Perspectives on affordances, or the anthropologically real: The 2018 Daryll Forde Lecture

Webb Keane


Anthropology is defined by the vast scope of its concerns. We often forget to ask, however, what makes something a matter of concern, and for whom. A matter of concern is contingent on its relationship to some “we” for whom it is relevant. But that “we,” and those concerns, are neither given in advance nor are they pure creations. The perspective of affordances offers an alternative to reductive determinism, on the one hand, and the stronger versions of social constructivism, on the other. This perspective is an argument for possibilities: people are perpetually discovering new things about themselves (including who “we” might be) and about their worlds (including what matters for “us”) that they didn’t put in there in the first place. These points are developed through discussions of American feminist consciousness-raising and Melanesian theories of mind.


affordance, realism, meaning, feminism, opacity of minds, matters of concern

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/698357