By Ruth Behar
Eloquently interweaving ethnography and memoir, award-winning anthropologist Ruth Behar bargains a brand new thought and perform for humanistic anthropology. She proposes an anthropology that's lived and written in a private voice. She does so within the desire that it'll lead us towards better intensity of figuring out and feeling, not just in modern anthropology, yet in all acts of witnessing.
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Nevertheless he reads Heidegger (as Heidegger himself read Nietzsche) as occupying the role of “last metaphysician”, one who strove to overturn or transvalue that history while remaining captive to some of its predominant motifs (see especially Heidegger 1979). For on this account Heidegger failed to think through his “destruction” of onto-theological concepts and categories to the point where they might have opened on to that moment of the ethical encounter with otherness before “philosophy” as such, and before even the obscure intimations of a long-lost primordial Being that Heidegger sought to reveal (Heidegger 1962, 1993).
It thus falls in very readily with the current high vogue among cultural and literary theorists for talk of “otherness”, “difference”, “radical alterity” and the like. Such talk derives partly from poststructuralist sources, no doubt through some vague analogy with Saussure’s theory of language as a differential system of contrasts and relationships “without positive terms”. g. historical, social or cognitively oriented) modes of human concern (Levinas 1969, 1981). In particular it calls for a radical break with what Levinas views as the dominant tradition of Western (post-Hellenic) thought, that which locates epistemology – or the subject-centred quest for knowledge and truth – at the heart of philosophical endeavour.
For in their case also it is taken as read – with frequent (overt or implicit) reference to Heidegger – that “reason” equates tout court with the monologic discourse of instrumental (meansend) rationality, and hence that there can be no moral distinctions worth making between its various malign manifestations. The same tendency is visible in certain forms of “depthecological” approach to issues of environmental concern, arguments that likewise draw inspiration from Heidegger, and whose upshot – very often – is to implicate not only “science” or “reason” but the entire realm of human activities and purposes in a so-far unexpiated history of crimes against the natural and animal world.
The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart by Ruth Behar