PUBLIC TALK: Anthropology of Life : Classical and New Approaches
|Anthropology of Life : Classical and New Approaches : Public talk with Perig Pitrou, CNRS, Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale, Paris
In contrast to Western philosophy, which, at least since Aristotle, has considered the distinction between life and the living to be fundamental, anthropology seems not to have given much thought to the difference between the two. However, the existence of an entity called ‘The One Who Makes Live’ among the Mixe, an Amerindian group living in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, proves that ethno-theories of non-Western peoples often make the distinction between the characteristics and vital processes of living beings (growth, degeneration, reproduction, et cetera) on the one hand, and the more or less personified causes that produce them on the other. Given these circumstances, this article pursues a two-fold objective. First, based on the results of ethnographic inquiry, to try to describe the categories of non-human agents with which the Mixe understand this production or making of the living. Second, I suggest that in parallel with numerous approaches developed by anthropologists past and present, the anthropology of life would benefit from an approach based on a ‘general pragmatics’ in order to better understand the diversity of conceptions of life.
Perig Pitrou is researcher in the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Laboratoire d’anthropologogie sociale, Paris. He has carried ethnographic fieldwork in Mixe Highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico, and has written on ritual and sacrifice, ethnotheories of life and resolution of conflict. He is the co-editor of the book La noción de vida en Mesoamérica (CEMCA-UNAM). In 2013-2014, he conducted the research program "Of Living Beings and Artifacts. The interrelation of vital and technical processes". He is now deputy director of the interdisciplinary program "Domestication and Fabrication of the Living" (CNRS). Together with Dimitri Karadimas, he is organizing a seminar on "Anthropology of Life" at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.
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