This article proposes an analysis of a ritual glitch and resulting “misfire” from the standpoint of a phenomenologically informed anthropology of human interaction. Through articulating a synthesis of some of Husserl‘s insights on attention and affection with concepts and methods developed by anthropologists and other students of human interaction, a case is made for the importance of understanding the social organization of attention in ritual encounters. An analysis of a failed toast during President Obama’s 2011 State Visit to the United (...) Kingdom is used to illustrate how attention is directed toward certain participants, actions, and objects – as opposed to others. Affect-loaded empathic reactions are explained by the protracted temporal unfolding of an action whose successful conclusion – or “repair” - is ostensively and publicly delayed. (shrink)
Most of us would agree that the world of our experience is different than the extramental reality of which we are a part. Indeed, the evidence pertaining to cultural cosmologies around the globe suggests that virtually all peoples recognize this distinction—hence the focus upon the "hidden" forces behind everyday events. That said, the struggle to comprehend the relationship between our consciousness and reality, even the reality of ourselves, has led to controversy and debate for centuries in Western philosophy. In this (...) article, we address this problem from an anthropological perspective and argue that the generative route to a solution of the experience–reality "gap" is by way of an anthropologically informed cultural neurophenomenology . By this we mean a perspective and methodology that applies a phenomenology that controls for cultural variation in perception and interpretation, coupled with the latest information from the neurosciences about how the organ of experience—the brain—is structured. (shrink)
This paper explores Dilthey's "descriptive psychology "and its significance for the anthropology of consciousness. To do justice to the complexities of Dilthey's project a significant portion of the paper is devoted to an exposition of the basic tenets of his"descriptive psychology." Most notably, his views on"experience,""aconsciousness,""introspection,"and"objectified mind"are discussed before turning to examine his concept of the"acquired psychicnexus." After outlining these basic tenets the paper turns to explore how Dilthey's "descriptive psychology"can serve to shed light on current anthropological research on the (...) experience of pain. Finally, the paper concludes with a discussion of the contemporary relevance of Dilthey's project as it explores how his ideas may further inform current theoretical perspectives in anthropology about the relationship between consciousness, culture, and experience. (shrink)
This paper investigates the limits of the constructivist approach to the study of self and emotion in anthropology and outlines a viable alternative to this perspective, namely an experiential approach. The roots of the experiential and constructivist approaches to self and emotion in anthropology are traced to the work of William James and George Herbert Mead respectively. The limitations of the constructivist perspective are explored through a discussion of James's radical empirical doctrine, Anthony P. Cohen's work on creative self-consciousness, and (...) Arlie Hochschild's writings on ‘emotional discrepancy'. A discussion of transpersonal aspects of emotional experience, altered states of consciousness and the experience of ‘pure consciousness’ is used to suggest some further limits of this approach. Finally, connections between this work and some of James’ later writings on self and mystical experience are drawn and the implications of this work for the study of self and emotion are explored. (shrink)
This chapter is concerned with an analysis of the etymology of the English term “will,” which is used to emphasize some possible sedimented assumptions with its meaning in English-speaking European and North American academic communities. It takes a look at two general philosophical approaches to the will and examines the will in early modern social theory. From here the chapter turns to anthropology to study two of the most generative approaches to willing in modern culture theory: practice theoretical and psychocultural (...) variants of anthropology. Finally, the chapter discusses the preceding chapters in terms of the four different themes that recur throughout the book. (shrink)
This chapter discusses a phenomenologically grounded approach to willing based on Henri Burgson, Paul Ricoeur, and Alfred Schutz's writings. It claims that this approach to willing can have a significant impact in informing anthropological theorizing and research, due to the assumptions related to a number of distinct phenomenal aspects of willing. It also proposes three experiential correlates of willing: sense of own-ness, anticipation/goal directedness, and effortful-ness.
The majority of the world’s cultures encourage or require members to enter alternative states of consciousness while involved in religious rituals. The question is, why? This paper suggests an explanation for the culturally prescribed ASC from the view of Fisher information. It argues from the position, first put forward by Emile Durkheim in his magnum opus, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, that all religions are grounded in reality. It suggests that many of the structural elements of cultural cosmologies (...) are similar and that the ritual induction of ASC may help to bring individual experience into greater accord with a pan-human eidetic cosmology, and thus with certain invariant attributes of reality. The necessity of this process is demonstrated by recourse to Fisher information. The paper shows how experiences generated during alternative states of consciousness may help to maintain a minimal level of realism in the interests of adaptation to what is in other respects a transcendental reality. (shrink)
In the spring and summer of 2020, the world broke down. A worldly breakdown often gives rise to forms of moral breakdown, or those “moments” when some worldly event or occurrence forces a person or persons to critically reflect on their until then unquestioned way of being-in-the-world (Zigon 2007). From the persistence of the global pandemic, to the collapse of the economy, to the murder of George Floyd by police officers on camera, to the worldwide response to that injustice, the (...) world and its human inhabitants experienced a breakdown in those months and it became impossible to ever see, hear, understand, or be in the world in the same way again. This special issue of Puncta brings together anthropologists and philosophers who take up a critical phenomenological or hermeneutic approach for thinking the contemporary condition. From the possibility of inhabiting a world conditioned by a global pandemic, to the impossibility of dwelling in conditions of systemic racism, from the question of how to face a future that presents itself as looming, to a present that denies the very possibility of truth: this collection responds to these and more in the hope of showing not only the contemporary conditions of existence, but that other conditions always remain as an ever-present potentiality. (shrink)