Back to the future
HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons | © Bruce Kapferer. Comment on Descola, Philippe. 2013. Beyond nature and culture. Translated by Janet Lloyd with a foreword by Marshall Sahlins. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Marshall Sahlins in his Foreword recognizes Philippe Descola as the return of the prodigal: Beyond nature and culture (2013a) expressing a coming back to prominence of Claude Lévi-Strauss' grand anthropological structuralist project. But the emperor has new clothes.
... This book is poststructuralist, perhaps more accurately neostructuralist, which rides the New Wave of antianthropocentric and sociocentric orientations that are distanced from and opposed to previous anthropologies. It is structuralism refurbished and perhaps with grander objectives than the earlier manifestation. Descola aims to clear away the barriers to Lévi-Strauss' ambitions for a truly unified anthropological understanding of human being-particularly that of the nature/culture opposition. This is integral to many dominant orientations in the human sciences, usually Euro/American in origin, and contributes to the reproduction of prevailing scientifically-based interpretations of human practice that destroys their potential for humanity's self-understanding in general. Such dualism as it defeated the attainment of Lévi-Strauss's own magnificent project inhibits anthropology's acceptance and contribution within the halls of science as many of its other features (its socio-centricity, for instance) may stop it from fully realizing the significance of the approaches and findings in other scientific areas. This last has been a major point of debate in the discipline; Lévi-Strauss and Bateson, for example, argued for greater openness to other nonhuman areas of enquiry. Descola says he is for a monist anthropology that does not subscribe to the disciplinary limits of the past. Beyond nature and culture is a work for anthropology