João de Pina-Cabral: World: An Anthropological Examination (2016)

21 February 2017, dusan

“What do we mean when we refer to world? How does the world relate to the human person? Are the two interdependent and, if so, in what way? What does world mean for an ethnographer or an anthropologist? Much has been said of worlds and worldviews, but do we really know what we mean by these words? Asking these questions and many more, this book explores the conditions of possibility of the ethnographic gesture, and how these shed light on the relationship between humans and the world in the midst of which they find themselves.

As Pina-Cabral shows, recent decades have seen important shifts in the way we relate human thought to human embodiment—the relation between how we think and what we are. The book proposes a novel approach to the human condition: an anthropological outlook that is centered around the notions of personhood and sociality. Through a rich confrontation with ethnographic and historical material, this work contributes to the ongoing task of overcoming the theoretical constraints that have hindered anthropological thinking over the past century.”

Publisher HAU Books, Chicago, 2016
Malinowski Monographs series, 1
Open access
ISBN 9780997367508, 0997367504
232 pages

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Rhizomes, 30: Quantum Possibilities: The Work of Karen Barad (2016)

4 August 2016, dusan

“In the past decade, Karen Barad’s oeuvre, especially the voluminous Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007), has attracted increasingly great attention in feminist philosophy, cultural studies and feminist science studies. Alongside scholars like Elizabeth Wilson and Vicki Kirby, she has spearheaded the recent feminist exploration of complex scientific issues, and presented new less categorical ways of thinking ontology and epistemology (or indeed onto-epistemology as she refers to it) as a result. Many of the terms introduced and developed by Barad, such as ‘intra-action’, ‘diffraction’ and ‘agential realism’ have shifted the standard metrics of knowledge production and her theories have inspired animated discussion in emerging critical strands as varied as the new materialism in feminism, object oriented ontology, post- and transhumanism, speculative realism, environmental and digital humanities, among others. In a critical climate that is becoming increasingly ‘Baradian’, this special issue on the ‘Quantum Possibilities’ of Barad’s work does not merely aim to reflect the engagements currently being made within these fields, but extends Barad’s ethos of continually rethinking our critical concepts and methodologies ‘without taking these distinctions to be foundational or holding them in place’. Creating ‘diffractive’, or new ‘quantum level’ means of reflecting on, and engaging with Barad’s work, the essays collected here stake out a new set of directions for their wide array of disciplinary identities.”

With essays by Joseph Rouse, Evelien Geerts and Iris van der Tuin, Rebekah Sheldon, Kathrin Thiele, Hanna Meißner, Andie Elizabeth Shabbar, Ulf Mellström, Martin Savransky, Dorothea Olkowski, Graham Harman, Levi R. Bryant, Rick Dolphijn, Katie King, Ino Mamic, and Myra J. Hird.

Edited by Karin Sellberg & Peta Hinton
Published 12 July 2016
Open access
ISSN 1555-9998

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Paget Henry: Caliban’s Reason: Introducing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy (2000)

21 February 2016, dusan

Caliban’s Reason introduces the general reader to Afro-Caribbean philosophy.

In this ground-breaking work, Paget Henry traces the roots of this discourse in traditional African thought and in the Christian and Enlightenment traditions of Western Europe. Since Afro-Caribbean thought is inherently hybrid in nature and marked by strong competition between its European and African orientations, Henry highlights its four main influences–traditional African philosophy, the Afro-Christian school, Poeticism and Historicism–as his organizing principle for discussion.

Offering a critical assessment of such writers as Wilson Harris, Derek Walcott, Edward Blyden, C.L.R. James and George Padmore, Caliban’s Reason renders a much-needed portrait of Afro-Caribbean philosophy and fills a significant gap in the field.”

Publisher Routledge, 2000
Africana Thought series
ISBN 0415926459, 9780415926454
xiii+304 pages

Reviews: H. Adlai Murdoch (SubStance, 2002), Claudette Anderson (Small Axe, 2002), Charles Mills (Phil Review, 2003), Clevis Headley (Int’l J of African Hist Studies, 2003), Leslie R. James (North Star, 2004).

Interview with author (Linda Martín Alcoff, 2003)

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Bernhard Siegert: Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real (2015)

9 June 2015, dusan

“In a crucial shift within posthumanistic media studies, 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.

Cultural techniques comprise not only self-referential symbolic practices like reading, writing, counting, or image-making. The analysis of artifacts as cultural techniques emphasizes their ontological status as “in-betweens,” shifting from first-order to second-order techniques, from the technical to the artistic, from object to sign, from the natural to the cultural, from the operational to the representational.

Cultural Techniques ranges from seafaring, drafting, and eating to the production of the sign-signal distinction in old and new media, to the reproduction of anthropological difference, to the study of trompe-l’oeils, grids, registers, and doors. Throughout, Siegert addresses fundamental questions of how ontological distinctions can be replaced by chains of operations that process those alleged ontological distinctions within the ontic.

Grounding posthumanist theory both historically and technically, this book opens up a crucial dialogue between new German media theory and American postcybernetic discourses.”

Translated by Geoffrey Winthrop-Young
Publisher Fordham University Press, New York, 2015
Meaning Systems series
ISBN 0823263762, 9780823263769
xiv+265 pages

Reviews: Geoghegan (Paragraph, 2014), Young (New Media & Society, 2015).
Commentary: Martin (Grey Room, 2016).

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Philippe Descola: Beyond Nature and Culture (2005–)

2 April 2015, dusan

“Philippe Descola has become one of the most important anthropologists working today, and Beyond Nature and Culture has been a major influence in European intellectual life since its French publication in 2005. At its heart is a question central to both anthropology and philosophy: what is the relationship between nature and culture?

Culture—as a collective human making, of art, language, and so forth—is often seen as essentially different from nature, which is portrayed as a collective of the nonhuman world, of plants, animals, geology, and natural forces. Descola shows this essential difference to be, however, not only a specifically Western notion, but also a very recent one. Drawing on ethnographic examples from around the world and theoretical understandings from cognitive science, structural analysis, and phenomenology, he formulates a new framework, the “four ontologies”— animism, totemism, naturalism, and analogism—to account for all the ways we relate ourselves to nature.”

First published as Par-delà nature et culture, Gallimard, Paris, 2005.

Translated by Janet Lloyd
Foreword by Marshall Sahlins
Publisher University of Chicago Press, 2013
ISBN 0226144453, 9780226144450
xxii+463 pages

Reviews: David Berliner (Anthropological Quarterly, 2010), Des Fitzgerald (Somatosphere, 2013), Gildas Salmon & Pierre Charbonnier (Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2014), Céline Grandjou (Humanimalia, 2014), Tim Frandy (Journal of Folklore Research, 2014), Michael W. Scott (Anthropology of This Century, 2014), Voytek Lapinski (n.d.).

Book symposium: Lenclud, Helmreich, Feuchtwang, Kapferer, Toren, Lambek, Coelho de Souza, Descola (Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 2014, pp 363-443).

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