Phenomenology in Anthropology: A Sense of Perspective

Phenomenology in Anthropology: A Sense of Perspective

Phenomenology in Anthropology: A Sense of Perspective

Phenomenology in Anthropology: A Sense of Perspective


This volume explores what phenomenology adds to the enterprise of anthropology, drawing on and contributing to a burgeoning field of social science research inspired by the phenomenological tradition in philosophy. Essays by leading scholars ground their discussions of theory and method in richly detailed ethnographic case studies. The contributors broaden the application of phenomenology in anthropology beyond the areas in which it has been most influential--studies of sensory perception, emotion, bodiliness, and intersubjectivity--into new areas of inquiry such as martial arts, sports, dance, music, and political discourse.


Phenomenology in Anthropology: a Sense of Perspective continues a dialogue with previous debates in phenomenological anthropology by incorporating invited and original contributions from earlier participants in that debate, including Robert Desjarlais, Thomas Csordas, and Jason Throop. the volume has been further enriched by Michael Jackson’s generous contribution of an afterword, in which he reflects on his earlier insights into phenomenological anthropology as well as on continuities or changes in his present engagement with it.

This book has its practical origins in a shared intellectual endeavor. Many of the essays found here were written first for presentation at the staff seminar of the Anthropology Department at Macquarie University, when contributors were asked to explore the phenomenological dimensions of social life in their respective fieldwork locations. Invited contributors read each other’s work, building upon ideas developed in this dialogue to fill out various dimensions of the broad convergence of anthropology and phenomenology. Contributors then engaged as a group with these central methodological issues, each breathing diversity and fresh life into these broad questions by bringing their own area of empirical enquiry and thematic preoccupations to bear on them. Through this joint collaboration, we hope to have shown that phenomenology speaks to a broader range of methodological questions and empirical fields of enquiry than is oft en recognized.

The editors wish to thank the Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University for its generous support toward the publication of this volume. Most importantly, we acknowledge the collegiality and enthusiasm of our colleagues in the Department of Anthropology, who have helped make the organizing and writing of this work an absolute pleasure.

We dedicate this book to Ian Bedford, cherished husband of Kalpara Ram who passed away while it was in production. As founding member of the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University, novelist, and translator of eighteenthcentury Urdu Sufi poetry from South Asia, he helped shape generations of students and colleagues and touched many more with his erudition, humanity, and sheer enthusiasm for ideas. Those who had the great fortune to be supervised by him came to know first-hand the importance he placed on good writing. For, to quote from his contribution to this volume, “Many a good utterance on the page is heard, is listened for. Part of the task of comprehension lies in this listening. Part of the force of language lies in a superfluity at the heart of language. How many essaywriting students have had to be taught that it is not only the facts to be reported, the bare bones of the argument on the page, but the cadence that matters!”

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