With special commentary from João de Pina-Cabral, University of Lisbon
Can we talk about what we cannot conceive of? How far can the ethnographic gesture guide us into worlds that call into question what Collingwood described as our own (historically mutable) “absolute presuppositions” from which we must spin our ethnographic propositions. “Witches, as the Azande conceive them, cannot exist” wrote E.P. at the start of a monograph aiming to prove the eminent rationality of Zande witchcraft beliefs. Taking as cases in point, Evans-Pritchard’s famous equivocations on the issue of coming to inhabit worlds of thought and action that the ethnographer takes to be based on mistaken premises as well as an example from my own ethnography, I argue that what Wittgenstein called “hinge propositions” – on which doubt can turn, but which can never fall into doubt themselves – have long, and all invocations of “radical alterity” to the contrary, both enabled, and plagued the ethnographic enterprise.
Image: Artist: José Bedia (Cuban, born 1959) Title: Debajo del laurel yo tengo mi confianza; Pá qué tu me llamas; Cada uno en su casa (3 works), 1987
This talk is in a workshop format.