ASA15: Symbiotic anthropologies: theoretical commensalities and methodological mutualisms

Mutual anthropologies: developing some reciprocal approaches to research
Location Room 1
Date and Start Time 16 April, 2015 at 09:15
Sessions 2


  • Joy Hendry (Oxford Brookes University) email
  • Yuko Shioji (Hannan University) email
  • Will Tuladhar-Douglas (University of Aberdeen) email

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Short Abstract

Building on the proposition that anthropologists working in each other's home areas demonstrate a relatively equal form of scholarship in a discipline that suffers from accusations of hierarchy, we seek now further to understand and share the variety of approaches applied from our locations of study

Long Abstract

At the IUAES meeting in Tokyo last May, a panel of six participants considered the advantages of comparing the approaches of anthropologists who had worked in each other's home territories. Probably because of the location, most of the panelists were Japanese, who had worked in Europe (Germany, Spain and England), but two invited Europeans had worked in Japan, and one project involved cooperation between Japanese and Americans on a museum-based material culture project in England. We talked of the advantages of the shared approach, and the way this kind of mutual exchange can benefit the discipline by offering a relatively equal and unbiased forum for building mutual understanding without the disadvantages associated with historical legacies of, for example, colonialism. Japanese scholars examine the Enlightenment categories and presuppositions that structure European anthropology as they open their papers, and one co-convenor, Joy Hendry, works with indirect forms of communication, such as wrapping, politeness, clothes, use of space, and the organization of time. For this laboratory, we invite proposals collaboratively to look at the influence of other indigenous intellectual traditions on the way that scholars see the world they seek to analyze. One example from co-convenor Will Tuladhar-Douglas, who works in Nepal, is to consider Buddhist ideas of anthropology, or even a "garland of anthropologies", and we propose a laboratory to encourage mutuality, to avoid the limitations of text-based presentations, and to be open to all possibilities for demonstration and discussion. The laboratory is open to all comers to participate.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Mutuality in the Taniguchi Symposia on "Japanese civilization in the modern world"

Author: Hirochika Nakamaki (Suita City Museum)  email

Short Abstract

The Symposia were held 17 times at Minpaku during 1983-1998. Each had about 12 participants who were consisted of Japanese scholars and scholars from abroad. The symposia were conducted in Japanese and its purpose was to better understand modern world by throwing a card of Japanese civilization.

Long Abstract

The Taniguchi Symposia of the civilization studies section were initiated by Tadao Umesao, the first Director-General of the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, and co-convened by Josef Kreiner of Bonn University and Harumi Befu of Stanford University. It lasted for 17 years during 1983-1998. The total number of participants was 211, 112 (53%) from Japan and 99 (47%) from abroad, but mainly from Europe and North America. They led a week of presentation and discussion among themselves, which enhanced friendship a great deal.

The symposia were conducted in Japanese language and, to our surprise, we found that domestic and foreign participants played a combination of different roles. Whereas foreign participants presented papers on Japanese civilizations, it was left for some Japanese participants to talk about non-Japanese civilizations.

Umesao himself read a key-note speech at each symposium. He played a special role by presenting his theory of civilization. He proposed a concept of sochi (devices, facilities, equipment, apparatus) as system of civilization. To better understand modern world by throwing a card of Japanese civilization, Umesao tried to focus on the relationship of "humans and device system" through comparative studies of civilizations. It was difficult, however, to maintain similar interests among participants. In this sense, commensality was not successfully realized.

The outcome of the symposia was published both in Japanese and English. There are 14 volumes of the Senri Ethnological Studies and 8 books in Japanese. A collection of Umesao's key-notes was also published in Japanese (2000) and in English (2013).

Social and civil engineering for the common good: is there such a thing as Mutual Applied Anthropology?

Author: Bruce White  email

Short Abstract

Do applied anthropologists share a mutual space of analysis and practice with others engaged in the development of the "infrastructure" of societies such as priests, artists, civil and social engineers, and local and national leaders?

Long Abstract

This Lab session simply seeks to bring together ideas and experiences from the participants on the possible linkages between social and civil engineering, with reference to the skill sets of applied/anthropologists and how these or similar skills and methodologies are utilized by other practitioners to improve the infrastructure that supports social and physical life.

The session will highlight the work of engineers such as Prof. Nick Tyler (UCL) who employs innovative multidisciplinary analysis on the interaction between people and their environment in order to improve that environment to meet the needs of its inhabitants, and compare and contrast such work to that of applied anthropologists in conflict resolution who conduct analysis on the support (or lack of it) provided by the infrastructure of social meanings (narratives, symbols).

In so doing the session hopes to build a framework for understanding that mutual anthropology maybe expanded to include not just those who have developed a "a world view" on the meaning/function of human culture and social life, but might include those "applied anthropologists" that utilize such a view in order to develop, tweek, improve, manipulate and regenerate the social landscape and the infrastructure that supports it.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.