Two forms of the outside: Castaneda, Blanchot, ontology

Casper Bruun Jensen


In recent years, anthropology has taken a renewed interest in alterity and otherness. Rather than using ethnography to determine the ways in which, cultural differences aside, we all share a common humanity, this body of work uses ethnography to figure out how humanity and sociality are produced in radically divergent ways, giving rise to different forms of “the social” and different forms of cosmology. We have thus left behind the realm of many (cultural) perspectives on one common (natural) world, and entered a realm of different ontologies. This brings the ethnographer face to face with the question of the outside. But which meaning(s) might be given to the outside? Is it located on the far side of language or cognition? Of intersubjectivity? Or does it designate what is external to sociality and humanity as such? In the interest of finding resources for grappling with these questions, this inquiry explores the works of quasi-ethnographer Carlos Castaneda and literary theorist and novelist Maurice Blanchot. Doing so, it elicits and articulates two radically distinct forms of the outside. In conjunction these forms of the outside provide novel perspectives on ongoing anthropological discussions on topology and ontology.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau3.3.013