Beyond the ethnos and anthropos
you are going to absorb the written version of my talk presented at the ‘Ethno’symposium 2018 in Hamburg (Germany). My motives to apply for this talk were twofold. On the one hand, I was curious about the presentation format – I have never held a 45 minutes long presentation before. On the other hand, I intended to share some insights of my personal developement and discussion of selected, ‘anthropo’logical issues. This talk especially examines the issues of self-designation and self-positioning within the realm of ‘anthropo’logy. In this line of thought, this examination draws on the traditional practice of reflecting on, more or less, contemporary ideals and thereby distils a specific set of ‘anthropo’logical purpose(s) to a greater detail.
From my point of view, ‘anthropo’logies have tremendously influenced the realities of thousands upon thousands of people, and they still do. Basically, this talk aims at contributing to give orientation, though not word-for-word, how ‘anthropo’logy can be understood as a civic component. I suggest that it is sometimes immensely important to think about breaking with regular ideals to pave the way for radical changes and purposes that enable ‘anthropo’logists to (re)adjust to turbulent times more mindfully.
 In terms of methodologies, philosophies, politics, activism, learning, teaching, research, financialisation,..
My name is Emi and I’m a soon-to-be ‘anthropo’logist. I completed my bachelor in Leipzig where I am currently doing my master as well. I’m a part-time social worker (in a youth centre) and particularly interested in playing music (Prisma), taking photos (the analog way), writing plays and lyrics. I’m an active member of the Roter Stern Leipzig. Within this activist sport club, primarily organised in anarchist ways, I play handball and I’m part of the working group ‘support you’ that basically provides conflict management and process support. My favourite research interests are methodology and activism, the histories of ‘anthropo’logies and futurology.
In the following talk, I’m going to present a shortened version of my last paper: Beyond the ethnos and anthropos. Or how anarchist approaches have already changed my methodological toolkit. I wrote this paper as part of a course called ‘Activism: An Anthropological Perspective’, and one of its major goals was to figure out one’s personal stance on activism more concretely. So, we reflected on the question – What is activism for you? – throughout the course and I partly answered this question by writing a paper. And, in fact, I could give an impromptu answer to this question: That activism is a question of attitude towards life and relationally shaped by my methodological toolkit. This may sound rather simplistic, however only on a theoretical level.
I think the significance of methodologies is still unwavering in practice. The way they are designed serves a broad range of scholarly purposes, but they also help to understand the purposes of one’s very own life in general. Methods are not merely tools and techniques of fieldwork but can also be understood as philosophical and activist instruments that can be used for daily analysis when negotiating and reordering one’s networking life.
Historically, ‘ethno’logies and ‘anthropo’logies turned out to be the leading disciplines in refining methodologies and their multiple purposes. I would even say that they could be renamed and referred to as ‘methodologies of arts’. By this I mean that these disciplines have not yet taught me how to find research interests, but they still teach me to analyse them in the best way. So, in this talk I’m going to examine my personal stance on methodology once again, while taking into account my personal stance on activism, too. I basically ask myself: ‘How can I refer to myself while linking activism and research more profoundly?’
In order to approach this question, I immerse myself into three methodological domains: 1) The Writing ‘Culture’ Debate (abbreviated as WCD) that provides one of the most famous methodological turns and aims at unmasking the authority of the author. 2) The Actor-Network-Theory (abbreviated as ANT) that provides one of the most famous methodological inputs and aims at tracing correlations by the use of networks. 3) Anarchist approaches that offer the possibility to horizontally negotiate individual meanings of life instead of governing them (Clastres 1977: 185). I argue that the WCD particularly questions and refines the textualisation and governance of research, while anarchist approaches, by contrast, seek to remove governance, or authority, to use this as a methodological tool to level out power relations and to collaborate with subjects. The ANT, in turn, can be seen as a methodological, not to say activist, response to the WCD and proposes a helpful methodology to understand the shift from us (top) and them (down) towards a networking we. The concept of us and them, in short, points to the idea that there are losers and winners. A networking we, by contrast, points to the idea that we are all in the same boat and relationally shape one another beyond any frontiers and beyond grand and all-encompassing terms and theories.
In order to follow all these aspects, I will, first and foremost, briefly introduce the power-knowledge complex to get a feel for the significance of knowledge politics and the power of knowing. Subsequently, I will examine the WCD to get a feel for the aspirations leading ‘debaters’ have formulated. In the second part, I’m going to discuss the concepts of ‚primitive‘ and ‚modern‘. By doing so, I describe in more detail notions of us and them in order to get an idea how these concepts and the WCD relate to each other. In addition, I will use the ANT to question the concept of a networking we. By doing so, I want you to get a feel how to understand oneself, at least theoretically, within a reality of countless, networking realities and how to go beyond frontiers and all-encompassing theories and terms. Thirdly, I will debate on my own activist methodology by including anarchist approaches. Last but not least, I will conclude and give a brief outlook.
1. A representational crisis
a) Power-knowledge complex
Nowadays, the study of power as a methodological and political element is a quasi-obligatory discourse. Power affects every level of existence and is historically negotiated as well as temporarily manifested through discourses. Thus, power cannot be possessed but only relationally exercised and investigated in practice. In this regard, Claudia Bruns poses a basic question: How does power function as a political technology? (Bruns 2005: 109f.)
Power manifests in negotiation processes that challenge the boundaries of the possible. In other words, power implies a synergetic element, which can be used to act upon boundaries without, ideally, limiting the boundaries of others. Exercising power does not inherently mean that person A* has to give up power in order to empower person B* (Gaventa & Cornwall 2001: 72). So how can the exclusion of actors be identified and strategically prevented, and how can they be included instead? (Bruns 2005: 109)
Power can never be viewed as a final product or isolated component. One basic concept is that power and knowledge inextricably correlate with each other (Gaventa & Cornwall 2001: 70). Gaventa and Cornwall describe the relevance of knowledge as follows: ‘Knowledge, as much as any resource, determines definitions of what is conceived as important, as possible, for and by whom. Through access to knowledge, and participation in its production, use and dissemination, actors can affect the boundaries and indeed the conceptualization of the possible’ (Gaventa & Cornwall 2001: 72). In other words, as Jo Freeman argues: ’The more one knows about how things work and what is happening, the more politically effective one can be’ (Freeman 2013: 245).
In the attempt to unmask power inequalities, it is important to ask who is involved in the discourse on knowledge production. Gaventa and Cornwall therefore call into question how methodologies, in fact, help to maintain power inequalities by monopolising knowledge (Gaventa & Cornwall 2001: 70f.). It raises the following questions: What, in fact, are the strategies that allow for one kind of knowledge to be included while another, however, is excluded? How can discourses on knowledge be linked with each other? (Bruns 2005: 108). To the WCD as well as anarchist approaches, these questions are highly significant.
b) A Writing ‚Culture‘ Debate
The WCD has profoundly shaken the ivory towers for vast numbers of academics from the 1970s onwards. The WCD puts forward a painful subject, similarly to many other disciplines that have emerged during that period of time, such as postcolonialism, poststructuralism, post’modernism’, the concept of ‘post-ism’s’ and the ANT, among others. Power and the representation of others have become a central theme from the researcher’s point of view.
As one of its greatest achievements, the WCD identified a representational crisis of power within the areas of ‘ethno’graphy and writing (Razsa 2015: 6) and therefore aims to gradually unmask the authority of authors, researchers and academics (George Marcus as per Barnard 2004: 170). The WCD is strongly focused on understanding power relations and questions the idea that ‘authentic’ representations of subjects are possible. However, the criticism passed by the WCD appears to be primarily within the area of methodologies, without sufficiently reflecting on the political use of us (top) and them (down). So, it seemed paradoxical to me that, on the one hand, the debate attempts to unmask the authority of the author, while, on the other hand, a representational decision-making process is used in order to achieve this end. How can a representational crisis of power be solved by means of a representational decision-making process? – This is inherently conflicting.
One of the most famous WCD pioneers is Clifford Geertz. His interpretive approach paradigmatically marks a move towards ‘(…) an understanding of the [particularities] of culture as an end in itself’ (Barnard 2004: 162). By reformulating the purposes of ‘anthropo’logy, Geertz argues that the aim of ‘ethno’graphy is to interpretively reveal the strata embedded in a particular set of ‘cultural’ norms and languages by multiple layers of description. In other words, Geertz encourages, at least myself, to read ‘cultures’ as texts, as manuscripts and as systems of symbols and languages (Geertz 1973: 10).
Instead of making large-scale comparisons and driving forward result-oriented research strategies, the WCD intends to reinforce the ‘thick description’ of what is appearing – in depth of details and richness of metaphors (Barnard 2004: 163). By using ‘thick descriptions‘, Geertz aims to understand ‘(…) a stratified hierarchy of meaningful structures (…)’ to uncover knowledge that is ‘(…) produced, perceived, and interpreted, and without which [meaningful structures] would not (…) in fact exist (…)’ (Geertz 1973: 7). Consequently, Geertz sees a direct correlation between meaning, understanding and knowledge, while the researcher’s semiotics co-construct the results of research.
In 1986, the WCD reached its peak in the publication of the book Writing Culture. The Poetics And Politics of Ethnography. This work, edited by James Clifford and George E. Marcus, is based on the conference The Making of Ethnographic Texts, held in Santa Fe, New Mexico in April 1984 (Clifford & Marcus 1986: xxiii). The number of participants was strictly limited to ten and the analysis continued for over a week (Clifford & Marcus 1986: xxiii). One of the conference’s major goals was ‘(…) both to reinterpret cultural anthropology`s recent past and to open up its future possibilities (…) [in order] to come to terms with the politics and poetics of cultural representation’ (Clifford & Marcus 1986: xxiii). This aspiration is still relevant today and underlines, more or less, the discursive character of ‘anthropo’logy.
With regard to Marcus, ‘(…) textualization is at the heart of ethnographic enterprise, both in the field and university settings’ (Marcus 1986: 264). Accordingly, Clifford sceptically reflects on writing in ‘modern’ times, times when Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown or Evans-Pritchard were active. He says that writing in ‘modern’ times was ideologically reduced to ‘(…) keeping good field notes, making accurate maps, ‘writing up’ results’ (Clifford 1986: 2). ‘Modern’ ‘anthropo’logists were, as Razsa indicates, ‘(…) deeply committed to developmentalism. In other words, if for this generation Aborigines, the Nuer and Trobriand Islanders were equally human, at least in biological terms, their social systems were viewed as more simple – in a word, primitive – than ‘complex’ modern societies’ (Razsa 2015: 3). Even though the armchairs had allegedly been left behind, ‘modern’ ‘ethno’graphers still used binoculars to observe and write about the subjects without mindfully taking into account personal influences and political implications. Thus, Clifford argues that ‘[e]ven the best ethnographic texts – serious, true fictions – are systems, or economies, of truth. Power and history work through them, in ways their authors cannot fully control. // Ethnographic truths are thus inherently partial – committed and incomplete’ (Clifford 1986: 7). He further emphasises that ‘(…) the maker (but why only one?) of ethnographic texts cannot avoid expressive tropes, figures, and allegories that select and impose meaning as they translate it’ (Clifford 1986: 7). As a consequence, ‘truths’ are constructed and made possible by the authors’ rhetoric, the tendency to create fiction and power to selectively exclude and include story-elements. So, Marcus calls for a demystification of ‘modern’ conventions and appears to state that the destiny of writing lies in transforming ‘modern’ approaches of textualisation (‘how to write up results’) to a more post‘modern’, critical style of writing (‘how to understand a system of symbols and languages’) (Marcus 1986: 262f.).
Given that ‘ethno’graphic traditions, such as reading and writing, are exploring both their limits and possibilities (Marcus 1986: 266), I do not understand why only few academics took part in the conference. Gaventa and Cornwall would explicitly call this circumstance an act of monopolising knowledge. Even though experimental possibilities were expanded, the reorientation and reinvention of approaches to reading and writing took place without them – research subjects remained unheard and unseen.
In my opinion, this conference, with honest intentions, discussed how discourses on knowledge can be linked and how power inequalities can be levelled out. Geertz considers political power to be manifested in action (Barnard 2004: 163). However, did he and the seminar participants also create their methodologies while in action, or along with research subjects? – In fact, I have not read anything along those lines while researching this paper.
I have gained the impression that the political purpose of the WCD lies in its attempt to reinvent its own ‘modern’ methodologies. I see Geertz’ interpretive approach and the objectives of the conference as attempts to examine the governance of methodologies and to introduce new internal approaches of textualisation from the perspective of those who are in power, even though highly critically. These academics have tried to introduce more creative and more ‘fair’ regulations to the research and representation process. However, unmasking the authority of the authors inherently involves an overcoming of the concept of us and them. Therefore, a representational decision-making process will not solve a representational crisis of power.
In a way, the WCD has built up its own top-down ‘regime of truth’. This appears to be of a continuation of ‘modern’ monologues, which stands in contrast with its objective to introduce post’modern’ dialogues (Barnard 2004: 170). This raises the question: How can one speak of post’modern’ approaches if, before, one has not yet even been ‘modern’? – In order to examine this question, I am going to look in more detail into the concepts of ‘primitive’ and ‘modern’.
2. From us and them to a networking we
a) ‚Primitive‘ and ‚modern‘
At the beginning of my studies in 2012, I attended an introductory course. I was informed about an old, nowadays allegedly uncommon, dualistic way of describing ‘worlds’ – such as the dualistic concept of ‘primitive’ and ‘modern’. What is implied when these words are used? Can one really be ‘primitive’ and/or ‘modern’? How can one speak of post’modern’ approaches if one has not, previously, been ‘modern’ at all?
The adjective ‘modern’ implies praise, to positively refer to a circumstance, to describe something that is not ‘primitive’. According to Bruno Latour, ‘[t]he adjective ‘modern’ designates a new regime, an acceleration, a rupture, a revolution in time. When the word ‘modern’, ‘modernization’, ‘modernity’ appears, we are defining, by contrast, an archaic and stable past’ (Latour 1993: 10). He further says that ‘[m]odernity is often defined in terms of humanism, either as a way of saluting the birth of ‘man’ or as a way of announcing his death. But this habit itself is modern, because it remains asymmetrical’ (Latour 1993: 13). As a result, two contradictions emerge: a) If one tries to level out this asymmetrical condition, one would cease to be ‘modern’ (Latour 1993: 13). b) If one tries to level out this asymmetrical condition, one would have to take part in ‘(…) a quarrel where there are winners and losers, Ancients and Moderns’ (Latour 1993: 13/10). That sounds weird.
‘Modernity’ can be understood as a condition, not as a discourse. The ‘modern’ age comes along with the fetish of having believed in god(s) and deems itself to be, by contrast, just as powerful as god(s) in the present. The notion of being ‘modern’ particularly uncovers a concept of power that is used to implement and legitimise hegemonic aspirations. However, nobody is ‘modern’ or progressive who oppresses, exploits… the other or them in order to realise the own goals, right? – This assumption is, by the definitional approaches of Latour, incorrect and a-’modern’. Finally, it remains to be asked: ‘(…) if modernity were so effective (…), why would it weaken itself today by preventing us from being truly modern?’ (Latour 1993: 12)
The adjective ‘primitive’ implies insult, to negatively refer to a circumstance, to describe something that is not ‘modern’. ‘Primitive’ can be considered as a reference to ‘the other types of culture’, which have failed to proliferate and to conceive hybrids (Latour 1993: 12). Those who are described as ‘primitive’ may be viewed as incomplete, not civilised and implied to lack ‘modern’ state-run governance. – ‘(…) [each larger or smaller collective is] inconceivable without the State’ (Clastres 1977: 159). In other words, ‘[i]t is said that the history of peoples who have a history is the history of [modernists]. It might be said with at least as much truthfulness, that the history of peoples without history is the history of their struggle against [modernisation]’ (Clastres 1977: 185f.).
Furthermore, the use of the word ‘primitive’ implies that there is a timeline from ‘savagery to civilisation’ (Clastres 1977: 160), a rationality of evolution, a finality of development and destiny. Thus ‘[i]n reality, the same old evolutionism remains intact beneath the modern formulations. More subtle when couched in the language of anthropology (…) it is on a level with other categories which claim to be scientific’ (Clastres 1977: 160).
The WCD intends to demystify ‘modern’ conventions while using post’modern’ approaches such as reflexivity, the deconstruction of the self and all-encompassing terms (such as ‘culture’ or ’worldview’) or by profoundly uncovering arrogance and positivist tendencies. However, I’m sceptical because of the ‘post’. ‘[Post‘modernists’] feel that they come ‘after’ the moderns, but with the disagreeable sentiment that there is no more ‘after’. ‘No future’: this is the slogan added to the moderns’ motto ‘No past’. What remains?’ (Latour 1993: 46). How can one claim to be part of on analytical age that comes after an age that has not even started yet?
From Lyotard’s point of view, ‘[p]ostmodernism is a symptom, not a fresh solution.(…) It senses that something has gone awry in the modern critique, but it is not able to do anything but prolong that critique, though without believing in its foundations’ (Lyotard as per Latour 1993: 46). Even if ‘[p]ostmodernism constitutes a critique of all ‘modern’ understandings’, even if those who call themselves post’modernists reject grand theory and the notion of completeness in description (Barnard 2004: 168), ‘[n]o one has ever been modern. Modernity has never begun. There has never been a modern world’ (Latour 1993: 47). Latour identifies the very moment when ‘modernists’ fail to explain a phenomenon by means of, for example, the dualistic categorisation of ‘primitive’ and ‘modern’, as the beginning of critics to seek refuge in post’modern’ approaches. So, he discovers ‘(…) that the explanations had not yet begun (…,) that we have never been (…) critical (…,) that we have never really left the old anthropological matrix behind (…)’ (Latour 1993: 47).
Geertz’ famous essay Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture (1973) hints on what the ANT has started to focus on: The idea of a networking we. Correspondingly, Geertz says that ‘[t]he concept of culture I espouse (…) is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning’ (Geertz 1973: 5). In the following, I am going to take up this impulse.
b) Actor Network Theory
The ANT is a methodology and philosophy that provides approaches to go beyond grand theory and terms as well as the dualistic opposition of us and them. Emerging at the end of the 1970s, Bruno Latour, John Law and Michel Callon established a methodical way of thinking that is still influencing a vast number of academics of various disciplines today. According to Law, the ANT is not a theory but an ‚intellectual technology‘ that asks for how instead why things appear (Law 2009: 141-149). In the attempt to trace and associate ‘thick relations’ and how things appear, I differentiate between two perspectives on how to use networks as analytical approaches. On the one hand, there are materials such as any sort of knowledge, beings, things, even words or newspapers. More precisely, that which can be understood as a piece of material is what animates (actors) and what can be animated (actants). On the other hand, there are semiotics that allow to relationally and discursively track the arrangement of materials and how actors put them into practice within the architecture of a specific network (Law 2009: 146).
In sum, the ANT is a useful methodology for five reasons: 1) The ANT allows to trace the actions and motives of actors and actants, 2) allows to trace how actors and actants relationally create meaning by the translation and application of their own predispositions, 3) allows to trace the way they heterogeneously reinvent themselves, 4) allows to trace how actors and actants are involved in the hybridisation of their selves (Latour 1993: 10f.) and 5) the ANT emphasises the infrastructural analysis of individual collectives. An individual collective can be understood as a specific composition of actors and actants in the shape of a single network.
In this light, all-encompassing terms such as ‘culture’, ‘truth’, ‘nationality’ or ‘social’ lose their descriptive relevance and precision. Accordingly, there is no ‘culture’ of a collective, but, instead, there are things a collective has already done to negotiate and reinvent the boundaries of its hybridisation. These acts can be considered, or are commonly referred to as, ‘cultural’ expressions (Law 2009: 147/153). Thus, we are becoming hybrids beyond the scope of mere ‘culture’, ‘truth’, ‘nationality’ or ‘social’ – which are ambiguous but contemporary terms. This ambiguity is that which Latour challenges by questioning, as an example, the use of the word ‘social’. Latour argues that ‘[w]e[?] are no longer sure about what ‚we‘ means; we[?] seem to be bound by ‚ties‘ that don’t look like regular social ties’ (Latour 2005: 6). He points out that ‘(…) the social could explain the social (…)’ and ‘(…) [t]he social seems to be diluted everywhere and yet nowhere in particular’. The meaning of ‘social’ is diminished constantly and implies a homogenisation and simplification rather than a specification of what the ‘social’ may actually entail (Latour 2005: 2-6.). Latour therefore suggests a refinement of the word ‘social’ by proposing to trace and associate what appears to be ‘social’ and thereby glued together (Latour 2005: 5).
By describing of what appears to be ‘social’, a radical relativist approach can be substantiated – as a possibility to grasp the trails, inner logics and the movements of individual collectives (Latour: 2005: 12). Finally, Latour describes the role of a researcher as follows: ‘Your task is no longer to impose some order, to limit the range of acceptable entities, to teach actors what they are, or to add some reflexivity to their blind practice. Using a slogan from ANT, you have ‚to follow the actors themselves’ (Latour 2005: 11f.).
The ANT is a non-‘modern’ methodology and philosophy that allows to trace and associate a networking we, hierarchies, symbols, meaning, power relations or authorities without, however, politicising its perspectives in the sense of activist techniques. To be frank, the activist thrill is what I find to be lacking in both the WCD and ANT. In accordance with Bruns’ question of how discourses of knowledge can be linked (Bruns 2005: 108), the key issue of the following chapter is called: How can I, as a soon-to-be ‘anthropo’logist, not only refer to myself but link discourses on knowledge horizontally, as opposed to doing so in a ‘modern’, paternalistic way?
3. Beyond the ethnos and anthropos
a) Anarchist approaches
Anarchism can be understood as ‘(…) a commitment to certain principles rather than a specific utopian goal, a commitment to means rather than ends’ (Razsa 2015: 2). According to Graeber, anarchist approaches allow for a reinvention and experimentation with anti-authoritarian and non-violent modes of decision-making to achieve maximum effective solidarity and mutual aid (Graeber 2002: 71). Although there are no generally binding principles that are in place among the numerous variations of anarchism, there are several methodological and philosophical overlappings. I would like to mention five principles that are relevant to my understanding of and feeling anarchism: 1) I personally like the way Clastres’ interpretation of anarchism is grasped by Razsa: ‘(…) [I]f humans are to preserve their autonomy, they must collectively create, cultivate, and maintain a range of practices that actively avert, ward off, and refuse the emergence of authority’ (Razsa 2015: 3). 2) Anarchy can be literally translated as ‘the absence of governance’, while anarchism, as analytical, organisational and activist approach, emphasises a decentralisation of power (Degen & Knoblauch 2008: 10). 3) Anarchism offers the possibility to horizontally negotiate individual meanings of life instead of governing them (Clastres 1977: 185). 4) Including Gaventa and Cornwall, anarchism aims at avoiding the perpetuation of power inequalities by monopolisations of knowledge. It is my understanding that anarchist approaches allow for a communitarisation of knowledge instead of its privatisation. Therefore, it is about the empowerment of individuals for the sake of becoming a collective, rather than about a collective that is represented and governed by individuals. 5) So, the way anarchist approaches allow to manage the use of the power-knowledge complex implies transformative characteristic, although it is difficult to handle. In this regard, I like Bruns’ argument that every intervention, an expression of transformative intentions, is based on an understanding of the underlying power relations to be able to articulate resistance; whether in a smaller or bigger dimension. She says that resistance fighters, or activists, are, in a way, subjected to the power relations that are currently in place, however, these fighters are those who finally dynamise and point to a set of discourses of political disharmony (Bruns 2005: 110). Therefore, being an anarchist is also about to gradually take direct action and use approaches that allow to collectively challenge the boundaries of the possible and thereby, as Graber would say, reinvent daily lives as a whole (Graeber 2002: 70).
b) An anarchist praxeology
The founding and histories of ‘ethno’logies and ‘anthropo’logies can also be described as the continual struggle with one’s own constitutional burden. This is something I appreciate. However, during the writing process of this paper, I have wondered yet again: Can I reinvent the meaning of a word, such as ‘ethno’logies or ‘anthropo’logies, without changing the actual word?
In my view, the WCD has attempted to do so. Although the WCD has aspired greatly to break through the concept of us and them, the WCD has merely refined the governance of methodologies, while not, however, radically reinvent its knowledge politics. Thus, the mere academic project of being a ‘good’ writer (Marcus 1986: 265) unmasks what the WCD has overlooked: being a ‘good’ activist beyond the definitional supremacy of ‘modernity’ and dualistic norms and modes.
Although the ANT does not claim to be an inherently activist technology, it does offer the possibility to trace the creation of a networking we from non-’modern’ angles. In relation to the WCD and ANT, the adoption of anarchist approaches allows foundational aspects of both to merge. There are five key arguments to support this. 1) Anarchist approaches aspire to achieve a horizontal decision-making process, which the WCD has, in a way, regarded as strictly necessary. 2) The horizontal epistemology provides the possibility to communitise knowledge and thereby aims at distributing the powerfulness of knowledge as a means and indicator of political effectiveness (Freeman 2013: 245). 3) The communitarisation and distribution of knowledge are presuppositions of direct participation and thereby promote the decentralisation of power. Point 2+3 can be seen as highly important to prevent and critically discuss and reappraise disharmonies of power relations. 4) Anarchist approaches stimulate the creation of a networking we, while the ANT, in turn, provides the analytical modes of untangling individual collectives. 5) Anarchism is accompanied with the possibility to uncover, reflect, discuss and transform ways of becoming a networking we and how networks may become a discursive home for individuals and hybrids beyond grand definitional theories and terms. In fact, anarchist approaches have reinvented my personal perception of being an ‘anthropo’logist paradigmatically.
Reading anarchist texts and writing about it have refined my understanding of the politics-activism complex. Accordingly, I wrote my bachelor thesis and one of my first MA papers on the subject
that being political is unavoidable – whatever, whenever, wherever you do something. Today I can see that this suggestion is still proved correct. In relation to activism, this suggestion, however, is unsustainable. Any move is political, but it does not mean that every move is necessarily of activist character. To me, activism is a willingness to, more or less, consciously change and open yourself up to the process of reinvention that recreates, to a certain degree, your life as well as the lives of collaborators (Graeber 2002: 70). Activism does not only require things to be done differently, and does not only require you to be open for new forms of organisation at the root of yourself, but requires you to keep in mind the long-term effects of your own and collective actions and lifestyles. Thus, activism is not a matter of being active only in relation to particular events, but day in and day out. For these reasons, anarchist approaches highlight the responsibility of intertwining politics and activism while demystifying the assumption that the ‘amplitude of power’ could either shift to the private or to the public space, to the space of work or to the non-working space (Bruns 2005: 109). So, as I would say that knowledge is the key element for ‘anthropo’logists to work with, the privilege of not having to be an activist, of not having to distribute knowledge as a common good, of not having to debate decision-making processes, is a powerful instrument to carry out ‘participant observations‘ only. It does emphasise a certain kind of ‚academic sensationalism‘ and reminds me of touristic adventures in ‘modern’ times.
Referring to the headline of this paper, Beyond the ethnos and anthropos, I think that the use of ‘ethno’logies and ‘anthropo’logies as terms and concepts seems to be terminologically outdated, not to say fully useless at least for the purpose of reappraising their historical importance. I have often felt the need to use all-encompassing terms such as ‘culture’, ‘nationality’ or ‘social’ in order to keep a conversation going, whether at home or at university. I have often observed the homogenisation and simplification of something that, in fact, has to be described, discussed and interpreted more specifically. Furthermore, when thinking about the future prospects of both ‘ethno’logies and ‘anthropo’logies, I feel tremendously exhausted. While discussing how to release them from their traumata, such as colonialism, imperialism, spreading capitalism, neoliberalism and developmentalism, it appears to me that respective practices are still fundamental to them. There is still a widespread winner-loser complex, so to say. On these grounds, to me, the pain threshold is reached. I recognised that, to a certain degree, both the ethnos and anthropos are a burden on my daily life and research activities, and that I must part with them – just like in a relationship when there is no space to move anymore. And I think that this split is helpful in the attempt to collectively reinvent something new.
With regard to the question – ‘How can I, as a soon-to-be ‘anthropo’logist, not only refer to myself but link discourses on knowledge horizontally, as opposed to doing so in a ‘modern’, paternalistic way?’ – I rename and refer to myself differently from now on in order to gradually shake off any connotations of ‘ethno’logies and ‘anthropo’logies. In one word, I’m going beyond the ethnos and anthropos and call myself an anarcho-praxeologist. This methodology aims to innovate approaches, as, for example, suggested by the WCD and ANT, by additionally including anarchist strategies as demonstrated before. Besides, the ‘anarcho’ stands for transformative, horizontal and activist properties. I choose ‘praxeologist’ (praxeology and praxeography) due to the fact that I intend to change, reflect, understand and discuss nothing except how discourses and all the potential complexes come into practice and vice versa.
4. Conclusion + Outlook
On finishing this paper, I have five conclusions to make: 1) I found out that the dualistic concept of us and them is particularly maintained by the asymmetrical categorisation of ‘modern’ and ‘primitive’. This categorisation can be understood as another ‘anthropo’logical matrix that negotiates discourses authoritatively and entails the inherent otherness of subjects. 2) The WCD has particularly questioned and refined the textualisation and the governance of methodologies instead of radically reinventing its ‘modern’ knowledge politics – entirely lacking the perspectives and voices of subjects. 3) I realised, by contrast, that anarchist approaches seek to remove governance to use this as a methodological tool to unmask the authority of authors. The ANT, in turn, provides analytical modes to unmask authorities and individual networks beyond grand definitional theories and terms. 4) Especially anarchist approaches have altered my notions of how to conduct research and live my life ‘(…) without using modern metaphysics as vantage point [necessarily]’ (Latour 1993: 15). I have, at least temporarily, changed my methodological toolkit and refer to myself now as an anarcho-praxeologist in order to merge activism and research more profoundly. 5) Finally, I realised that radical transformation requires methodologies that implies a horizontal character (Razsa 2015: 1).
My closing words: What I would like to add is the notion that the more knowledge is distributed, the more effectively and powerfully actors can participate in discourses at eye level. This is what my activist aspiration is also focused on and a major reason why I have applied for this talk. I know that there is a range of difficulties relating to contemporary discourses and the future of your discipline(s), such as the commodification of knowledge, hierarchisation and policing within the education sector, competition, colonial politics – the list is endless. But in 2014, when I went to Vienna and the ‘Ethno’symposium, the title ‘KSA – WhatTheFuck’ has already called attention to the need of discussing and challenging the futures of ‘ethno’logies and ‘anthropo’logies. What I want to say is that I was fairly surprised about reading the title of this symposium. I knew that I heard it already somewhere else, while it shows, by contrast, the significance to give orientation in what are nice methodologies and purposes of your discipline(s). So, from here on, my idea is to open a forum, a future lab, to debate on, at least, two aspects beyond the regular symposium: a) Contemporary issues and the future of ‘ethno’logies and ‘anthropo’logies. b) Your futures and actions that may be carried out and organised (in praxeological ways). I think, if there is a driving force of change and learning, then I just have to support the making of learning and change sustainably. Going beyond the ethnos and anthropos means, to me, to go beyond a textualisation-centred research as well. If writings were so brilliant, then why have they not yet changed ‘top-down regimes’ and ‘modern’ ways of life profoundly?
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Emanuel Rogge is a student of the MA Anthropology Program at the University of Leipzig. His primary research interests are methodology and activism, the histories of ‚anthropo’logies as well as futurology. He currently conducts research on university education and takes a closer look at a network of resistance fighters. Over the course of this research, Emanuel radically seeks to understand how far he can push the limits of a discipline that, from his anarchist point of views, obsessively reflects, researches, talks and writes about change, rather than supports transformation processes in person.