Reviewed by: Society for Cultural Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Ethics
Secondary Theme: The Political
This panel aims to revisit and engage the work of Vincent Crapanzano to explore the horizons of anthropology that his literary-philosophical and ethnographic writing has opened up for anthropologists. Situated in North Africa, South Africa, France, and the USA, Crapanzano’s research not only has spread over a wide range of social and historical contexts, but also has brought about new avenues of imagination for his colleagues and students. These avenues concern many themes ranging from ethno-psychiatry and life history; language, translation, and epistemology; violence, memory, reconciliation; and different limit-experiences involving waiting and world-ending. One may discern in his work a certain dialectic of opening and closure, creativity and encrustation, and desire and power – in between. His work has been a reminder that we, anthropologists, cannot often escape our own parochialisms, and reflecting on our own limitations can sometimes be the best we can offer to the people we work with. In the difficult subjects he studied, whether that is white South Africans waiting for a bloodshed, or Christian fundamentalists reading the Bible, or the Harkis reckoning with their memories of violence, his work has generated new pathways for interrogating the received wisdom and habits of thinking and writing. His longstanding interest in paradox, contingency, and creative possibilities of human life has inspired generations of anthropologists.
In this spirit, our roundtable panel aims to take up and explore further some of the themes of Crapanzano’s work. We will be especially concerned with the following themes:
-- Ethical-political life: Under this heading we will explore the issues of loyalty and betrayal, resentment and forgiving, and remembering and forgetting. How can we theorize the complex temporality underlying collective and personal memories of violent events and suffering? How is the social life reconstituted after mass violence? How does one embody the figure of the witness, victim, perpetrator, and traitor or betrayer? In what ways do we respond to contradictory moral orientations and ethical positions that we or the people we work with inhabit?
-- Language and communication: This section will concern the dynamics of communication, dialogic encounters, and intertextual practices. What is the role of language in mediating or masking the reciprocity of interpersonal relations in fieldwork or other social settings? How do polyphony (e.g., shadow dialogues) and the unsaid (e.g., innuendo, ellipsis, or silence) shape such settings? How do uneven power relations manifest in misunderstandings, mistranslations, and other communicative disjunctions?
-- Aesthetics and imagination: In this section, we will focus on questions of sensation and perception, cultural mediation of aesthetic judgement, and the poetics and politics of imagination. In what ways does Crapanzano’s work traverse the intellectual traditions of phenomenology, existentialism, and psychoanalysis? How do forces of creation flow between different cultural genres – from ritual to literature or music, or from the sacred to the erotic? To what extent do anthropologists capture multiple sensory registers of imagination (beyond the visual)? What kind of subjectivities emerge when desires and expectations do not align?