Eduardo Kohn–Anthropology as cosmic diplomacy: Toward an ecological ethics for the Anthropocene


Anna Tsing on, The buck, the bull, and the dream of the stag: some unexpected weeds of the Anthropocene

Tim Ingold: One World Anthropology

Ontological ‘turns’ and colonialism

I’ve mentioned previously the ‘ontological turn’ in anthropology and the growing literature around it, like this special issue from HAU. Last week, a PhD student from Aberdeen, Zoe Todd, wrote a post on her take on the ‘ontological turn’ as an indigenous scholar. In it, she considers the ‘ontological turn’ yet another way of applying colonial forms of domination to indigenous thought, practice, and forms of social and legal order. It is an interesting post and worth the read. It was circulated widely on social media over the weekend.

A number of the themes of the post are worth taking up, such as whether the ‘ontological turn’ is intrinsically related to colonialism such that considerations of difference within it displace and dispossess indigenous forms of thought. I think the folks in the UC Davis group working on indigenous cosmopolitics might have something to contribute on this front. We’re going to have a get together this morning to discuss some of these issues here in Halifax so I’ll try to write an update later this week.

Mohawk Interruptus: Audra Simpson on the refusal of the settler state

Audra Simpson has an excellent new book out that pushes on anthropologists and political scientists to stop assuming the colonial project is complete. Here is a description of the book from Duke University Press. And, below, a talk Dr. Simpson gave earlier this year at the University of Victoria.

Mohawk interruptus: political life across the borders of settler states

Mohawk Interruptus is a bold challenge to dominant thinking in the fields of Native studies and anthropology. Combining political theory with ethnographic research among the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke, a reserve community in what is now southwestern Quebec, Audra Simpson examines their struggles to articulate and maintain political sovereignty through centuries of settler colonialism. The Kahnawà:ke Mohawks are part of the Haudenosaunee or Iroquois Confederacy. Like many Iroquois peoples, they insist on the integrity of Haudenosaunee governance and refuse American or Canadian citizenship. Audra Simpson thinks through this politics of refusal, which stands in stark contrast to the politics of cultural recognition. Tracing the implications of refusal, Simpson argues that a sovereign political order can exist nested within a sovereign state, albeit with enormous tension around issues of jurisdiction and legitimacy. Finally, Simpson critiques anthropologists and political scientists, whom, she argues, have too readily accepted the assumption that the colonial project is complete. Belying that notion, Mohawk Interruptus calls for and demonstrates more robust and evenhanded forms of inquiry into Indigenous politics in the teeth of settler governance.

Race, politics and the biosocial being

There has been a lot of controversy over Jason Richwine’s work on race lately (in short, he sought to link IQ and race in his PhD thesis and then, it would seem, in some work on U.S. immigration. If you want the Cole’s notes (that is, the Colbert notes) have a quick watch of Stephen Colbert May 15 show, which is really quite good. View in America here, Canada here, elsewhere, I’m not sure.

At any rate, the controversy is taken on over at the blog Living Anthropologically in a political context, and I’ve put in the first bit of a post from there below. Following that is a lecture from Ian Hacking on the Biosocial Being, which talks about the intersections of biology and socialization, partly in the context of race.

From Living Anthropologically:

Update June 2013: In the light of Jason Richwine and anthropological responses like What Jason Richwine Should Have Heard from his PhD Committee from Elizabeth Chin and How to Not Be Racist from Agustín Fuentes, I’ve re-read the post below written in August 2012. Really, if you just tweak the dates and the references, everything I wrote then applies to the current situation, and is consistent with the comment streams that pop up when people try to confront these issues intelligently.

[original post begins]

The assertion and oft-caricatured mantra that race is a social construction, or the social construction of race, is quite old. Regularly pilloried and attacked, the social construction of race is also defended and celebrated as the backbone of not just scientific understandings of human variation but as a liberal political plank.

As this ritualized game is rehearsed and replayed, it is worth taking stock of an essential but overlooked fact: the social construction of race is a goldmine for conservative political positions. The social construction of race is the gift that keeps on giving, far more helpful for conservative politics than for a progressive-liberal front.

First, there is the unbelievable advantage gained from denouncing and mocking the social construction of race. Second, this denunciation is almost always linked to promoting delusions that the balance of power has shifted to an anti-white bias. Finally, since the social construction of race was never connected to concrete political change, the reality of power imbalances favoring whites is met by naïve hand-wringing, with little understanding of what went so wrong in the post-civil rights era. READ MORE HERE.