By Matthias Teeuwen We had the pleasure to listen to prof. Michael Lambek in last week’s instalment of the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series. Lambek presented us with an ethnography of a practice native to Mayotte, a small island northwest of Madagascar, called ‘mandeving’. Mandeving is a practice by which the dead are commemorated as they are today, after having passed away, and not as they were when they were still alive. Lambek stressed that it is not so much about the individual act of remembering the deceased as about the collective enactment of the whole event. The talk, saturated with ethnographic description, got me thinking about the importance of investigations into death for anthropology.
By Matthias Teeuwen I want to thank Ton Salman for his insightful take on the question whether anthropology is the most scientific of the humanities or the most humanistic of the sciences or both, it gave me food for thought. For one: how is it that anthropology is considered science? It seems that Ton sees the scientific aspect of anthropology in its critical function of looking past the representations and meanings of people and examining the empirical conditions in which they arose.
I very much agree with Ton on this point. But I think that this hybridity is easily misunderstood in the sense that the critical, scientific side of anthropology is emphasised at the neglect of the hermeneutical, humanistic side.
By Younes Saramifar In the following blog, Younes Saramifar responds to Matthias Teeuwen’s contribution to Standplaats Wereld of 13-2-2017, titled “Is Anthropology the most Humanistic of the Sciences and the most Scientific of the Humanities?“.
It was amusing to me to be asked if I have always enjoyed to ‘do science’ whenever I met Western European youngsters. I understood the implications and why they assumed ‘doing anthropology’ is something scientific but I never took my manner of practicing anthropology as something scientific. This is not to imply that ‘anthropology’ is not scientific. But what is scientific perplexes me because it immediately brings to mind a red line between everyday life practices and the study of those everyday life practices. So, my amusement at the question of the ‘scientific-ness’ of anthropology is due to the fact that we are the part of the phenomena around us and we are entangled in the hermeneutics of its making. It is this that distinguishes us from other disciplines. However, this statement brings an avalanche of theoretical, philosophical and psychoanalytical debates, or if you like, ‘scientific’ problems.
By Ton Salman In the following blog, Ton Salman reacts to Matthias Teeuwen’s contribution to Standplaats Wereld of 13-2-2017, titled “Is Anthropology the most Humanistic of the Social Sciences and the most Scientific of the Humanities?”
First of all, allow me to thank Matthias Teeuwen for, once again, an intriguing and pertinent contribution to the ongoing dialogue on the nature of anthropology and its potential contribution to contemporary societal issues and challenges. The question is not a new one – but it is correct to make it a persistent one in anthropological reflection, because the –always provisional– answers have real consequences for what sort of endeavor anthropology in the end might be and what its ambitions may entail. A frequently heard characterization of anthropology is that it is something “between the sciences and the humanities”, or “the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities”. The phrase is indeed often attributed to Kroeber, but sometimes also to Eric Wolf or Edward Sapir. But let that be the least of our worries. The substance of the matter is of course about the métier’s epistemology, methods and relation to other disciplines and professions like philosophy and text exegesis, but also sociology, political sciences and other social sciences.
By Matthias Teeuwen As a student of cultural anthropology you are invariably confronted with the question: what is anthropology? It can briefly be answered by pointing to the etymology of the word: ???????? (human; man) + ????? (word; reason) = anthropology, the study of humans. However, this simple definition of anthropology soon gets swamped in the sheer diversity within anthropology: social anthropology, cultural anthropology, anthropology of crises, anthropology of religion, medical anthropology, digital anthropology, anthropology of the city, anthropology of music, etc….
Here I propose an understanding of what anthropology is based on the juxtaposition with philosophy, and with philosophy I mean that branch of philosophy that regards humans: philosophical anthropology. Anthropology and philosophy seem to share an engagement with the limits of the human: What is human and what is not? Or, stated differently: what is the result of nurture and what is the result of nature?
By Peter Versteeg The virtual world as hereafter. Except as a space in which the impossible can happen and players can master dragons or conquer solar systems, the virtual reality of the ‘massively multiplayer online’ game (MMO) touches our imagination of eternity. It is the experience of virtuality itself that evokes images of the never-ending. Against that background people reflect upon the possibility to live on virtually, after death.
Zie de foto’s. Dit is wat er (al tientallen jaren geleden) gebeurd is: bovenaan de klif loopt een weg. Een automobilist, naar ik hoorde beschonken, kukelde over de rand. De bergwand is door erosie aangetast en bestaat uit een reeks vertikale, taps toelopende kloven of bergspleten. De auto is daar vertikaal, neus naar beneden, in beland. Bijna dwangmatig stel ik me de ervaring van de bestuurder voor: tsjak, daar zakte hij weer schoksgewijs een stuk naar beneden. En tsjak, nog een stuk. En nóg eens. En het wordt steeds nauwer. De klem wordt steeds strakker aangedraaid. Ik stel me voor dat de chauffeur de auto in z’n achteruit zette, en probeerde of….. maar neen – tsjak.