Accepted paper:

Agency and the self, duality and different worlds


Andrew Pickering (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

I develop an ontological analysis of the multiplicity of nature-cultures, noting the different dualising or nondualising tactics that contrast modern science and other regimes. I also discuss the subject positions that characterise different regimes, and implications for anthropological practice.

Paper long abstract:

My analysis of nature-cultures begins in science studies with Kuhn's argument that scientists within different paradigms inhabit different worlds. I offer an ontological interpretation of this: science should be seen as finding islands of performative stability in the flux of becoming rather than unique truths. These islands have the further attribute of mastery. They put us in command of nature: the telos of science is to make the world more dual. I note that other modes of being also have a dualising character but without the telos of domination, producing instead worlds that include nonhuman agents with possibly superhuman powers. Importantly, access to such worlds typically entails a 'technological' decentring of the human subject away from the modern controlled and calculating subject position (which is itself integral to science). I discuss the problems of anthropological method inherent in this observation. Finally I note that yet other modes of being abstain entirely from this dualising telos. Taoism and Zen undercut modern dichotomies in a direct awareness of becoming and uncontrollable emergence. Returning to the west, adaptive approaches in the arts, science and engineering likewise stage nondualising modes of being. The paper concludes with 'antipsychiatry' as an important site for anthropological exploration as a zone of open-ended performative experimentation in nature-cultures and selves.

panel P008
Multiple nature-cultures and diverse anthropologies (CLOSED)