The Blind Man: A Phantasmography examines the complicated forces of perception, imagination, and phantasms of encounter in the contemporary world. In considering photographs he took while he was traveling in France, anthropologist and writer Robert Desjarlais reflects on a few pictures that show the features of a man, apparently blind, who begs for money at a religious site in Paris. In perceiving this stranger and the images his appearance projects, he begins to imagine what this man’s life is like and how he perceives the world around him.
Industrial India and the Riddles of Populism
India is witnessing a unique moment in populism, with sentiments divided between economic reforms that promise fast industrialization and protests that thwart such industrialization. This book offers an ethnographic study of divergent local responses to the proposed construction of a Tata Motors factory in eastern India that would have produced the Nano, the so-called people’s car. Initial excitement was followed by long protests against the factory, and then, after its relocation, by further demonstrations seeking to bring it back.
Toward a Critical Hermeneutics of Worldbuilding
Disappointment responds to this call by showing how collaboration between an anthropologist and a political movement of marginalized peoples can disclose new possibilities for being and acting politically. Drawing from nearly a decade of research with the global anti-drug war movement, Jarrett Zigon puts ethnography in dialogue with both political theory and continental philosophy to rethink some of the most fundamental ontological, political and ethical concepts. The result is to show that ontological starting points have real political implications, and thus, how an alternative ontological starting point can lead to new possibilities for building worlds more ethically attuned to their inhabitants.
Making the Cerebral Subject
Fernando Vidal and Francisco Ortega
Being Brains offers a critical exploration of one of the most influential and pervasive contemporary beliefs: “We are our brains.” Starting in the “Decade of the Brain” of the 1990s, “neurocentrism” became widespread in most Western and many non-Western societies. Formidable advances, especially in neuroimaging, have bolstered this “neurocentrism” in the eyes of the public and political authorities, helping to justify increased funding for the brain sciences.
Foundations for Philosophical Anthropology
Étienne Balibar, Translated by Steven Miller, Foreword by Emily Apter
What can the universals of political philosophy offer to those who experience "the living paradox of an inegalitarian construction of egalitarian citizenship"? Citizen Subject is the summation of Étienne Balibar’s career-long project to think the necessary and necessarily antagonistic relation between the categories of citizen and subject. In this magnum opus, the question of modernity is framed anew with special attention to the self-enunciation of the subject (in Descartes, Locke, Rousseau, and Derrida), the constitution of the community as “we” (in Hegel, Marx, and Tolstoy), and the aporia of the judgment of self and others (in Foucualt, Freud, Kelsen, and Blanchot).
Gregory Bateson's World of Difference
Science’s conventional understanding of environment as an inert material resource underlies our unwillingness to acknowledge the military-industrial role in ongoing ecological catastrophes. In a crucial challenge to modern science’s exclusive attachment to materialist premises, Bateson reframed culture, psychology, biology, and evolution in terms of feedback and communication, fundamentally altering perception of our relationship with nature.
A Venezuelan Genealogy of Latin American Populism
Since independence from Spain, a trope has remained pervasive in Latin America’s republican imaginary: that of an endless antagonism pitting civilization against barbarism as irreconcilable poles within which a nation’s life unfolds. This book apprehends that trope not just as the phantasmatic projection of postcolonial elites fearful of the popular sectors but also as a symptom of a stubborn historical predicament: the cyclical insistence with which the subaltern populations menacingly return to the nation’s public spaces in the form of crowds.
Orality and Its Technologies
The Ethnography of Rhythm situates the study of oral traditions in the contentious space of nineteenth- and twentieth-century thinking about language, mind, and culture. It also demonstrates the role of technologies in framing this category of poetic creation. By making possible a new understanding of Maussian “techniques of the body” as belonging to the domain of Derridean “arche-writing,” Haun Saussy shows how oral tradition is a means of inscription in its own right, rather than an antecedent made obsolete by the written word or other media and data-storage devices.
Transnationalism and the Roman Catholic Church
Migrant Hearts and the Atlantic Return examines contemporary migration in the context of a Roman Catholic Church eager to both comprehend and act upon the movements of peoples. Combining extensive fieldwork with lay and religious Latin American migrants in Rome and analysis of the Catholic Church’s historical desires and anxieties around conversion since the period of colonization, Napolitano sketches the dynamics of a return to a faith’s putative center. Against a Eurocentric notion of Catholic identity, Napolitano shows how the Americas reorient Europe.
Science, Cinema, and the Mastery of the Invisible
Richard Baxstrom, and Todd Meyers
Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan (The Witch, 1922) stands as a singular film within the history of cinema. Deftly weaving contemporary scientific analysis and powerfully staged historical scenes of satanic initiation, confession under torture, possession, and persecution, Häxan creatively blends spectacle and argument to provoke a humanist re-evaluation of witchcraft in European history as well as the contemporary treatment of female “hysterics” and the mentally ill.
Studies in Structural Misanthropology from Plato to Rembrandt
Harry Berger, Jr.
With characteristic wit, Harry Berger, Jr., brings his flair for close reading to texts and images across two millennia that illustrate what he calls “structural misanthropology.” Beginning with a novel reading of Plato, Berger emphasizes Socrates’s self-acknowledged failures. The dialogues, he shows, offer up, only to dispute, a misanthropic polis. The Athenian city-state, they worry, is founded on a social order motivated by apprehension—both the desire to take and the fear of being taken. In addition to suggesting new political
and philosophical dimensions to Platonic thought, Berger’s attention to rhetorical practice offers novel ways of parsing the dialogic method itself.
Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real
Bernhard Siegert, Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young
Bernhard Siegert dissolves the concept of media into a network of operations that reproduce, displace, process, and reflect the distinctions fundamental for a given culture. Cultural Techniques aims to forget our traditional understanding of media so as to redefine the concept through something more fundamental than the empiricist study of a medium’s individual or collective uses or of its cultural semantics or aesthetics. Rather, Siegert seeks to relocate media and culture on a level where the distinctions between object and performance, matter and form, human and nonhuman, sign and channel, the symbolic and the real are still in the process of becoming. The result is to turn ontology into a domain of all that is meant in German by the word Kultur.
Readings for an Anthropology of the Contemporary
Edited by Anthony Stavrianakis, Gaymon Bennett, and Lyle Fearnley
Science, Reason, Modernity: Readings for an Anthropology of the Contemporary provides an introduction to a legacy of philosophical and social scientific thinking about sciences and their integral role in shaping modernities, a legacy that has contributed to a specifically anthropological form of inquiry. Anthropology, in this case, refers not only to the institutional boundaries of an academic discipline but also to a mode of conceptualizing and addressing a problem: how to analyze and diagnose the modern sciences in their troubled relationships with lived realities. Such an approach addresses the sciences as forms of life and illuminates how the diverse modes of reason, action, and passion that characterize the scientific life continue to shape our existences as late moderns.
Health, Disease, Poverty
Affliction inaugurates a novel way of understanding the trajectories of health and disease in the context of poverty. Focusing on low-income neighborhoods in Delhi, it stitches together three different sets of issues.
Spirit Possession in the Age of Technical Reproduction
Edited by Heike Behrend, Anja Dreschke, and Martin Zillinger
Ongoing debates about the “return of religion” have paid little attention to the orgiastic and enthusiastic qualities of religiosity, despite a significant increase in the use of techniques of trance and possession around the globe. Likewise, research on religion and media has neglected the fact that historically the rise of mediumship and spirit possession was closely linked to the development of new media of communication.
Veena Das and Scenes of Inheritance
The essays in this book explore the critical possibilities that have been opened by Veena Das’s work. Taking off from her writing on pain as a call for acknowledgment, several essays explore how social sciences render pain, suffering, and the claims of the other as part of an ethics of responsibility. They search for disciplinary resources to contest the implicit division between those whose pain receives attention and those whose pain is seen as out of sync with the times and hence written out of the historical record.
An Intellectual Biography
Henning Schmidgen and Gloria Custance
Bruno Latour stirs things up. Latour began as a lover of science and technology, co-founder of actor-network theory, and philosopher of a modernity that had “never been modern.” In the meantime he is regarded not just as one of the most intelligent—and also popular—exponents of science studies but also as a major innovator of the social sciences, an exemplary wanderer who walks the line between the sciences and the humanities.
Oral Histories of India's Partition
The Indian Independence Act of 1947 granted India freedom from British rule, signaling the formal end of the British Raj in the subcontinent. This freedom, though, came at a price: partition, the division of the country into India and Pakistan, and the communal riots that followed. Presenting a perspective of the middle-class refugees who were forced from their homes, jobs, and lives with the withdrawal of British rule in India, Home, Uprooted delves into the lives of forty-five Partition refugees and their descendants to show how this epochal event continues to shape their lives.
Theory, Latin America, and the Crisis of Resistance
Thresholds of Illiteracy reevaluates Latin American theories and narratives of cultural resistance by advancing the concept of “illiteracy” as a new critical approach to understanding scenes or moments of social antagonism. “Illiteracy,” Acosta claims, can offer us a way of talking about what cannot be subsumed within prevailing modes of reading, such as the opposition between writing and orality, that have frequently been deployed to distinguish between modern and archaic peoples and societies.
Brooklyn Waterfront Narratives of the Undesigned and Unplanned
The Accidental Playground explores the remarkable landscape created by individuals and small groups who occupied and rebuilt an abandoned Brooklyn waterfront. While local residents, activists, garbage haulers, real estate developers, speculators, and two city administrations fought over the fate of the former Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal (BEDT), others simply took to this decaying edge, transforming it into a unique venue for leisure, creative, and everyday practices.
This volume interrogates settled ways of thinking about the seemingly interminable conflict between religious and secular values in our world today. What are the assumptions and resources internal to secular conceptions of critique that help or hinder our understanding of one of the most pressing conflicts of our times?
Taking as their point of departure the question of whether critique belongs exclusively to forms of liberal democracy that define themselves in opposition to religion, these authors consider the case of the “Danish cartoon controversy” of 2005.
Local Realities, Global Relations
In this volume, leading scholars in anthropology, religion, and area studies engage global and local perspectives dialectically to develop a historically grounded, ethnographically driven social science.
Dr. Wendy Pojmann demonstrates that women played a much larger role than Cold War histories tend to relate. Not just voters, women were active political participants during the tumultuous decades of the Cold War. Italian Women in International Cold War Politics, 1944–1968 pays particular attention to the UDI’s work with the largest international postwar women’s organization, the pro-Soviet Women’s International Democratic Federation (WIDF), and the CIF’s relationship with the global Catholic organization the World Movement of Mothers (WMM), to better understand the ways in which the Cold War affected both national and international agendas for women’s rights.
Literary Realism and the Crisis of Caste
Toral Jatin Gajarawala
Untouchable Fictions considers the crisis of literary realism- progressive, rural, regionalist, experimental- in order to derive a literary genealogy for the recent explosion of Dalit (“untouchable” caste) fiction. Drawing on a wide array of fiction from Premchand and Renu in Hindi to Mulk Raj Anand and V.S. Naipaul in English, Gajarawala illuminates the dark side of realist complicity: a hidden aesthetics and politics of caste. How does caste color the novel? What are its formal tendencies? What generic constraints does it produce? Untouchable Fictions juxtaposes the Dalit text, and its radical critique, with a history of progressive literary movements in South Asia.
A Fundamental Concept of Aesthetic Anthropology
The book aims at a new exposition of the basic idea of modern aesthetics by way of a reconstruction of its genesis in the 18th century, between Baumgarten’s Aesthetics and Kant’s Critique of Judgment. The claim is that the historical invention of aesthetics was not about expanding the range of legitimate objects of philosophical inquiry—these objects all existed before aesthetics. Rather, aesthetics, by introducing the category of the “aesthetic,” fundamentally redefined these objects. But most importantly, the reconstruction of the historical genesis of aesthetics shows that the introduction of the category of the “aesthetic” required nothing less than a transformation of the fundamental terms of philosophy. What begins in—or as—aesthetics is modern philosophy.
Youth and the Apartheid State
The South African government gave no quarter to young people who joined the struggle against the apartheid state; indeed, it targeted them. Security forces meted out cruel treatment to youth who rebelled, incarcerated even the very young under dreadful conditions, and used torture frequently, sometimes over long periods of time. Little is known, however, from the perspective of young fighters themselves about the efforts they made to sustain the momentum of struggle, how that affected and was affected by their other social bonds, and what they achieved in terms of growth and paid in terms of harm. War in Worcester combines a study of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’s findings on the stand taken by South African youth with extended fieldwork undertaken with fourteen young men who, starting in their schooldays, were involved in the struggle in a small town in the Western Cape.
Religion and the Question of Materiality
This volume addresses the relation between religion and things. That relation has long been conceived in antagonistic terms, privileging spirit above matter, belief above ritual and objects, meaning above form, and “inward” contemplation above “outward” action. After all, wasn’t the opposition between spirituality and materiality the defining characteristic of religion, understood as geared to a transcendental beyond that was immaterial by definition? Grounded in the rise of religion as a modern category, with Protestantism as its main exponent, this conceptualization devalues religious things as lacking serious empirical, let alone theoretical, interest. The resurgence of public religion in our time has exposed the limitations of this attitude.
James T. Siegel
The essays in this volume, in all their astonishing richness and diversity, focus on the question of the “other.” Brimming with whole flotillas of new ideas, they delineate subtle and various ways in which that question can be made the basis of an ethnographic project.
Anthropology, Language, and Action
Edited by Michael Lambek
What is the place of the ethical in human life? How do we render it visible? How might sustained attention to the ethical transform anthropological theory and enrich our understanding of thought, speech, and social action? This volume offers a significant attempt to address these questions. It is a common experience of most ethnographers that the people we encounter are trying to do what they consider right or good, are being evaluated according to criteria of what is right and good, or are in some debate about what constitutes the human good. Yet anthropological theory has tended to overlook all this in favor of analyses that emphasize structure, power, and interest.
Religion as a Social and Spiritual Force
This book, the first themed volume in the series The Future of the Religious Past, elaborates the manifold and fascinating interconnections between power and religion. It carries forward the work of the series in bringing together scholars from many disciplines and countries to research forms of religion in a way unfettered by the idea that religion is solely or even primarily a matter of belief in specific tenets or intellectual systems—it is also a matter of multiple particulars in individual and social life, such as powers, things, gestures, and words.
The Greek Left and the Terror of the State
This book simultaneously tells a story—or rather, stories—and a history. The stories are those of Greek Leftists as paradigmatic figures of abjection, given that between 1929 and 1974 tens of thousands of Greek dissidents were detained and tortured in prisons, places of exile, and concentration camps. They were sometimes held for decades, in subhuman conditions of toil and deprivation.
Attending to the End of Culture
David E. Johnson, and Scott Michaelsen
Posing a powerful challenge to dominant trends in cultural analysis, this book covers the whole history of the concept of culture, providing the broadest study of this notion to date. Johnson and Michaelsen examine the principal methodological strategies or metaphors of anthropology in the past two decades (embodied in works by Edward Said, James Clifford, George Marcus, V. Y. Mudimbe, and others) and argues that they do not manage to escape anthropology’s grounding in representational practices. To the extent that it remains a practice of representation, anthropology, however complex, critical, or self-reflexive, cannot avoid objectifying its others.
Experiments in Interpretive Anthropology
Edited by Neni Panourgiá, and George Marcus
Clifford Geertz, in his 1973 Interpretation of Cultures, brought about an epistemological revolution unprecedented since Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism. In place of Lévi-Strauss’s deep structures, Geertz placed “deep meanings” and “thick descriptions,” in a synthesis of the American tradition of cultural anthropology and new qualitative approaches in the humanities. He powerfully synthesized and gave the heart of anthropology’s tradition a new and enriched conceptual language that came to be known as “interpretive anthropology” and that placed meaning over form in the center of social analysis. This book maps the circuits of cross fertilizations among disciplines in the humanities and social sciences that have developed from Geertz’s “interpretive turn.”