Sunday, December 4, 2011


Edward Viveiros De Castro addressing a 2003 conference on the subject of 'anthropology and science:'

"'And is a kind of zero-relator, a relational mana of sorts - the floating signifier of the class of connectives - whose function is to oppose the absence of relation, but without specifying any relation in particular. 'And' covers all thinkable connections, and therefore allows one to say all sayable things about the terms it connects [...]"

"But maybe not. Maybe there is a relation which 'and' excludes, perhaps because it is not a true relation - the relation of identity. Who would dream of giving a physics conference the title 'Physics and Science'? Physics is Science! We have to be able to imagine that anthropology isn't constitutively a science, at least not all the time, in all respects and in all relations, in order for us to imagine this contingent connection expressed in the formula 'anthropology and science'. A relation can be contrived, then, between 'and,' the minimal relator, and 'is,' the maximal substantializer, poles between which all our discourses and sciences are distributed. Now, if anthropology 'is' a science of something, it is undoubtedly the comparative science of the relations that make us human. But since comparing is relating and vice-versa, our discipline is twice over the science of the 'and,' that is, of universal relational immanence. Not of the 'is', therefore, and still less of the 'ought', - but simply of the 'and'. "

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Life in a snowglobe

I’m not quite sure how or when it happened, but I believe I’ve fallen into a snowglobe. Without the snow, that is. You see, I’ve been living in a strange Christmas-themed cityscape where time doesn’t seem to exist, at least for me. I have no routine. I have no deadlines to meet or products to measure progress by. I only have classes three days a week and only attend maybe two of those days. The rest of my time is to be spent thinking. Reading and thinking. So I wander the snowglobe finding new Christmasy spots to sit and think. I drink coffee, I look at old stone buildings, and I read what others before me wrote while drinking their coffee and looking at similar buildings. I go out with friends to Christmasy pubs and drink Christmasy drinks and talk about what they have been thinking. I go home to light Christmasy candles and drink hot tea and think about what my friends have been thinking about.

And in all this thinking, I have thought myself into some strange little circles. I’ve thought about anthropology and what it is and what it means and if it’s possible to actually do it. I’ve thought about why my professors want us to think about what anthropology is and if they actually know what it is and how to do it. Then I thought about what it is they are actually doing. And what I am doing? And why? And what do I want to be doing? And where do I want to be doing it? Do I want to be at home? What is home? What constitutes a home? Does everything have to be redefined? What does it mean if I have to redefine everything? Do I know anything? Have I ever known anything? Will I ever know anything? What does it mean to know something?

It seems that maybe the point of this program was not to educate me, but to uneducated me. To deconstruct everything and leave me to wander in circles until I figure out which way I want to go. But in all of this thinking never do I leave the snowglobe.

And then a few days ago, a funny thing happened. December. A crack emerged in the snowglobe. I remembered what December is: a period of time called a month. I even remembered there existed things called calendars, strange diagrams of time. Those little squares with numbers in the corners were days. And in 14 squares, something else is going to happen. I am coming home. I am leaving the snowglobe. I’ll be somewhere concrete again where time passes and there are people that I know that haven’t been consumed by deconstructive thoughts but by actual tasks that can be accomplished and checked off a list. People who actually know things, at least in the sense that they believe they know things. And I can’t wait to see them and talk to them. I’ve forgotten what life outside the snowglobe feels like. But soon, I get to see it firsthand. And maybe it will remind me that I too once lived in a concrete world that changed seasons.