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Lecture | Dean's Lecture

Figuring Relations: an anthropological approach

  • Professor Philippe Descola (Coll├Ęge de France)
20 September 2018
Dean's Lectures
Van Steenis Building
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden

Iconic depiction can be used, among other things, to trigger and organise memory, to convey information and to express emotions. Beyond these universal functions, however, it also has the power of rendering present and active in images specific sets of ontological properties, i.e. culturally contrasted systems of qualities ascribed to things in the world.

If reduced to their basic structural properties as products of different inferential processes, ontologies are quite limited in number: they can be predicated on the continuity of interiorities and the discontinuity of physicalities (animism), on the discontinuity of interiority and the continuity of physicalities (naturalism), on the continuity of interiorities and physicalities (totemism) or on their discontinuity (analogism).

These modes of identification find their expression in the making of images in that they qualify and make visible the type of entities that are perceptually salient in a given ontological context, the nature of their agency, the relations that these entities entertain and the properties which they convey.

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