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Making

Anthropology, Archaeology, Art, and Architecture

by Tim Ingold

Last tended to May 10, 2020

Tim proposes that the only way to know things is through a process of self-discovery.
Formal instruction is only a pretence of true knowing, as becomes apparent the minute you try to actually do something.

This lesson came from his time studying among the Saami in Finland.
The Saami are fishers, hunters, and herders - for them you don't learn through movement. Knowing is movement.

"To know things you have to grow into them, and let them grow in you, so that they become a part of who you are"

It's through embodied watched, listening, feeling, a "process of active following, of going along... by paying attention to what the world has to tell us"

Gregory Bateson - an anthropologist and cybernetician - called it deutero-learning - it "aims not so much to provide us with facts about the world as to enable us to be taught by it."

In anthropology we study with people in order to learn from them

Geologists study among rocks, botanists stay among plants, and so anthropologists study among humans. We find our answers by attending to what lies before us in the world. Not by looking up official facts in textbooks

Ecological psychologist James Gibson called this an "education of attention".

Anthropology is the "the most anti-academic of academic disciplines"

  • From the beginning the mission of anthropology has been to upend the academic belief system that holds reason, expertise, and conclusions from facts as vastly superior to intuition, common sense, everyday experience, and generational wisdom

Anthropology is different to ethnography where we document the lives and histories of communities

Anthropology and ethnography are fundamentally different. One is learning from people by studying with them. The other is learning about people and creating a written record of it.

"description of the people’ is what ethnography (from ethnos = ‘people’; graphia = ‘description’) literally means"

Ethnography is documentation while anthropology is transformation

"no genuine transformation in ways of thinking and feeling is possible that is not grounded in close and attentive observation"

Ingold argues we cannot divorce theory from context. This goes back to C. Wright Mills claiming that we can't separate ways and means of knowing theory and method are inherently intertwined.

Participant observation and Ethnography specially describes things as they are, but anthropology is different. It opens up "a space for generous, open ended, comparative yet critical inquiry into the conditions and potential of human life"

By understanding what life is currently like in particular times and places, it collaborates with people to help them speculate what life might or could be like. This speculative approach has often taken a backseat to academic approaches that simply want to "produce knowledge"

Tim laments that anthropology seems to get reduced to ethnography - simply collecting data to analyse later. Rather than considering the anthropological literature the data, and the practice of being with participants to collaboratively think the creation part.

"Participant observation is a way of knowing from the inside"

The notion that we "extract" data from the world suggests we can reconstruct knowledge from the outside of an experience. It disregards our direct, personal experiences with our surroundings, based in sensory understanding.

The alleged paradox of participant observation being both inside and outside their community, mirrors the eternal debate over humans as both part of and separate from nature.

Scientists constantly try to remove themselves from being in the world, using protocols that allow them to know in ways that are purposefully removed from a specific context. A phenomenon clearly laid out in much of Bruno Latour's work.

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