Science, Reason, Modernity: Readings for an Anthropology of the Contemporary provides an introduction to a legacy of philosophical and social scientific thinking about sciences and their integral role in shaping modernities, a legacy that has contributed to a specifically anthropological form of inquiry. Anthropology, in this case, refers not only to the institutional boundaries of an academic discipline but also to a mode of conceptualizing and addressing a problem: how to analyze and diagnose the modern sciences in their troubled relationships with lived realities. Such an approach addresses the sciences as forms of life and illuminates how the diverse modes of reason, action, and passion that characterize the scientific life continue to shape our existences as late moderns. The essays provided in this book--many of them classics across disciplines--have been arranged genealogically. They offer a particular route through a way of thinking that has come to be crucial in elucidating the contemporary question of science as a formal way of understanding life. The book specifies the historical dynamics by way of which problems of science and modernity become matters of serious reflection, as well as the multiple attempts to provide solutions to those problems. The book's aim is pedagogical. Its hope is that the constellation of texts it brings together will help students and scholars working on sciences become better equipped to think about scientific practices as anthropological problems. Includes essays by: Hans Blumenberg, Georges Canguilhem, John Dewey, Michel Foucault, Immanuel Kant, Paul Rabinow, Max Weber.
Designs on the Contemporary pursues the challenge of how to design and put into practice strategies for inquiring into the intersections of philosophy and anthropology. Drawing on the conceptual repertoires of Max Weber, Michel Foucault, and John Dewey, among others, Paul Rabinow and Anthony Stavrianakis reflect on and experiment with how to give form to anthropological inquiry and its aftermath, with special attention to the ethical formation and ramifications of this mode of engagement. The authors continue their prior explorations of the contemporary in past works: How to conceptualize, test, and give form to breakdowns of truth and conduct, as well as how to open up possibilities for the remediation of such breakdowns. They offer a surprising and contrasting pair of case studies of two figures who engaged with contemporary breakdowns: Salman Rushdie and Gerhard Richter. Approaching Richter’s artistic struggles with form and technique in the long wake of modernism and Rushdie’s struggles to find a narrative form—as well as a form for living—to respond to the Iranian fatwa issued against him, they show how both men formulated different new approaches to anthropology for the twenty-first century.
Demands of the Day asks about the logical standards and forms that should guide ethical and experimental anthropology in the twenty-first century. Anthropologists Paul Rabinow and Anthony Stavrianakis do so by taking up Max Weber’s notion of the "demands of the day." Just as the demand of the day for anthropology decades ago consisted of thinking about fieldwork, today, they argue, the demand is to examine what happens after, how the experiences of fieldwork are gathered, curated, narrated, and ultimately made available for an anthropological practice that moves beyond mere ethnographic description. Rabinow and Stavrianakis draw on experiences from an innovative set of anthropological experiments that investigated how and whether the human and biological sciences could be brought into a mutually enriching relationship. Conceptualizing the anthropological and philosophic ramifications of these inquiries, they offer a bold challenge to contemporary anthropology to undertake a more rigorous examination of its own practices, blind spots, and capacities, in order to meet the demands of our day.
There is an increasing focus among anthropologists on the theme of collaboration with the people they work with and with other disciplines in the university space. Frequently justified in political terms of participation, there is often less attention paid to the conceptual work in and of collaboration. In opposition to the attention given to the processes of exchange during fieldwork, there is rarely a description of the actual forms and practices created for such collective conceptual work and thinking-processes in extra-fieldwork situations. In this article, we report on an experiment in collaborative concept work at Berkeley known as ‘the Labinar'. We address a lacuna in the literature on collaboration by providing a description of how collective conceptual work can be given form and sustained with specific practices. We argue for understanding concepts as not only discursive but also as non-discursive entities, created through and emerging as objects and practices of inquiry. The article focuses on the centrality of specific moments of conceptual creation through collaboration, understood as the temporal, material and affective qualities of thinking together.
Cet article suit la démarche d’un homme, Peter, vers une mort volontaire assistée, en Suisse, afin de saisir et d’analyser aussi bien les négociations qui l’accompagnent que la mise en œuvre de cette nouvelle manière de mourir. Deux moments sont plus particulièrement observés, qui sont révélateurs de deux enjeux différents mais liés entre eux. Le premier est l’examen médical, une des étapes du processus d’évaluation par les professionnels, au cours duquel est invoquée l’« évidence » de la demande d’aide au suicide. C’est cette évidence que l’on questionne, en estimant que les significations multiples de cette demande, replacées dans le contexte d’une histoire individuelle, sont plus justement appréhendées à l’aide de l’idée de « Neutre » ou de « désir de Neutre » telle que la définit Roland Barthes, comme la quête d’un mode d’engagement sémiotique qui élude ou déjoue des oppositions binaires. Le deuxième moment est celui du suicide assisté lui-même, dont la gestualité particulière est abordée à la lumière d’une double tradition iconographique, celle de la compassion et celle de la lamentation, afin d’en révéler les enjeux éthiques et esthétiques.
This article traces the steps taken by a particular person, Peter, towards an assisted voluntary death, in Switzerland, in order to grasp and analyse the negotiations that accompany such an undertaking, as well as the carrying out of such a contemporary manner of dying. Two moments in particular are observed, which reveal two distinct and interconnected concerns. The first moment is that of medical examination, one step of the process through which the manifest justifications for requesting assistance with voluntary death are evaluated. The article takes up the "obviousness" of the demand, considering that its multiple significations, contextualized within Peter’s life history, can more soundly be apprehended with the help of Roland Barthes’s idea of the "Neutral", or "desire for Neutral", characterised as the search for a mode of semiotic engagement that eludes or thwarts signifying oppositions. The second moment is that of the assisted suicide itself, in which the particular sequence of gestural movements during dying are grasped by way of a double iconographic tradition, that of compassion and lamentation, so as to make available their ethical and aesthetic stakes.
Response to Hau Forum, "On the anthropology of the contemporary: Addressing concepts, designs, and practices," edited by James D. Faubion, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Volume 6, Issue 1, Summer 2016.
This article takes Durkheim’s Le suicide as a conceptual testing ground for an ongoing field inquiry into assisted suicide in Switzerland. It tackles the question of the extent to which a Durkheimian approach to the social facticity of human practices can adequately grasp the ethico-pragmatic variation in which people give form to their lives, especially under heavily constrained circumstances. The article makes two interventions: it first draws out the conceptual significance of the asymmetry in the architecture of Le suicide, namely, of Durkheim’s explicit refusal to elaborate a fourth type of suicide (fatalistic suicide). It then presents the blind spot, and asymmetry, as constitutive of his normative scientific posture: that social science, in its modern modalities, has the means to identify the normative ends toward which social life should aim, to the detriment of a more pluralist ethical and anthropological postulate through which to grasp and understand the multiplicity of moral forms pertaining to suicide, of which assisted suicide in Switzerland provides the test case.
The emergence of synthetic biology, and off-shoots such as DIYbio, make the need for a rigorous, sustained and mature approach for assessing, and preparing for, the broad range of associated dangers and risks all the more pressing.
The chapter is an exercise in collaborative thinking and writing. The exercise begins with Max Weber’s judgement that ‘zones of inquiry’ are formed through the conceptual interconnection of ‘problems’. The authors take up this objective relative to a series of ‘objects of inquiry’: they narrate the manner in which a zone of inquiry, focused on problems, stemming from inquiry, might be forged collaboratively. The chapter is written in three broad movements: First, ‘objects of inquiry’ are narrated in an initial sequence of TEXTS; second, in a sequence of COMMENTARIES, the authors seek to draw out the conceptual operations and abstractions through which ‘problems’ could be shared; third, they test the abstracted problems relative to their objects of inquiry in a further sequence of TEXTS and COMMENTARIES. The chapter thus puts into motion an assemblage of heterogeneous objects, practices and concepts, and shows the narrative forms through which conceptual interconnections could be tested
équipe : Marc-Antoine Berthod, Dolores Angela Castelli Dransart, Anthony Stavrianakis, Alexandre Pillonel