Heathen hermeneutics: Or, radical “radical interpretation”

Philip Swift


Translation—both multi- and intra-lingual—is vital to anthropological method. Drawing a distinction between two opposing modes of translation (“domesticating” versus “foreignizing”), this paper considers the ontological and ethical consequences of these two interpretative strategies, in particular by critically engaging with the doctrine of Donald Davidson, the theoretical inspiration for João Pina-Cabral’s work, World. I argue, instead, in favor of a “pagan” or pluralizing conceptual method, inspired by Feyerabend, Lyotard, and Hans Peter Duerr, and I suggest that their approaches demonstrate that even the polymodal ontology of Latour is lacking in plurality. In conclusion, I consider how the notion of foreignizing translation relates to the method associated with the ontological turn in anthropology.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/719521