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Messages - Avi

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Couple people noted:
"what kind of methodological or pragmatic difference this 'I don't know' will make to fieldwork experience and analysis."?

I guess I am going to stick to my epistemological guns here, despite Marcio's noting it being an ontological question at hand:

When considering this question myself in light of Marcio's paper I think of a context more familiar to myself, that of 'science'. To me science (at least physics, chemistry and to more often than not biology) has always been a process of developing models of how something 'is working or makes sense. The efficacy of those models is in their ability to enable the user to actually leverage or harness that 'something' toward some aim. Hence the classic example being the Newtonian model of gravity versus Einsteins relative theory of gravity, and then the development of the 'graviton' model. None of these models are wrong, they just enable different scales and depths of leverage.

My point in outlining this simple story which I am sure everyone here knows, is that it is when one claims certain models of evolutionary theory, or theories of gravity are reality, as many people do today, that is when we come up against the archivist's progressive and totalising approach to knowledge. Rather than what I loved originally in the idea of science, which is that you are never right, that it is not about recording reality in such an archive, as permanent knowledge is not the goal. The actual goal being whether or not your model or 'cosmology' actually had some leverage on the world.

Therefore it is not a question of whether Azande witchcraft (or Bahian Candomble possession, though I do not mean to suggest they belong in the same category as one is about living people and the other it seems dead people which suggest something very different) is real, but whether and how the study, practice, testing etc of it actually allows one leverage in the world. BUT ALSO on the condition that we also deny any reality to something called an atom in the ontological sense. Simply because an atom is a model for leveraging either (a) unknown ontological reality or (b) and epistomological way to know something about the ontology of matter or (c) there is no ontology.

Which brings me to one of my favourite conversations on this topic, that being the one arising out of Graeber's and De Castro in HAU:

"Perhaps the one expression I heard the most, when people talked about spirits, was simply “I don’t know.” Spirits were inherently unknowable. (The spirits that possessed mediums were ultimately unknowable as well.) I ended up concluding this lack of knowledge was not incidental; it was foundational. To put it bluntly, while Ontological Turn would encourage me to privilege the fact that I will never fully understand Malagasy conceptions as to act as if those conceptions were simply determinant of reality, I decided to privilege the fact that my Malagasy interlocutors insisted they did not understand reality either; that nobody ever will be able to understand the world completely, and that this gives us something to talk about. It also gives us the opportunity to unsettle one another’s ideas in a way that might prove genuinely dialogic"

Hence what is of interest is not coherently describing 'a culture', nor attributing special others with radical alterity per se, but looking at the incoherency between people, their ideas, and between anthropologist and people, as from that one can start to recognise how 'unknowns' manifest themselves in people's cosmologies. And do so as part of negotiating, dominating, possessing, serving for/with the interests of living humans i.e. cosmopolitics.

Just as STS demonstrates how science is full of cosmopolitics that let certain unknown's manifest themselves, where some people believe them to be real in a fixed and factual sense, and where some like myself do not inhabit such a world of fixed understanding. But perhaps most interesting at a macro-political scale, is how the dynamics encapsulated by such ideas as the anthropocene, transhumanism etc. point to a situation in which matter itself (I would argue always has been but anyway) is not a fixed reality but wrapped up in cosmopolitics. Just presently this is arguably a cosmopolitics of domination (hence Anthropocene) rather than negotiation, and thus perhaps we might learn something from the negotiatory politics of Bahian Candomble.

Excuse the somewhat rambly style of the thoughts this conversation has provoked, but as a last somewhat metaphorical note, perhaps something can be learned from how Heisenberg's uncertainty principle has been methodologically incorporated in our world and in Physics. Where the proposition is that 'reality' is 'uncertain', but can be partially knowable in the moment of testing/leveraging it. I am not sure whether I agree there is even a spooky quantum ontology that we can only partially epistemologically know, or whether the very cosmopolitics of epistemologies in itself generates new epistemologies that we mistake for ontologies. I use epistemology in a very broad sense, e.g. a rock can have some epistemological relationship to another rock absent of humans. But now I truly am rambling.

In short I look forward to what is meant by Stenger's Cosmopolitics as perhaps I misuse it too generally above and have missed some nuance.

Thanks Marcio, I have found this to be a well stated but 'new thinking' piece. A  few things to help me  work out if I  have understood your piece :

(1) A friend who I hope will be joining the discussion noted to me (I hope I summarise him accurately) that anthropologists seem to be obsessed with the reality or realities of peoples lives. He then noted that perhaps 'reality' itself was not, or at least in many contexts, not  of importance or salient. In short was was real and not real seemed to be a dominant filter for anthropologists without them necessarily even recognising it, and thus resulting in the ' two anthropological explanatory models' you mention.  Would this be relevant to your point?

(2) I assume that when you talk of possession and trance that you agree it appears across the world, even amongst 'normal english people'  where I live in Canterbury. Therefore one can say that possession and trance go unrecognised in  familiar  circumstances, whereas in  unfamiliar   circumstances (such as  Bahian Candomblé)  they stand out. Or in some cases they do not go unrecognised but  are dealt with according to the models  one has available to make sense of  it e.g. medicalise it.  And finally just because someone grew up in  Bahian Candomblé does not  necessarily   mean   they all or always  understand  possession.  Would  you  agree?

(3) With this in  mind would I be correct in  understanding you as saying that evidentially we do not understand everything (informant or anthropologist) but  the ways in which we deal with this are of interest, not to be  explained away, but to understand how the inevitable unknowability of totality plays a key role in the knowable or at least observable, and thus is of interest in its unknown form, and not just in making it known through our own way of rationalising?

Then the whole question ties together with 'politics' as the previous comments have noted, but I have yet to fully verbalise but will leave it there for now.


Help from Administrator / Re: Testing Zone
« on: March 08, 2017, 11:33:00 AM »

Help from Administrator / Suggested or disliked features
« on: March 08, 2017, 11:32:11 AM »
Please share your comments an questions on technicalities of site here

Help from Administrator / Re: Suggested or disliked features
« on: March 08, 2017, 11:31:03 AM »
testing embedded hyperlinks

Discussions / Re: Opening a seminar and... How Does All This Work?
« on: March 04, 2017, 03:34:41 PM »
I have removed Karma for now as its just basically people giving each other a plus or minus. It was me that gave you one positive karma

Discussions / Re: Opening a seminar and... How Does All This Work?
« on: March 04, 2017, 03:33:44 PM »
This has been rectified now, you can attach a document of up to 25MB

Help from Administrator / Re: Suggested or disliked features
« on: March 04, 2017, 02:34:37 PM »
testing video embed

Help from Administrator / Re: Suggested or disliked features
« on: March 04, 2017, 02:28:42 PM »
testing image

testing video embed

<a href="http://[font=Verdana][size=2px][/size][/font][font=Verdana][/size][/font]" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://[font=Verdana][size=2px][/size][/font][font=Verdana][/size][/font]</a>

Help from Administrator / Re: Suggested or disliked features
« on: March 04, 2017, 02:10:42 PM »
Testing hyperlinks
Testing attachments

Help from Administrator / Testing Zone
« on: February 20, 2017, 06:10:00 PM »
Please share any particular features, however small or large, you feel are missing or unnecessary and I will see what we can do :)

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