In this introduction, we propose a new approach to anthropological knowledge making that would observe the ‘hyper-reflexive’ quality of ethnographic exchanges. We show that anthropological ideas infiltrate themselves into the discourse of native thinkers, even as native ideas regenerate anthropological theory. Our starting point is ‘animism’, a key concept of anthropological theory. We suggest that anthropologists and their interlocutors jointly reinvent animistic ideas through a process we describe as the ‘reflexive feedback loop’, in which abstract ideas about practice and belief are appropriated and recirculated by research participants. By way of conclusion, we reflect on how anthropologists and their collaborators ‘animate’ soul concepts through diverse forms of agency such as metamorphosis, doubling, autobiographical narrative, hidden jokes, and even technological animism.
Anthropological Knowledge Making, the Reflexive Feedback Loop, and Conceptualizations of the Soul
Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard
Jens Kreinath and Refika Sarıönder
The Alevi cem is a communal ritual that is performed weekly among members of a major religious minority in Turkey. Although formerly celebrated exclusively in rural village communities, this ritual became publicly accessible at the end of the 1980s when Alevi cultural associations were opened in the urban centers of Turkey. Since it was made public, the cem has undergone significant changes in the internal dynamics of its performance and in the formal design of its liturgy. By addressing multiple audiences in its urban milieu, the performance of the cem reveals moments of ritual reflexivity. Based on ethnographic research at a cultural association in Istanbul, this article focuses on a cem performance that led to ruptures and mishaps in the presentation of some ritual acts. We analyze the ritual leader’s response to these incidents and the theoretical implications of this account for the study of ritual reflexivity.
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.
Tricksters in Cuban and Brazilian Spirit Mediumship Practices
Diana Espírito Santo
In this article, I explore how the cosmologies of two popular spirit possession cults—Espiritismo in Cuba and Umbanda in Brazil—exhibit forms of recursivity and self-reflexivity. Taking my cue from Don Handelman’s notion that the cosmos often contains its own logic of self-becoming, I argue that in these ethnographic cases, recursivity results from the interplay between, on the one hand, the spirits’ expression of their autonomy from living beings and, on the other, the spirits’ contingency for their effectiveness on human belief, representation, perception, and action. In Espiritismo and Umbanda, spirits intervene in human affairs unpredictably, throwing new light on anthropological and native conceptualizations of reflexivity.
Timothy B. Leduc and Susan A Crate
This article is concerned with the way in which indigenous place-based knowledge and understandings, in a time of global climate change, have the potential to challenge researchers to self-reflexively shift the focus of their research toward those technological and consumer practices that are the cultural context of our research. After reviewing some literature on the emergence of self-reflexivity in research, the authors offer two case studies from their respective environmental education and anthropological research with northern indigenous cultures that clarifies the nature of a self-reflexive turn in place-based climate research and education. The global interconnections between northern warming and consumer culture-and its relation to everexpanding technological systems-are considered by following the critical insights of place-based knowledge. We conclude by examining the possibility that relocalizing our research, teaching, and ways of living in consumer culture are central to a sustainable future, and if so, the knowledge and understandings of current place-based peoples will be vital to envisioning such a cultural transformation of our globalizing system.
Anthropological Self-reflexivity through the Eyes of Study Participants
Although there is nothing new about how anthropologists can be the observed instead of simply being the observer and that they can also be interviewed while interviewing, no one has studied the kinds of questions they receive from the people that they study and interact with in the field. Questions that research participants ask the anthropologists during fieldwork provide a critical way to reflect upon historical and persistent issues related to field-work, such as positionality, self-reflexivity and methodology. Based on fourteen months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork among two Hmong communities in Laos and the United States, this article examines some of the questions I received from the people in my study and suggests that anthropologists need to pay more critical attention to these questions as a source of self-reflexivity and positionality in the process of ethnographic writing.
Pragmatic Use of Infrastructure and Reflexive Mobility of Evenki and Dolgan Hunters, Reindeer Herders, and Fishers
Vladimir N. Davydov
This article addresses the problem of temporality and its potential use in mobility studies by providing examples from the author’s recent fieldwork among Evenkis and Dolgans. It examines the temporal dimension of hunters’, reindeer herders’, and fishers’ movements, and discusses the pragmatic use by local people, in the context of their mobility, of a variety of infrastructures and objects that were introduced to the landscape during the last century. It introduces the concept of points of constant return for ways of relating to places of intensive use beyond the binary opposition of settlements and the surrounding landscape. This article suggests analyzing movements in a broader context that includes not just their starting and final destinations but the relations of different locations in a set of movements of multiple actors and analyzes them as results of both reflexive and creative processes that lead to transformations of material objects and the landscape.
In The Armies of the Night (1968) and Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968/2008) Norman Mailer details the exploits of the anti-Vietnam war protestors and his role in the protests. With an ethnographer’s eye for detail and a novelist’s eye for imagery, he constructs a picture of youthful fear and exuberance, a totalitarian reaction to protest, and documents an America which he realises is slowing eating itself. In these nonfi ction novels, he places himself at the centre of events, interpreting the data through his own frazzled, drink-fuelled, mischievous self. This article utilises Pierre Bourdieu’s methodological framework of refl exive sociology to both critically analyse Mailer as an ethnographer and qualitative researcher and ask whether inquiry into social protest can be adequately conducted through the autobiographical gaze of a novelist. It is argued that by using such literary resources and techniques, we can, in the spirit of C. Wright Mills, move to a more public sociology where literary techniques are valued, rather than dismissed as unscientific.
Triggering Critical Reflexive Stances on Ritual Action in Togo
In Kabye society, the commonest sacrificial rites include a device that may prompt celebrants to question their own ritual practice. As in other West African societies, the acceptance or refusal of an offering by a divinity is read in the death throes of the first chicken to be sacrificed. If the fowl does not die in the expected position, the ceremony is interrupted. Celebrants scrutinize the execution of the rite to identify the mistake that led to the sacrifice’s refusal, and they submit their hypothesis to the divinity. However, the resumption of the rite is not conditioned by the correction of the mistake. It is often sufficient that officiants recognize and reassert the rule that they should have followed. The case of a bull sacrifice demonstrates how the celebrants’ self-critical practice may promote a ritual effectiveness in connection with the dialogical and pragmatic nature of the rite.
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.