From essence back to existence : Anthropology beyond the ontological turn
Summary, in English
This article takes a critical look at 'the ontological turn'. Illuminating 'the turn's' theoretical point of departure, and clarifying its anthropological implications, the article argues that two key problems arise if the theory is to be taken at face value. It points, first of all, to the difficulty in studying 'radical alterity', in the manner proposed by the new understanding of ontology within anthropology. If anthropology is, as the ontological turn advocates, not a study of multiple 'world-views' but of essentially different 'worlds' altogether, how, we ask, does one approach this methodologically? Put in other words, if we really believe in radically essential, fundamental ontological difference with what registers can we, then, conceive and describe ontological others in ways that do them ethnographic justice? Secondly, the article ponders the issues of radical essentialism and immanence advocated by the ontological turn, and shows how an anthropological endeavour that advocates incommensurable difference, as an analytical point of departure, may be problematic in relation to the impact that anthropology has outside academia. As history has so vividly shown us, anthropological constructions of radical alterity and ontological difference offer themselves, in social terms, all too easily to political constructions of Otherness.
- ISSN: 1463-4996