ; Strathern 1999 ) and on perspectivism ( Allen 2015 ; Arnold and Yapita 2006 ; Viveiros de Castro 2002 ) that would allow us to evaluate and describe different types of resemblances. Finally, I

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Christian Modernisation in Amazonia

Emerging Materialism in Shuar Evangelicals’ Healing Practices

Christian Tym

-fold ontological framework. Drawing on Eduardo Viveiros de Castro's (1998) model of ‘perspectivism’, Vilaça argues that the appeal of Christianity for her ethnographic interlocutors, the Brazilian Amazonian Wari’, lay in the promise of adopting God's perspective

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The reciprocity of perspectives

Roy Wagner

As a tactic of cognitive self‐awareness, the reciprocity of perspectives is not so much a subjective metric for intercultural comparison as it is an internalised property of human sentience, which I label as a subject/object shift: the transposition of ends and means. Understood most broadly as a universal application of the double proportional comparison, made famous by Claude Lévi‐Strauss as the canonical formula for myth, the reciprocity of perspectives, instead of opposing the innate and the artificial (e.g. ‘nature’ and ‘culture’) to one another, presupposes a reciprocal, self‐contradiction between the two. I examine the self‐transformative and tactical character of the reciprocity of perspectives and its effects on language itself, which ceases to be an instrument of communication and takes on the role of communicator or persuader – that of the user rather than the tool.

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Do Animists Become Naturalists When Converting to Christianity?

Discussing an Ontological Turn

Aparecida Vilaça

This article is an ethnographic essay on the notion of an 'ontological turn', taken here in its literal sense of ontological change. It explores a specific sociocosmological transformation – one resulting from the conversion of an Amazonian people, the Wari', to Christianity – via the concept of ontology. The central question here concerns the relationship between an Amazonian animist/perspectivist ontology and the naturalism characteristic of Christian-Western thought. Through a critical reading of the notion of ontological change advanced by Descola (2013) in Beyond Nature and Culture, the article aims to show that the transformation experienced by the Wari' with the arrival of Christianity can be described neither as a linear transition between ontologies, nor as the result of the foregrounding of conceptions or kinds of relationship previously found in an encompassed form. The separation between humans and animals, and the constitution of an inner self typical of Christian naturalism, are becoming gradually absorbed into the Wari' world now but were non-existent and inconceivable in their traditional universe. An examination of the translation choices made by the Evangelical missionaries from the New Tribes Mission and the apprehension of these ideas by the Wari' suggests a complex and non-linear transition between the two ontologies.