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Ontology as an anthropological tool: limits and potentialities

  • Cristobal Bonelli (Uva) & Peter Versteeg (VU)
Friday 24 March 2023
Vrije Universiteit - Amsterdam

Particpation is free, but registration is mandatory.


Ontology as an anthropological tool

This master class entitled Ontology as an anthropological tool: limits and potentialities will be devoted to critically think about  a contemporary and often contentious theoretical orientation and methodological sensibility  pertaining to the so-called 'ontological turn' in anthropology, science and technology studies and beyond.

Inspired by key texts concerning the relevance of ontology, this class invites students to think not only about how and why it might be relevant to put questions of ontology at the heart of anthropological inquiry, but aso to ponder the possible political implications ‘ontological sensibilities’ might trigger in the many worlds we face as etnographers.

In the first part of this master class, guest lectures will introduce themselves by offering a  short story-telling exercise on how they encountered ontological ideas in their paths and how these ideas have opened up novel ways of thinking and dealing with enthographic materials. Lectures will particularly focus on how ontological reasoning has enabled  “the otherwise” to be taken seriously and, at the same time, rendered it ethnographically accountable. Followed by an active discussion of four relevant texts, students will be encouraged to think about their own research concerns and dilemmas by mobilizing ontological sensibilies. To which extent are these ontological ideas and sensibilities  suitable conceptual and methodological tools to be mobilized in your own research?


Please read the following texts:

Bonelli, C. (2012). Ontological disorders: nightmares, psychotropic drugs and evil spirits in southern Chile. Anthropological Theory, 12(4), 407-426.

Viveiros de Castro, E. (2004) . Perspectival anthropology and the method of controlled equivocation.

Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 2
( 1 ): 3 – 22 .

Bruun Jensen, C. (2012). “Anthropology as a Following Science: Humanity and Sociality in Continuous Variation.” NatureCulture 1: 1-24

Blaser, Mario (2016). Is Another Cosmopolitics Possible? Cultural Anthropology 31:4, 545–570

This masterclass is part of the course Contemporary Anthropology of the Netherlands School of Anthropology. 

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