The anthropological imagination is fed by an range of artistic and intellectual sources; most of which are probably never acknowledged. This thread is an opportunity for anyone simply to add elements and fragments without an attempt at imposing an ordering principle or even a dialogical form.

Views: 463

Replies to This Discussion

This BBC radio programme of world music is focussed on Spanish Ladino musical traditions. It also includes Rastafarian singing and a musical pingpong - very well worth listening to. It is available for the next five days.
How to visualize the lobbying surrounding the U.S. health care debate and various other forms of criminal activity.

#ONA09 Mapping Nets in the News - - - -

Courtesy of a tweet from social network analyst Valdis Krebs.
Professor Jacks... studies the relation between the universe
and the philosopher who describes and defines it for us. You may
assume two cases, he says. Either what the philosopher tells us is
extraneous to the universe he is accounting for, an indifferent
parasitic outgrowth, so to speak; or the fact of his philosophizing
is itself one of the things taken account of in the philosophy, and
self-included in the description. In the former case the philosopher
means by the universe everything _except_ what his own presence
brings; in the latter case his philosophy is itself an intimate
part of the universe, and may be a part momentous enough to give a
different turn to what the other parts signify. It may be a
supreme reaction of the universe upon itself by which it rises to
self-comprehension. It may handle itself differently in consequence of
this event.

William James, 1909
From Bruno Latour on 'eliminativism'

"My former colleague in San Diego, the neurophilosopher Paul Churchland (Churchland, 1986), carries in his wallet a colour picture of his wife. Nothing surprising in it, except it is the colour scan of his wife’s brain! Not only that, but Paul insists adamantly that in a few years we will all be recognizing the inner shapes of the brain structure with a more loving gaze than noses, skins and eyes! Unquestionably, Paul sides with the eliminativists: once we have a way of grasping the primary qualities (in his case the brain macro structure, but it could be, for other even more advanced scientists, the micro structures of individual neurons, or the DNA sequences of the brain itself, or even further, the atomic structure of the biophysics of the DNA, or, as Hans Moravckek would have it, the information content of the whole body measured in gigabytes!) we can eliminate as irrelevant all the other versions of what it is to be a body, that is, to be somebody. This example of Pat Churchland’s colour scan indicates why it would be silly to say that ‘in addition’ to the objective brain structure, there is also an old, maybe archaic, soon obsolete, subjective way of looking at faces – the ordinary ones captured, for instance, on photographs. This would be granting the Churchlands the incredible privilege of defining brain scans as forming the indisputable primary qualities of the world – what the universe is made of – while letting humanists, lovers, archaic social scientists, add to this fabric of the universe the secondary subjective qualities, like little kids painting doodles on the washable walls of their kindergarten. Such a defeatist attitude would grant too much to the neurophilosophers and would miss all of the interesting features that will have been squeezed out by this body/soul dualism."
For me:

"It's not on the map, the real places never are" (captain Ahab in Moby Dick), inspiration for my research into off-grid communities, says it all really.

Also, Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Absolutely essential reading by way of an introduction to Anthropology, if only to illustrate how far we have come.
"Which suggests that Babel – multiplicity of language – is not just an irreconcilable conflict of reading but has something to do with the heart of the inner man."

Karl Riesman (fadograph)
On Exactitude in Science
Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley.
…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a
single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety
of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the
Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and
which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so
fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map
was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the
Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are
Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is
no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
—Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658
Why not go on a Borges trip?

Once we have defined Wilkins' procedure, it is time to examine a problem which could be impossible or at least difficult to postpone: the value of this four-level table which is the base of the language. Let us consider the eighth category, the category of stones. Wilkins divides them into common (silica, gravel, schist), modics (marble, amber, coral), precious (pearl, opal), transparent (amethyst, sapphire) and insolubles (chalk, arsenic). Almost as surprising as the eighth, is the ninth category. This one reveals to us that metals can be imperfect (cinnabar, mercury), artificial (bronze, brass), recremental (filings, rust) and natural (gold, tin, copper). Beauty belongs to the sixteenth category; it is a living brood fish, an oblong one.

These ambiguities, redundancies and deficiencies remind us of those which doctor Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopaedia entitled 'Celestial Empire of benevolent Knowledge'. In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies.

The Bibliographic Institute of Brussels exerts chaos too: it has divided the universe into 1000 subdivisions, from which number 262 is the pope; number 282, the Roman Catholic Church; 263, the Day of the Lord; 268 Sunday schools; 298, mormonism; and number 294, brahmanism, buddhism, shintoism and taoism. It doesn't reject heterogene subdivisions as, for example, 179: "Cruelty towards animals. Animals protection. Duel and suicide seen through moral values. Various vices and disadvantages. Advantages and various qualities."

In the natural sciences the features by which polythetic classes are defined have generally a real, distinct, and independent character, and they can be clearly stipulated in advance. Such features
are, in zoology, skeletal structure (a definite number of bones functionally arranged in a certain order); in botany, roots, leaves, pistils; in bacteriology, chemical elements, compounds, and their reactions; in many sciences, at a deep level of analysis, molecular structures and the particles of which these are composed. This is a rather rough and ready characterisation, of course, and it becomes less appro- priate when ultimately the character of 'fundamental' particles comes into question, but it serves all the same to make a crucial contrast between the natural sciences and social anthropology. In what has been presented here as the most relevant example of taxonomic method, namely quantitative bacteriology, the researchers are in no doubt concerning what is or is not lactose or about whether it is or is not present: it can be exactly defined in advance, and its chemical properties and reactions are known or testable. This kind of certainty about the materials under study (whatever ambiguity may attend the discrimination of forms or the assessment of degrees of resistance, etc.) permits the method of classification by differences: a definite feature can be definitely determined as either present or absent. But in the realm of social facts this aspect of polythetic classification is hardly to be found. A main reason is that in social anthropology the determination of the constituent features of a polythetic class cannot be carried out by reference to discrete empirical particulars, but entails instead a reliance on further features of the same character which themselves are likewise polythetic. In social life, that is, there are no established phenomena, in the form of isolable social facts for instance, which correspond to the elements and particles in nature. The disparity between the natural sciences and social anthropology, in taxonomic method as in much else, reflects a contrast of kind between natural entities and social facts. This contrast is the most marked when the materials for an anthropological classification are collective representations. More generally, in any case, there is no reason that a classificatory technique that is appropriate to one kind of evidence should be applicable to another, and all the less is this so when the evidences in question are contrasted as physical and ideational.
Cartier-Bresson, The Mind's Eye

'Photography implies a recognition of a rhythm in the world of real things. What the eye does is to find and focus on the particular subject within the mass of reality... Perhaps someone walks into your range of view. You follow his progress with the viewfinder. You wait and wait, and then finally you press the button - and you depart with the feeling (though you don't know why) that you've really got something. Later, to substantiate this, you can make a print of this picture, trace on it the geometric figures which come up under analysis, and you'll observe that, if the shutter was released at the decisive moment, you have instinctively fixed a geometric pattern without which the photograph would have been both formless and lifeless.'

Robert Musil on the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire (‘Kakania’) from The Man Without Qualities:


Kakania was the first country in our present historical phase from which God withdrew His credit: the love of life, faith in itself, and the ability of all civilized nations to disseminate the useful illusion that they have a mission to fulfil. It was an intelligent country, it housed cultivated people who, like cultivated people all over the globe, ran around in an unsettled state of mind amid a tremendous whirl of noise, speed, innovation, conflict, and whatever goes to make up the optical-acoustic landscape of our lives… It was the same as anywhere else in the world, of course, but when God cut off Kakania’s credit, He did it in such a spectacular a style that whole nations had their eyes opened to the cost of civilization. Like bacteria they had been sitting pretty in their culture medium, without bothering their heads about the proper curvature of the sky above or anything, when suddenly things tightened up... Although men are not normally aware of it, they must believe that they are something more than they are in order to be capable of being what they are; they need to feel this something more above and around them, and there are times when they suddenly miss it. What is missed is something imaginary…

Some great little films made by the South Park team animating ideas of the British Philosopher Alan Watts. 'Prickles and Goo' an 'I' are particularly worth a look:




OAC Press



© 2019   Created by Keith Hart.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service