First, I would like to thank Huon and Justin for accepting my paper for discussion in this wonderful space they manage. We really need things like this to help us get rid of academic repression, Fordism and Stakhanovism. And, of course, I also thank them - as well as John McCreery and Abraham Heinemann - for their very interesting comments. I will try to comment the comments but I am not sure my very poor English will allow me to do justice to them.
Second, I apologize for taking so long to answer but we are beginning academic term here and we all get a bit crazy for a while. So here we go.
1. I really enjoyed Huon’s summary of the paper. And also the remembrance that besides the “Greek miracle” (when, in fact, I believe, one began to try to separate politics and cosmos), we have other crucial moments, like the Enlightenment, as he mentions. Perhaps the Renaissance and contemporary neoliberalism are other important points of hardening of this brutal cut;
2. In fact, I begin the paper with the coup d’état that is still going on in Brazil. But, as Huon recalls, I did so because I was presenting the text at a LASA session in New York in May last year when the coup was just beginning. Maybe I should have suppressed this beginning but I imagine something more or less unconscious made me leave it there. After all, I wrote an entire book about what politics is from the point of view of the same people who were at the meeting. But I wrote it before learning from Stengers a new sense for cosmopolitics, and the book I’m trying to write now intends to explore this point. I fear, however, that I have not yet figured out how to make this connection between the politics of a candomblé terreiro, the local mesopolitics in which the people of the terreiro participate more or less directly, and Brazilian macropolitics. The difficulty derives, I think, from the fact that in the text I seek to recover what seems to me to be the original and most powerful sense of Stengers’ concept. Namely, that by cosmopolitics we should not simply understand the addition of cosmology to politics — as many anthropologists are doing with good or bad results, it does not matter — but, as she more or less wrote, “the insistence of the cosmos on politics,” the reminder that not everything is political as we understand it.
3. Which brings me to Abraham Heinemann’s excellent commentary on anthropological obsession with the reality of others — or perhaps with the non-reality of others… Roughly, my question is: can continue to make a worthy anthropology without the need to suppose this “unreality?” Can we draw a line of flight from what we might call the “Evans-Pritchard principle” which I quote in the text: "Witches, as the Azande conceive them, can not exist." It is not exactly understanding or not understanding, or understanding partially or totally what is at stake. Although I do not like the terms, the question is actually more ontological than epistemological. In any case, it’s very likely more difficult to practice this fundamental ‘we do not know’ in politics than in ‘religion.’
4. In that sense, I really liked John McCreery’s quotation of Confucius. It corresponds exactly to my experience (of 40 years now!!) with African-American religions. The point is: are we ready to proceed like them? Being part of the knowledge process without the need to worry about the existence “out there” of what we speak and through which we speak. Actually we know that the anthropology of science has demonstrated that this is exactly what the “hardest” scientific practices do — only that, in the end, they always reterritorialize into the most rigid reification.
5. Justin's comments touch upon two or three of these “issues”, which, as Bob Scholte noted long ago, seem “fundamental and perennial in cultural anthropology.” Following Nietzsche, therefore, one must speak of them as one enters a cold bath, very quickly. “What exactly do you mean by ‘reality’” and “what you mean by ‘our’”. God! Of course I don’t know how to answer, but I do not think I’m referring to Wagner’s "made/given" pair because, in fact, I apologize, it never seemed very satisfactory at least to candomblé, where everything already exists but everything has to be done. Perhaps something simpler, this thing some Amazonianist have learned from the people they study: nor that things exist only from our point of view, nor that they exist in themselves, but that something exists only insofar as it affects, enters into relations. The Amerindian perspecitivism, after all, is neither an epistemology nor an ontology. And for “us”, I might have been wanting (I am not sure!) to designate, not so much a “group” (I have learned from Wagner the limitations of this concept), but the moment when we are captured by a certain perspective that leads us into the false alternative epistemology or ontology.