12 Slices
Medium 9780253017543

8 Being-in-the-Covenant: Reflections on the Crisis of Historicism in North Malaita, Solomon Islands

Kalpana Ram Indiana University Press ePub

Jaap Timmer

BIBLICAL PROPHECY MAKES a major contribution to discourses and practices of nation and destiny in Solomon Islands. After discussing its broader context, this article investigates the power of Old Testament prophecies through analysis of the 2010 Queen’s Birthday speech of Solomon Islands’ governor-general, Sir Frank Kabui, entitled “Our connection with the Throne of England” (Kabui 2010), given to an audience of national and international officials in Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands. Kabui, a To’abaita speaker from North Malaita, focuses on a British-Israelite theory that claims that Jacob’s pillar stone is kept in Scotland because the kings and queens of Britain are the seed-royal to the House of David. I situate his thoughts in widespread To’abaita ideas about connections between the island of Malaita and Israel to highlight the way in which people read themselves into biblical narratives via the “Table of Nations” in Genesis 10:1–32, seen as the canonical list of peoples. By detailing this particular attempt to situate Solomon Islands in the prophecies and history of the Old Testament, I draw attention to an important dimension of local historiography and the meaning of religion in that context.1

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253017543

11 Senses of Magic: Anthropology, Art, and Christianity in the Vula’a Lifeworld

Kalpana Ram Indiana University Press ePub

Deborah Van Heekeren

Rather than apply to his work dichotomies more appropriate to those who sustain traditions than to those men, philosophers or painters, who initiate these traditions, [Cézanne] preferred to search for the true meaning of painting, which is continually to question tradition.

—Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Sense and Non-Sense

It is time to appreciate ethnographers who produce works of art that become powerful vehicles of theoretical exposition.

—Paul Stoller, The Taste of Ethnographic Things

I HAVE LONG ADMIRED Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s writing on Paul Cézanne because it provides insight into the artist’s practice beyond the general conventions of art history. The philosopher saw the painter as a paradigm example of the essence of perception.1 As he writes, “Cézanne did not think he had to choose between feeling and thought, between order and chaos. He did not want to separate the stable things which we see and the shifting way in which they appear; he wanted to depict matter as it takes on form, the birth of order through spontaneous organization” (Merleau-Ponty 1964 [1945]: 13).

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253017543

5 Beneath the Horizon: The Organic Body’s Role in Athletic Experience

Kalpana Ram Indiana University Press ePub

Greg Downey

CONDUCTING ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH on sports, one encounters individuals who almost seem to transcend the boundaries of human capacity. Arguably, one of the thrills of athletic spectatorship is to witness skills and physical abilities honed to such an exceptional degree that an athlete’s performance beggars normal imagination, at once humbling us and at the same time thrilling. For an anthropological discussion of phenomenology, these kinds of people—agents operating at a level of efficacy beyond what is normally possible—offer an opportunity to interrogate the variation of human experience.

Specifically, I conducted ethnographic research on and apprenticed in capoeira, an acrobatic Afro-Brazilian martial art and dance, from 1992 on and off until 2005 (see especially Downey 2005). During this time, I was privileged to meet, interview, and even apprentice with a number of extraordinary practitioners, some of them legendary teachers and players in the globalized capoeira community. In particular, during fieldwork in Salvador, Brazil, from 1993 to 1995, I trained frequently under the watchful guidance of Valmir Damasceno, a charismatic contra-mestre, or drill leader, at the time with the Pelourinho Capoeira Angola Group. Valmir has since become widely recognized as a mestre, or “teacher,” the most prestigious title that can be attributed to a capoeira practitioner.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253017543

1 Moods and Method: Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty on Emotion and Understanding

Kalpana Ram Indiana University Press ePub

Kalpana Ram

PHENOMENOLOGY CAN ASSIST anthropology in two specific ways. The first is in giving us a stronger way to frame objectivity as an aspiration for anthropological knowledge and for the social sciences more generally. The second is in allowing us to give emotions a methodologically central role in enhancing objectivity.

My claims for phenomenology in this essay are limited to the work of two key exponents of the philosophical method, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. There are specific reasons why these two philosophers recommend themselves out of the wide range of philosophers who can claim to represent phenomenological methods. Both Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty made innovations that are particularly compatible with the premises of the social sciences. They share with the social sciences a break with all variants of what one might describe as a methodological individualism, that is to say, methods which begin with the isolated individual. But unlike the social sciences, which tend to take this break for granted, both of these philosophers are engaged in an active debate with longstanding philosophical traditions. The fact that this was for them an active project itself affords us several advantages. Their language is vital, the models of sociality they propose are fresh, and in bearing witness to the difficulties of breaking with their intellectual predecessors, we gain insight into the sense in which Western philosophy forms a potent tradition. I have argued elsewhere at length that we in the social sciences continue to be shaped by such premises precisely to the extent that we remain either unaware of this tradition, or go along with current tendencies to treat the power of tradition itself far too lightly (Ram 2013).

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253017543

2 Toward a Cultural Phenomenology of Body-World Relations

Kalpana Ram Indiana University Press ePub

Thomas J. Csordas

FOR YEARS IN my seminar on embodiment I have begun by juxtaposing the work of Merleau-Ponty, Bourdieu, and Foucault, based on the intuition that the work of these three thinkers taken together established the intellectual topology of embodiment as an “indeterminate methodological field defined by perceptual experience and mode of presence and engagement in the world” (Csordas 1994: 12). Writing against the grain of the occasional antipathy toward phenomenology articulated by both Bourdieu and Foucault, I suggest that taken together their work helps to outline the structure of this methodological field for cultural phenomenology by defining complementary aspects of the relation of our bodies to the world, specifically with respect to how they deal with the issue of agency (Csordas 2011). In brief, my argument is that the operative locus of agency is for Merleau-Ponty at the level of existence, for Bourdieu at the level of the habitus, and for Foucault at the level of power relations. The modality in which agency is exercised is for Merleau-Ponty intention, for Bourdieu practice, and for Foucault discourse. The vector of agency (for it has a directionality) is for Merleau-Ponty from our bodies to the world in the sense of projecting into and orienting to the world. For Bourdieu the vector is a double one, pointing in opposite and reciprocal directions between our bodies and the world that we inhabit and that inhabits us. For Foucault the vector is from the world toward our bodies in the sense of inscribing itself upon or incorporating itself into us (Figure 2.1). My interest is not to rehearse these well known concepts from each of the thinkers or to examine how these concepts are developed by each theorist, but to place them in relation to one another in order within a matrix that defines a methodological field.

See All Chapters

See All Slices