Aesthetics or Ethnography? Notes on the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series (AALS)

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Photography by Omar, one of Termeer’s respondents

By Matthias Teeuwen            When one thinks of a Muslim artist in the Netherlands one naturally thinks of someone who, with his or her art, tries to address issues of integration, tensions between Islam and secularism or the clash between Islamic and western society. Because that is what art by Muslims in the Netherlands is supposed to be about. Right?

In last week’s AALS lecture Dr. Bregje Termeer came to talk to us about her dissertation research on artistic strategies of young Muslim artists living in the Netherlands. What she discovered was that these artists did not subscribe to the definition of what art by Muslims is supposed to be. These artists were, as Termeer called it, ‘disengaging culturalism’.

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Why is Anthropology so Critical?

Portrait of Giambattista Vico by Francesco Solimena

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. Lees verder

Thin Description? Notes on the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series (AALS)

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Dr Paolo Favero giving his AALS lecture at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

By Matthias Teeuwen    Last AALS lecture was an inspiring and thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Paolo Favero on the myriad possibilities that emerging technologies provide to conducting ethnographic research. He talked about the implications of the use of i-docs (interactive documentaries such as Highrise), wearable camera’s (used exclusively in Leviathan), user GPS (Dr Favero gave an example of its use in Rider Spoke), and much more in ethnographic research. Here are some impressions. Lees verder

Is Anthropology the most Humanistic of the Sciences and the most Scientific of the Humanities?

Still Life with Flagon, Glass, Jug and Bridle, by Johannes Torrentius, 1614

By Matthias Teeuwen       The epithet in the title, commonly attributed to Alfred Kroeber, is often used to classify anthropology in-between the sciences and the humanities. Apparently we anthropologists manage to, once again, place ourselves in a position of simultaneous intimacy and distance, this time with regard to science and the humanities. Now, the question is: Is this where anthropology belongs? Even though a position between science and the humanities sounds like a very fruitful one, I would like to argue that anthropology belongs more properly in the humanities. Lees verder

Another Answer to the Question “What is Anthropology?”

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Photo by David Barnas on Flickr

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: άνθρωπος (human; man) + λόγος (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:[1] What is human and what is not? Or, stated differently: what is the result of nurture and what is the result of nature? Lees verder

Rereading Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Ethnographer”

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Jorge Luis Borges 1951, by Grete Stern

By Matthias Teeuwen        I have read “The Ethnographer” and “Dr. Brodie’s Report” without thinking much of it. Sure, I had found it curious that Borges, who ranks among my favourite authors, would devote some of his writings to ethnography, but I haven’t thought much of it. Or, to be precise, I had planned to do my thinking on it at a later time. So when I came across an article in HAU Journal (2016, Volume 6, nr. 2) by Edgardo Krebs who argues that the anthropologist Alfred Métraux was Jorge Luis Borges’ inspiration to write the two stories, my curiosity was piqued. By reading the article by Krebs and re-reading “The Ethnographer” I have come to see the story as a challenge to the ethnographic endeavour of anthropology. Lees verder

Ankara’s Long Arm: Notes on the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series (AALS)

aals-sunierBy Matthias Teeuwen            Last Thursday Professor Thijl Sunier gave a lecture on the backlash in the Netherlands of the coup attempt in Turkey in July. The room was packed with students, faculty members and other people interested in the subject. What Sunier particularly succeeded in, was challenging and debunking the assumption that the concern Turkish-Dutch citizens showed with the coup and its consequences was an indication of failed integration on the part of these Turkish-Dutch citizens. Sunier argued that this is not a case of failed integration; instead, this is a case of the complex and transnational interplay between religion, citizenship and politics. Lees verder