Tag: ontology

Fetishes or Cyborgs? Religion as technology in the Afro-Atlantic space

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) Afro-Brazilian religions like Candomblé, Umbanda or Xangô, are a cluster of religious practices that originated mostly in West Africa, especially in Yorubaland (Nigeria and Benin), but also in Congo and Angola. Similar to other Afro-diasporic religions (i.e. Vodou in Haity and Santeria in Cuba), Candomblé shares many elements with West African traditional religious practices, like the names and characteristics of their deities (called orixás in Brazilian Portuguese and òrìṣà in Yoruba). These deities embody elements of the natural landscape and atmospheric phenomena that are regarded as personas with their own material and spiritual agency. However, in the whole Afro-Atlantic space the most important common trait is the presence fabricated objects. After a ritual procedure they become the bodies and the material manifestation of the deities themselves. These objects, often referred to as “fetishes,” represent the point of mediation between the material and the spiritual world (Meyer 2012: 15). Indeed, Western conception of materiality is often charged with moral implications, opposed to the pure and transcendent qualities of the spirit (Espírito Santo 2010). Conversely, in Afro-Atlantic religions, objects, elements and atmospheric phenomena are considered to be alive or to have a certain individuality, will or personality, in a way that the scientific Western thought would consider unacceptable. (read more...)

Naming the Virus, Becoming the Virus: Affective Forces of Threat from Hà Nội to Atlanta and the Possibility for Anti-Racist Solidarities

“Chống dịch như chống giặc” (“Fight the pandemic like an invader”) has become Vietnam’s slogan in its battle against COVID-19. From the pandemic’s onset until April 2021, Vietnam performed exceptionally in halting the viral spread and preventing deaths from COVID-19. While COVID-19’s origin remains contested, Vietnam’s 1,306km border with China posed an acute risk during the first wave in early 2020. Defying odds, Vietnam kept the virus at bay. With a low case load and death count between Jan 2020 – June 2020, Vietnam stood out from its northern neighbor, China, as well as other European countries and the United States. Simply crediting Vietnam’s success to an authoritarian regime misses a deeper distrust of the Chinese government within Vietnam. This distrust stems from the historical colonization of China over Vietnam and imminent military and sovereignty threats posed in the East Sea (or the South China Sea) over the Spratly and Paracel Islands. (read more...)

AAA 2014 STS Recap

This year’s American Anthropological Association Meeting saw a number of active CASTAC and STS-inspired panels, many of which featured scholars from our own community. We discussed engaging with the Anthropocene, which is becoming a hot new topic, perhaps replacing the ontological focus from last year. Panelists explored whether this term is the “gift” that Latour proposes. The meeting also saw fascinating explorations of issues in design and elitism, as well as theoretical and methodological issues that we must all consider when moving our research trajectory from “studying up” to “studying with.” (read more...)

2013 GAD Distinguished Lecture: Bruno Latour

This year the General Anthropology Division (GAD) welcomed Bruno Latour as its Distinguished Lecturer at the 112th Annual Meeting of the AAA. Latour’s talk, “What Is the Recommended Dose of Ontological Pluralism for a Safe Anthropological Diplomacy?” was recorded on video, presented here with my opening remarks. Latour has been at Sciences Po Paris since 2007, first serving five years as Vice President of Research before returning to the faculty as Professor. Latour’s work is as expansive as it is influential, crossing disciplinary boundaries from science and technology studies, to anthropology and archaeology, religion, architecture, and environmental studies as readily as the humans and objects Latour connects into large agential networks in his actor-network theory, or ANT.  Professor Latour’s research began with his doctoral work on Biblical exegesis.  He then moved to studies of science that brought ethnography into a scientific laboratory leading to his books Laboratory Life (1979), co-authored with Steve Woolgar, The Pasteurization of France (1988), and the widely influential Science In Action (1987). (read more...)