Anthropology of Space: Explorations into the Natural Philosophy and Semantics of the Navajo

Anthropology of Space: Explorations into the Natural Philosophy and Semantics of the Navajo

Anthropology of Space: Explorations into the Natural Philosophy and Semantics of the Navajo

Anthropology of Space: Explorations into the Natural Philosophy and Semantics of the Navajo

Excerpt

I did fieldwork among Navajo Indians for ten months (1976-77). The complexity and beauty of Navajo thought and culture often fascinated me, during and after the actual fieldwork. My combined philosophical and anthropological background may have helped me in some instances to grasp the Navajo perspective on the problems talked about; it may have been a mere hindrance in other instances. In this study I present a complex analysis of Navajo spatial semantics and natural philosophy, with some pretensions to depth in analysis. The treatise may, in places, appear rather unusual for the anthropologist, and it is certainly quite uncommon to philosophers. I hope that the gap between armchair and fieldwork research is what strikes both, and the present work offers at least an attempt to bridge the traditional separation between the two "kinds" of work. In particular, I concentrate on the concepts of "space" and "nature" in the Navajo knowledge system, because I believe these concepts (and others) to be of importance in both disciplines.

In this Introduction I will give a point-by-point survey of several theoretical views we share. This is done in order to enable the reader to understand clearly the theoretical context in which the work grew and from which the discussions arose. At the end of the Introduction I will very briefly outline the structure of the content of the book.

Anthropological Position

I explicitly claim to work within cognitive anthropology proper. But, while this kind of study tends to concentrate on applications of sophisticated methodological principles and models on pretty well-defined subjects, the present work takes a different position.

I share the general interest of cognitive anthropologists (ethnoscientists, ethnosemanticists, and others) in knowledge. I agree also that the study of community can sensibly and profitably focus on its system of knowledge. Indeed, I believe that knowledge systems are of a central concern to man as an agent, a knower, and a perceiver; the study of the cultural knowledge system consequently gives important insights into the behavioral, linguistic, and . . .

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