Anthropological reasoning: Some threads of thought

Marilyn Strathern


The interventionist properties of description are considered in relation to two strands of thinking, each as evidently "outside" anthropology as "inside." In terms of concept formation, the nature–culture dyad seems forever to be subject to critique, reformulation, and re-critique; examples from current debate over clinical practices in South America make the point. In terms of engagement with "human subjects," anthropology has been as much heir to regimes of audit and self-scrutiny as it has shown their limits; the reflexivity now routine in ethnographic inquiry is shown up in approaches to present-day health policies for Aboriginal people in Australia. Both arenas (nature–culture/self-scrutiny) have contributed at once to anthropology's self-formation and to the kind of knowledge it makes more widely visible. Both were also topics of huge interest to the European Enlightenment. A suggestion is proffered about the outlines of a newly apparent object of knowledge then, which could have been something of a driver, and seems to have been a driver of anthropological reasoning ever since.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau4.3.003