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African and Afrikaner 'ways of knowing'

Truth and the problems of superstition and 'blood knowledge'

Kai Horsthemke

The approbation, in the last few decades, of 'African ways of knowing' and, more recently, the critical emphasis on 'knowledge in the blood'—which refers to 'deeply entrenched' and 'received knowledge', notably of (white) Afrikaners—give rise to all kinds of questions and concerns. What makes certain ways of knowing and kinds of knowledge 'African' and 'Afrikaner', respectively? What do these ideas cover and include, and what falls outside their respective ambits? What functions are served by appealing to these notions? Amongst other things, the idea of 'African ways of knowing' constitutes part of a challenge to occidental belief systems, science, education and ethics. Theorists who single out certain ways of knowing as distinctly and uniquely 'African' or characteristically 'Afrikaner', respectively, not only emphasise their significance in post-colonialist and antiracist discourse but also maintain that the study of these is of profound relevance to educational and socio-political transformation. In this paper, I examine the notions in question, by seeking to understand how those who employ them might see them as plausible, before referring them to a particular epistemological framework. Problems that need to be addressed include relativism about knowledge and truth, as well as elevation of all kinds of beliefs—notably superstitions and racial prejudices—to the status of knowledge, for any real and sustainable transformation to occur.

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William Matthews

Empire and today's environment in which ‘science’ ( kexue ) is endorsed by the state and ‘superstition’ ( mixin ) condemned. Causally speaking on the level of transmission and understanding between individuals, ontology pertains to persuasiveness as a

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Whitewashing History

Pinker’s (Mis)Representation of the Enlightenment and Violence

Philip Dwyer

readers believe, and violence is a much more complex notion that is often driven not by superstition or unreason, but perfectly “rational” motives. There are, therefore, a number of points that I would take issue with in this view of history and the

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Religious Belief and Practice in Itelmen History

The Historical Efficacy of Ideological Frameworks

David Koester, Viktoria Petrasheva, and Tatiana Degai

Itelmen people of the Kamchatka Peninsula have felt and experienced the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church for over 300 years. Explorers' reports tell us that at the same time that Itelmens rebelled violently against the tsar's representatives, they accepted and appropriated the power of the church. This article examines religiosity in Itelmen history as it is revealed through a critical approach to sources, especially by focusing on Itelmen actions. Missionaries and ethnographers' preconceptions gave shape to their depictions of Itelmen religious beliefs and practices as (1) Christian beliefs, (2) anathema to Christian beliefs, or (3) mere superstitions. In order to speak about Itelmen perceptions, the article focuses primarily on actions taken during this early period of recorded Itelmen history and on the writers who showed an interest in describing how Itelmens thought about religious questions. The article also recounts the little known story of the 1848 Kutkh rebellion.

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Jonathan Skinner

Welcome to the thirteenth year of Anthropology in Action publication, and our second with Berghahn. This is the start of volume 13 and, contrary to superstition, we have the great fortune to make it a strong and fascinating start as a double issue on anthropology and policy in Northern Ireland. In this issue, Dominic Bryan (Queen’s University Belfast), an anthropologist and ethnographer of the Orange Order and their parades as well as public rituals in general, has brought together articles from the latest academic and policy research taking place in the north of Ireland. This collection of articles also goes to show how embedded Queen’s University Belfast is as a key institution in Northern Ireland. As a university, Queen’s is not only one of the main revenue earners in Northern Ireland, but is also a centre for the study of the north of Ireland, a place where academics explore and examine social, political and economic developments around them and, crucially, shape, influence and determine the N’orn Irelan’ scene.

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Alex Murray

Jack the Ripper is purported to have claimed: ‘I gave birth to the twentieth-century.’ In what follows I want to suggest that what Jack the Ripper ‘gave birth to’ was little more than a perpetuation of the paradox that lies at the heart of Western civilization: the dialectic of enlightenment. The rationalising impulse that led to the liberation of the modern subject from the tyrannical faith in myth, superstition, and sovereign power, and their embodiment in the objective world is, according to Adorno and Horkheimer, also responsible for its negation by reducing it to the status of that objective, or natural world from which it was attempting to liberate itself. A reading of Iain Sinclair’s 1987 novel, White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings, in relation to contemporary theorisations of modernity, such as that of Alain Touraine, suggests that any escape from the Ripper paradox, any ‘spiritual deliverance’ through historical investigation, requires a reconceptualisation of the relationship between subject and object, past and present – in short – a reappraisal of the project of modernity.

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Nature and Knowledge

Contemporary Ecologies of Value

Patrick Gallagher and Danielle DiNovelli-Lang

Current efforts to locate value in material nature arise from the contrary notion that there is no value in nature. The roots of this paradox are entangled with the birth of classical economics, which distinguished itself from what it deemed the superstitions of both its European past and the exotic elsewhere by claiming to have discovered that the wealth of nations lay not in land (as the physiocrats believed), nor in money (as the mercantilists thought), but in the productivity of human labor, which alone could make more of the “necessaries and conveniences of life” from a finite and basically inert natural substrate (Locke [1690] 1960). Once the productive capacity of the land was formally separated, or “disembedded,” from its particular natural qualities (Polanyi 1944), it became a puzzle to retroactively determine the value of the latter’s contribution to the overall means of production. The articles collected in the present volume each operate squarely in the context set by this classical riddle, which situates value, on the one hand, and nature, on the other, as the two absolutely necessary yet diametrically opposed elements of the modern political economy of “sustainability”.

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Randolph Miller

, liberty and despotism, the modern age and the middle age, reason and superstition.” 14 During the difficult transition to modernity, in the nexus of Enlightenment and Revolution, materialism was not simply a curiosity without real-world implications

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Are “the Natives” Educable?

Dutch Schoolchildren Learn Ethical Colonial Policy (1890–1910)

Elisabeth Wesseling and Jacques Dane

condemns them to lifelong servitude to idolatry, superstition, and primal fears. But all this will change, father Schippers announces, when the Dutch introduce compulsory education in Java. After broaching the topic of superstition, Islam and Hinduism are

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David Nicol

nation. I am too old to learn. Profane and must be left out 42 CHAMBERLAIN I’ faith, the fellow is very zealous In his blasphemous superstitions! 43 SMITH What think you of our King? TOMOCOMO We saw not him. CHAMBERLAIN Why, sure, you did. D’ee 44 not