EASA, 2008: EASA08: Experiencing diversity and mutuality
Ljubljana, 26/08/2008 – 29/08/2008
Mutualities in practice: beyond worlds in collision
Date and Start Time [TBD] at [TBD]
The panel will initiate discussions on the concept of mutuality. Ethnographic fieldwork involves myriads of mutual interdependencies, revealing mutuality beyond cultural diversity. The panelists will approach the notion from various perspectives (morality, state, urbanity, politics and engagement).
Anthropologists' experience of human diversity should not obscure the basic fact that human beings are connected to each other through a myriad of fine ties. If diversity is the ground on which anthropology stands, then it becomes even more important to accentuate those human "webs of significance" which exist despite this diversity. Otherwise anthropology itself might contribute to discord and conflict. If there is anything "natural" in our humanly constructed world, then it is "being together." So even though humans make different worlds, the boundaries between them are constructed from various mutual encounters and interrelations. Trust, morality, aesthetic tuning and other categories shape living worlds. There is a huge vocabulary of notions which describe mutual construction of human worlds: participation, cooperation, solidarity, reciprocity, negotiation, mediation, etc. Yet mutuality is more than a dialogue; it is a dialectic process that involves human practices, acts and ideas, including things we use and ideas we dispute are based on some mutual determination. In a densely interconnected world we are used to seeing one-way trajectories from centres in processes of globalisation and virtuality. So we are inclined to overlook responses from the peripheries, the grass-roots. The panel will open discussion on mutuality - or mutualism - from historical, political, moral and social perspectives, and on mutualities as markers of ethnographic experience, and on synchronisation through manipulations and interdependencies.
Address in the second person: a condition of life and anthropology
In formal writing and talking we project the imaginations of the audience towards circumstances far distant from the place and moment of writing, reading, or speaking. This habit of thought in the third person creates a world of third person generic nouns ('women', 'Navajos', 'Germans', 'street children', 'anthropologists'), and so it goes. There is a specially poignant irony here for anthropologists, since we pride ourselves on a knowledge founded in second-person address to 'you', singular or plural. Second person address is a necessary, if sometimes forgotten, condition of anthropology, and indeed of life.
What are the conditions of second person address? The first is representing. Julian Bell captures the deep, mysterious, and pervasive character of representing in the originary saying: 'let this be that,' which sweeps together the plastic arts, speech, and indeed the forming of concepts. The second is cultivating: people not only represent, they also cultivate, and play, with styles and means of representing, not only from moment to moment, but from century to century. The third is addressing, which means that cultivated representations are given a direction and a force: representing always has addressees. Addressing entails not only representing something, but also imagining and attending to those addressed. So powerful is this faculty of addressing that it can reach across different styles of cultivation and create new bonds of attention and address, as people coordinate with one another in new, hitherto uncultivated projects such as fieldwork.
One form of mutuality is sharing through conversation; one somewhat utopian view of anthropology is a world-wide conversation about humanity in all its diversity. In this paper I attempt to examine various possible arrangements between anthropologists and audiences, as well as comparable relationships involving other genres of reporting and interpretation. Here I draw also on my studies of the work of newsmedia foreign correspondents, and an interest in recent macro-scenarios of the type transforming into globally circulating collective representations: “the clash of civilizations”, “the world is flat” etc. In various ways the paper also touches on notions of anthropology at home (and not at home), anthropology as cultural critique, and the role and contexts of public intellectuals.