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The Anthropology of Ontology Meets the Writing Culture Debate: Is Reconciliation Possible?

Rane Willerslev

Abstract

This exciting special issue sets out to take the ‘anthropology of ontology’ (also called the ‘ontological turn’), along with its concern for indigenous animism, to a new level of analysis by pairing it with key issues originally raised by anthropology’s influential paradigm of reflexivity, the Writing Culture debate. A few years ago, I critiqued the inclination “to neutralize the challenge” that animistic ideas present to anthropological thinking (Willerslev 2007: 12). In their introduction, the editors of this issue, Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard, describe the ‘reflexive feedback loop’ through which native thinkers, by adopting anthropological theories of animism, cast the anthropological gaze back upon itself. Here, instead of being neutralized by anthropology, native ideas feed into and play havoc with scholarly models of animism. It is this unexpected condition of inquiry that gives rise to the editors’ engagement with the ‘anthropology of anthropology’.

Affiliations

Willerslev, Rane - Aarhus University