Introduction: The ontological turn in French philosophical anthropology

John D. Kelly


Philippe Descola’s anthropology is rooted in ethnology and Amazonian ethnography; Bruno Latour’s ontological turn begins in Science and Technology Studies and technographic development of French philosophies of emergence. Sahlins and de Almeida continue a French anthropological conversation about universals and cultural relativity, recently on Amazonian perspectivism, and fundamentally about extremities in realities of different human groups. Fischer and Fortun address poetics and politics of Science Studies, from Fischer’s perception of language games in ontology claims, to Fortun’s insistence on the priority of environmental crisis in late industrialism. If there is now an ontological turn, succeeding a twentieth-century epistemological turn, it addresses both perspectivism and technography. It is not clear what concept concretely synthesizes newfound ontological wisdom. My view is that situation, not emergence or performance, captures the ontological side of relativity, partner to the conception of reflexivity that adroitly articulates implications of relativity for the epistemology of our scientific practice.


positivism, incommensurability, emergence, performance, reflexivity, situation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau4.1.011