Ontology: conversations between anthropology and philosophy

  • 12 October 2023
    9:00 AM

Julia Joanna Turska

In the lecture we analyze relations between ontology in anthropology and philosophy beyond simple homonymy or synonymy and show how this diagnosis allows for new interdisciplinary links and insights, while minimizing the risk of cross-disciplinary equivocation. We introduce the ontological turn in anthropology as an intellectual project rooted in the critique of dualism of culture and nature and propose a classification of the literature we reviewed into first-order claims about the world and second-order claims about ontological frameworks. Next, rather than provide a strict definition of ontology in anthropological literature, we argue that the term is used as a heuristic addressing a web of sub-concepts relating to interpretation, knowledge, and self-determination which correspond to methodological, epistemic, and political considerations central to the development of the ontological turn. We present a case study of rivers as persons to demonstrate what the ontological paradigm in anthropology amounts to in practice. Finally, in an analysis facilitated by a parallel between the first- and second-order claims in anthropology, and ontology and meta-ontology in philosophy (respectively), we showcase the potential for contribution of ontological anthropology to contemporary philosophical debates, such as ontological gerrymandering, relativism and social ontology, and vice versa.



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