Recontextualizing anthropological knowledge
(Queen's University Belfast)
Paper short abstract:
Starting from the epistemological question of how and what we can know and the ethical question of knowing through relationships, I consider how ethnography can escape its own referential impossibility through an examination of understanding through partial connections and through appropriation as a transformation of the self.
Paper long abstract:
My paper is concerned with epistemology (how do we know and what can we know) and ethics (knowing through relationships). Starting from evaluations of theorisations of ethnographic writing as a form of knowledge, I examine some key antinomies, such as the diachronic view of ethnographic comparison as cumulative knowledge versus the synchronic feel of fieldwork, Malinowski’s dictum of arriving at an objective truth by understanding another’s objective knowledge (‘the native’s point of view’), and knowing through relationships, which calls for an ethical stance. In response to the question of how ethnography can escape its own referential impossibility, Strathern resorts to the cyborg analogy of understanding through partial connections. My paper will compare this approach to the hermeneutical circle of understanding through appropriation as a transformation of the self, and discuss knowledge exchange as the creativity of relationships. Finally, I consider the relevance of the Heideggerian Dasein in understanding the role of the ethnography in the production of knowledge.
Anthropological relationships as appropriations and investments: ASA-sponsored panel in honour of Marilyn Strathern