Notes: Johan Siebers, “Ernst Bloch’s Dialectical Anthropology” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Siebers, Johan. (2013). Ernst Bloch’s dialectical anthropology. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 61-81.

Summary:

Siebers outlines the structures of thought operating in Bloch’s principle of hope, showing it as rooted in an anthropological thought that yet does not elevate the human.

Keywords: anthropology, materiality, philosophy, theory, utopianism

Quotations:

“History is the new as the mode of realization of the not-yet” (p. 63).

“The upright gait is, in Bloch’s philosophy, the principle of practical reason and functions as the criterion for action. The basic form of the proposition ‘S is not yet P’ expresses both the structure of the process of knowledge as well as the process of being and in a general way indicates what can be known. Identity, the unum necessarium in human and natural striving, builds the horizon of hop” (p. 64).

“Bloch’s philosophical anthropology and anthropological philosophy outlines the place of human existence in reality anew—in  a realist and materialist manner which sees idealism as a distortion of realism, materialism, not their truth. Philosophy is no longer contemplative. It is performative or, as it has been called here, dramatic. It is the praxis of hope, with yet uncharted possibilities” (p. 78).

Notes: Heather Horst and Daniel Miller, “Normativity and Materiality: A View From Digital Anthropology”

Horst, Heather & Daniel Miller. (2012). Normativity and materiality: A view from digital anthropology. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, (145), 103-111.

Summary:

Horst and Miller discuss how digital anthropology requires a reconsideration of how materiality and normativity operate in experiences of digital environments.

Keywords: anthropology, culture, digital rhetoric, materiality, methodology, new materialisms, research methods, technology

Quotations:

“Rather than rendering us less human, less authentic, or more mediated, we argue that attention should turn to the human capacity to create or impose normativity in the face of constant change” (p. 103).

“We therefore suggest that one of the central tenets of digital anthropology is the study of how rapidly things become mundane. What we experience is not a technology, per se, but an immediate culturally inflected genre of usage or practice” (p. 108).

Notes: Jan Blommaert and Chris Bulcaen, “Critical Discourse Analysis”

Blommaert, Jan, and Chris Bulcaen. “CRITICAL DISCOURSE ANALYSIS.” Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 29, Annual Reviews, 4139 El Camino Way, P.O. Box 10139;Palo Alto, CA 94303-0139;USA;, 2000..doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.29.1.447.

Keywords: Anthropology, Linguistics, Critical Discourse Analysis, Methodology, Method

Sources:

Fairclough N. 1989. Language and Power. London: Longman.

van Dijk T. 1995. Discourse analysis as ideology analysis.

Wodak R. 1995. Critical linguistics and critical discourse analysis.

Quotations:

“CDA states that discourse is socially constitutive as well as socially conditioned. Furthermore, discourse is an opaque power object in modern societies and CDA aims to make it more visible and transparent” (448).

“CDA’s locus of critique is the nexus of language/discourse/speech and social structure. It is in uncovering ways in which social structure impinges on discourse patterns, relations, and models (in the form of power relations, ideological effects, and so forth)… These dimensions are the object of moral and political evaluation and analyzing them should have effects in society” (449).

Notes: Marc Agué, “From Places to Non-Places” in Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity

Agué, Marc. “From Places to Non-Places” in Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso, 1995: 75-115.

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Summary:

Agué poses non-places as the spaces of supermodernity, a shift from anthropological place.

Keywords: Anthropology, Non-Places, Space, Place

Quotations:

“[T]he expression Starobinski employs to evoke ancient places and rhy thms is significant: modernity does not obliterate them but pushes them into the background” (76).

“Place is completed through the word, through the allusive exchange of a few passwords between speakers who are conniving in private complicity” (76).

“The hypothesis advanced here is that supermodernity produces non-places, meaning spaces which are not themselves anthropological places and which. unlike Baudelairean modernity, do not integrate the earlier places: instead these are listed, classified, promoted to the status of ‘places of memory’, and assigned to a circumscribed and specific position” (78).

“[A] world thus surrendered to solitary individuality, to the fleeting, the temporary and ephemeral, offers the anthropologist (and others) a new object, whose unprecedented dimensions might usefully be measured before we start wondering to what sort of gaze it may be amenable” (78).

“Place and non-place are rather like opposed polarities: the first is never completely erased, the second never totally completed; they are like palimpsests on which the scrambled game of identity and relations is ceaselessly rewritten. But non-places are the real measure of our time; one that could be quantified – with the aid of a few conversions between area, volume and distance” (79).

“The distinction between places and non-place derives from the opposition between place and space. I An essential preliminary here is the analysis of the notions of place and space suggested by Michel de Certeau . He himself does not oppose ‘place’ and ‘space’ in the way that ‘place’ is opposed to ‘nonplace ‘. Space, for him, is a ‘frequented place’, ‘an intersection of moving bodies'” (79).

“[P]lurality of places, the demands it makes on the powers of observation and description (the impossibility of seeing everything or saying everything), and the resulting feeling of ‘disorientation’ (but only a temporary one: ‘This is me in front of the Parthenon,’ you will say later, forgetting that when the photo was taken you were wondering what on earth you were doing there), causes a break or discontinuity between the spectator-traveller and the space of the landscape he is contemplating or rushing through. This prevents him from perceiving it as a place” (84).

“[S]paces in which solitude is experienced as an overburdening or emptying of individuality, in which only the movement of the fleeting images enables the observer to hypothesize the existence of a past and glimpse the possibility of a future” (87).

“[T]his emptying of the consciousness, can be caused – this time in systematic, generalized and prosaic fashion – by the characteristic features of what I have proposed to call ‘supermodernity’. These subject the individual consciousness to entirely new experiences and ordeals of solitude, directly linked with the appearance and proliferation of non-places” (93).

“But the real non-places of supermodernity – the ones we inhabit when we are driving down the motorway, wandering through the supermarket or sitting in an airport lounge waiting for the next flight to London or Marseille – have the peculiarity that they are defined partly by the words and texts they offer us: their ‘instructions for use’, which may be prescriptive (‘Take right-hand lane’), prohibitive (‘No smoking’) or informative” (96).

“This establishes the traffic conditions of spaces in which individuals are supposed to interact only with texts, whose proponents are not individuals but ‘moral entities’ or institution” (96).

“Anthropological place’ is formed by individual identities, through complicities of language, local references, the unformulated rules of living know-how; non-place creates the shared identity of passengers, customers or Sunday drive” (101).

“The space of non-place creates neither singular identity nor relations; only solitude and similitude” (103).

Notes: Marc Agué, “Anthropological Place” in Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity

Agué, Marc. “Anthropological Place” in Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso, 1995: 42-74.

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Summary:

Agué discusses and defines Anthropological Place, referring to the ways that anthropology has classically understood its intellectual objects as situated.

Keywords: Anthropology, place, space

Quotations:

“But this ideal of exhaustive interpretation, which a novelist would find discouraging owing to the comprehensive imaginative effort it might seem to require of him, rests on a very particular conception of the ‘average’ man, in which he too is defined as ‘total’ because, unlike the representatives of the modern elite, ‘his entire being is affected by the smallest of his perceptions or by the slightest mental shock'”(48-49).

“In so far as the culturalist view of societies tries to be systematic, its limitations are obvious: to substantify a singular culture is to ignore its intrinsically problematic character (sometimes brought to light, however, by its reactions to other cultures or to the jolts of history); to ignore, too, a complexity of social tissue and a variety of individual positions which could never be deduced from the cultural ‘text'” (50).

“We will reserve the term anthropological place for this concrete and symbolic construction of space, which could not of itself allow for the vicissitudes and contradictions of social life, but which serves as a reference for all those it assigns to a position” (51).

“These places have at least three characteristics in common. They want to be – people want them to be – places of identity, of relations and of history” (52).

“If we linger for a moment on the definition of anthropological place we will see, first, that it is geometric. It can be mapped in terms of three simple spatial forms, which apply to different institutional arrangements and in a sense are the elementary forms of social space. In geometric terms these are the line, the intersection of lines, and the point of intersection” (56-57).

“Thus, starting from simple spatial forms, we see how the individual thematic and the collective thematic intersect and combine. Political symbolism plays on these possibilities to express the power of an authority, employing the unity of a sovereign figure to unify and symbolize the internal diversities of a social collectivity” (62).

“[T]urning away, this bypassing. is not without some feeling of remorse, as we can see from the numerous signboards inviting us not to ignore the splendours of the area and its traces of history” (73).

Notes: Marc Agué “The Near and the Elsewhere,” in Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity

Agué, Marc. “The Near and the Elsewhere” in Non-Places: An Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso, 1995: 7-41.

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Summary:

Agué addresses walks through considerations and what may be considered disciplinary boundaries of the social sciences in terms of objects and methods and begins a discussion of the opportunities of anthropology to engage in contemporary study.

Keywords: Anthropology, Method, Methodology, Supermodernity, Non-Places, Scale

Quotations:

“It is therefore essential not to confuse the question of method with that of object. It has often been said (not least, on several occasions, by Levi-Strauss himself) that the modern world lends itself to ethnological observation, however bad we may be at defining areas of observation within reach of our investigative methods” (12).

“The field ethnologist’s activity throughout IS the activity of a social surveyor, a manipulator of scales, a low-level comparative language expert: he cobbles together a significant universe by exploring intermediate universes at need, in rapid surveys; or by consulting relevant documents as a historian” (13).

“[O]f the method and not the object: neither the empirical object nor, a fortiori, the intellectual, theoretical object, which presupposes comparison as well as generalization” (15).

“I am not convinced that the continuity of a discipline is proportional to that of its objects . The proposition is certainly dubious when it is applied to the life sciences, nor am I sure that these are cumulative in the sense implied by Dumont’s phrase: the outcome of research, surely, is new objects of research. It seems to me even more arguable in the case of the social sciences; for when there is change in the modes of grouping and hierarchy it is always social life that is affected, offering the researcher new objects which – like those discovered by the researcher in the life sciences – do not supersede the ones he worked on earlier, but complicate them” (17).

“The first of these concerns anthropological research: anthropological research deals in the present with the question of the other” (18).

“[R]epresentation of the individual interests anthropology not just because it is a social construction, but also because any representation of the individual is also a representation of the social link consubstantial with him” (19).

“Cultures ‘work’ like green timber, and (for extrinsic and intrinsic reasons) never constitute finished totalities; while individuals, however simple we imagine them to be, are never quite simple enough to become detached from the order that assigns them a position: they express its totality only from a certain angle” (22).

“Neither the culture located in time and space, nor the individuals in which it is embodied, defines a base level of identity above which any otherness would become unthinkable” (22).

“This overabundance, which can be properly appreciated only by bearing in mind both our overabundant information and the growing tangle of interdependences in what some already call the ‘world system’, causes undeniable difficulties to historians, especially historians of the contemporary – a denomination which the density of events over the last few decades threatens to rob of all meaning. But this problem is precisely anthropological in nature” (28).

“What is new is not that the world lacks meaning, or has little meaning, or less than it used to have; it is that we seem to feel an explicit and intense daily need to give it meaning: to give meaning to the world, not just some village or lineage…a situation we could call ‘supermodern’ to express its essential quality: excess” (29).

“We are in an era characterized by changes of scale” (31).

“This spatial overabundance works like a decoy, but a decoy whose manipulator would be very hard to identify (there is nobody pulling the strings). In very large part, it serves as a substitute for the universes which ethnology has traditionally made its own. We can say of these universes, which are themselves way: not only can they be (as we say) manipulated, but the broadcast image (which is only one among countless possible others) exercises an influence, possesses a power far in excess of any objective information it carries” (32-33).

“One of the major concerns of ethnology has bee;’ to delineate signifying spaces in the world, societies identified with cultures conceived as complete wholes” (33).

Its concrete outcome involves considerable physical modifications: urban concentrations, movements of population and the multiplication of what we call ‘non-places’, in opposition to the sociological notion of place, associated by Mauss and a whole ethnological tradition with the idea of a culture localized in time and space” (34).

“[N]ever before have individual histories been so explicitly affected by collective history, but never before, either, have the reference points for collective identification been so unstable. The individual production of meaning is more necessary than ever”(37).