The ground between: Anthropologists engage philosophy by Das Veena, Michael Jackson, Arthur Kleinman, & Bhrigupati Singh, eds.

Author:Luminais, Misty
Position:Book review
 
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Das, Veena, Michael Jackson, Arthur Kleinman, and Bhrigupati Singh, eds. The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014. viii + 351 pages. Paperback, $26.95.

In The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy, the editors bring together established anthropologists to elicit nuanced illustrations of the ways in which philosophy is applied, stretched, or even reimagined by experienced practitioners. The editors seek to answer the question, "How do philosophical concepts figure in the making of anthropological knowledge, and what constitutes philosophy for us non-philosophers in this sense?" (p. 20-1). Because the authors ground their discussion of philosophy in particular experiences, whether that be in the field, in the process of writing ethnography, or reflecting back on work written decades earlier, the reader gets a sense of how each author is engaged with philosophical concepts.

As an anthology, this work spans geographical location and scholarly approach but remains united in its concentration on the interplay between the two disciplines. Broadly speaking, different chapters address issues of ethics, the nature of habit, and the relationship between being and thinking. Each author articulates a different perspective on the place of philosophy. Michael Jackson, reflecting on the unexplored discursive relationship between ethnography and philosophy, views philosophy "not as a method for forming concepts but as a strategy for distancing ourselves from the world of immediate experience-social as well as sensory-in order to gain some kind of perspective or purchase on it" (p. 28), in some ways seeing anthropology and philosophy as complementary. By contrast, Didier Fassin endorses "a form of respectful and loyal treason [that] is justified every time it produces something interestingly new in the process of translation from one discipline to another" (p. 52), suggesting that neither the anthropologist nor the philosopher must reproduce the other's mentation with fidelity, but rather that the generative possibility of combining the two stems from the mismatch between the real and the ideal. Not content to see the flow between philosophy and anthropology as unidirectional, Joao Biehl states, "Through ethnographic rendering, people's own theorizing of their conditions may leak into, animate, and challenge present-day regimes of veridiction, including philosophical universals and...

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