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  To: ‘Cultures do not exist’: Exploding self-evidences in the research of interculturality

(c) 1999 Wim M.J. van Binsbergen

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1 Cf elsewhere in the present website for my vitae and list of publications. This paper is to be presented at the Conference: ‘Les sciences sociales en Afrique: Regards rétrospectifs et prospectifs’, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, France/ MSH/ Université Laval, Quebec, Canada, 17-19 May, 1999. I am indebted to Bogumil Koss and the other organisers of the present conference for accommodating my participation at a very late stage; to the Trust Fund, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, for funding the original book publication of this text in Dutch, as well as for funding the trip to South Africa in the course of which an earlier version of the present paper was presented; and to the Human Sciences Research Council, Pretoria, South Africa, for an opportunity of sharing my current research in interculturality.

2 This is a provisional English translation of the text as presented during the inaugural ceremony, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 21st January, 1999. A far more extensive version was published in Dutch as: Culturen bestaan niet: Het onderzoek van multiculturaliteit als het openbreken van vanzelfsprekendheden, Rotterdam: Rotterdamse FiIosofische Studies, XXIV, Philosophical Faculty. Cf the present website: 'Inaugural lecture' page.

3 Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., & Doornbos, M.R., 1987, ‘De handbagage van Afrikanisten: Een bespiegeling’, in: Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., & Doornbos, M.R., ed., Afrika in spiegelbeeld, Haarlem: In de Knipscheer, pp. 229-245.

4 The ‘Christian’ or ‘common’ era is a hegemonic North Atlantic concept whose particularism we should not dissimulate. As is the case with so many hegemonic concepts, it reveals its hegemonic nature precisely by its unfounded but taken-for-granted claim of universalism.

5 Kant, I., 1983, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781/1787), deel III & IV van: Kant, I., Werke in zehn Bänden, Weischedel, W., ed., Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft.

6 Notably that of the ‘politics of recognition’; cf. Taylor, C., 1992, Multiculturalism and ‘the politics of recognition’, Princeton: University of Princeton Press.

7 For formulations of classic cultural relativism, cf. Herskovits, M.J., 1973, Cultural relativism: Perspectives in cultural pluralism, ed. Herskovits, F., New York: Random House; Nowell-Smith, P.H., 1971, ‘Cultural relativism’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1: 1-17; Rudolph, W., 1968, Der kulturelle Relativismus, Berlin: Drucker & Humblot; Tennekes, J., 1971, Anthropology, relativism and method: An inquiry into the methodological principles of a science of culture, Assen: Van Gorcum. In many respects, the problematic of cultural relativism is the mirror image of the problematic of interculturality; the field is too complex than to expect that justice will be done to it in the present, limited context. For an interesting exploration, cf. Procée, H., 1991, Over de grenzen van culturen: Voorbij universalisme en relativisme, Meppel: Boom. Around Gellner an important group of critics of cultural relativism has formed, cf.: Aya, R., 1996, ‘The devil in social anthropology: Or, the empiricist exorcist: Or, the case against cultural relativism’, in: Hall, J.A., & Jarvie, I., 1996, eds., The social philosophy of Ernest Gellner, Amsterdam/Atlanta: Rodopi, pp. 553-562; Boudon, R., 1996, ‘Relativising relativism: When sociology refutes the sociology of science’, in: Hall & Jarvie, The social philosophy of Ernest Gellner, o.c., pp. 535-552; Gellner, E., 1996, ‘Reply to critics’, in: Hall & Jarvie, 1996, The social philosophy of Ernest Gellner, o.c., pp. 623-686. Also cf the exhange between Geertz and Gellner: Geertz, C., z.j. [1995] , ‘Reason, religion, and Professor Gellner’, in: Anonymous, ed., 1994, The limits of pluralism: Neo-absolutisms and relativism: Erasmus Ascension Symposium 1994, Amsterdam: Praemium Erasmianum Foundation, pp. 167-172; Gellner, E.A., z.j. [1995] , ‘Expiation through subjectivism’, in: Anonymous, The limits of pluralism, o.c., pp. 163-165; en: Geertz, C., 1984, ‘Anti-anti-relativism’, American Anthropologist, 86: 263-278.

8 Shen, V., in preparation, A perspective on intercultural philosophy from Chinese philosophy (Confucianism and Taoism), Occasional Paper, Rotterdam: Dutch/Flemish Association for Intercultural Philosophy; originally as key note address, Dutch/Flemish Association for Intercultural Philosophy, Rotterdam, 27 November 1998.

9 Tylor, E.B., 1871, Primitive culture: Researches into the development of mythology, philosophy, religion, language, art and custom, London: Murray. Tylor defines ‘culture’ as:

‘that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.’

10 As still with Herder, whose merit was, however, that he included the peoples outside Europe among those having a measure of ‘culture’, showing himself surprisingly anti-ethnocentric in this respect; Herder, J.G., z.j., Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit: Textausgabe, Wiesbaden: Löwit, based on the edition by B. Suphan, Berlin 1877-1913.

11 The two terms express the distinction between an internal structuring of a cultural orientation such as is found in the consciousness of its bearers, on the one hand, and on the other a structuring which is imposed from the outside. Etic has nothing to do with ethics in the sense of the philosophy of the judgement of human action. Pike’s terminology is based on a linguistic analogy. in linguistics one approaches the description of speech sounds from two complementary perspectives: that of phonetics (hence -etic), which furnishes a purely external description, informed by anatomical and physical parameters, revolving on the air vibrations of which the speech sound consists; and the perspective of phonology, whose basic unit of study is the phoneme (hence -emics): the smallest unit of speech sound which is effectively distinguished by language users competent in a particular language, basing themselves on the distinctive features of that speech sound. The phonetic features of actually produced speech sounds is subject to endless variation, which can be registered by any observer and by whatever acoustic apparatus, regardless of competence in the particular language in question. By contrast, every spoken language has only a limited range of phonemes (usually only a couple of dozens). Language users classify the endless variety of actually produced speech sounds according to the elements of this series of recognised phonemes, and thus determine which words or sentences, consisting of several phonemes, are at hand in a particular situation. Cf. Headland, T.N., Pike, K.L., & Harris, M., 1990, eds., Emics and etics: The insider/ outsider debate, Frontiers of Anthropology no. 7, Newbury Park/ London/ New Delhi: Sage.

12 Some examples from among countless many are: Appiah, K.A., 1992, In my father’s house: Africa in the philosophy of culture, New York & London: Oxford University Press; Copleston, S.C., 1980, Philosophies and cultures, Oxford; Gyegye, K., 1997, ‘Philosophy, culture, and technology in the postcolonial’, in: Eze, E.C., ed., Postcolonial African philosophy: A critical reader, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 25-44; Kimmerle, H., 1994, ‘Het multiversum van de culturen: Over de onderlinge verhouding tussen de culturen en het einde van de moderniteit’, in: Couwenberg, S.W., ed., Westerse cultuur: Model voor de hele wereld?, Kampen: Kok Agora/Rotterdam: Stichting Civis Mundi; Mall, R.A., 1995, Philosophie im Vergleich der Kulturen: Interkulturelle Philosophie, eine neue Orientierung, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft; Sogolo, G.S., 1998, ‘Logic and rationality’, in: Coetzee, P.H., & Roux, A.P.J., 1998, eds., The African philosophy reader, London: Routledge, pp. 217-233, p. 233; this article is an excerpt from: Sogolo, G.S., 1993, Foundations of African philosophy, Ibadan: Ibadan University Press.

13 Since the nineteenth century (of the North Atlantic era; the self-evidence of the so-called Common Era is in itself a hegemonic claim to be deconstructed!) in the North Atlantic variant which comprises not only Western Europe but also North America.

14 Hegel, G.W.F., 1992, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, part XII of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel Werke, Frankfurt aan de Main: Suhrkamp, first Suhrkamp edition 1986, pp. 120-122; posthumously published on the basis of Hegel’s lecturing notes 1822-1831; for a critical distance from the perspective of contemporary intercultural philosophy, cf. Kimmerle, H., 1993, ‘Hegel und Afrika: Das Glas zerspringt’, Hegel-Studien, 28: 303-325. Rorty’s ethnocentrism is evident, conscious, and he shows it off; for striking relevant passages, cf. Rorty, R., 1997, ‘Global utopias, history and philosophy’, in: Soares, L.E., ed., Cultural pluralism, identity, and globalization, Rio de Janeiro: UNESCO/ISSC/ Educam, pp. 459-471, p. 464. The reproach of ethnocentrism is laid at the doorstep of the French post-structuralists -- Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, by: Rattansi, A., 1994, ‘ ‘‘Western’’ racisms, ethnicities and identities in a ‘‘postmodern’’ frame’, in: Rattansi, A., & Westwood, S., 1994, eds., Racism, modernity and identity: On the western front, London: Polity, pp. 15-86, p. 19. Nonetheless he allows himself to be largely inspired by their work for his theory of racism, feminism and North Atlantic hegemony. To the French philosophers as mentioned to Rattansi we might add Deleuze and Guattari. In their work the exotic Other is repeatedly appropriated, in the most stereotypical fashion, merely in order to add further contrast to their statements on their own, North Atlantic, postmodern cultural orientations. At the same tie world-wide cultural diversity and the intellectual problem which it poses, mainly features in their work in a local and domesticated form: to the extent to which, over the last few decades, France has become a multicultural society. But also to Deleuze and Guattari we must grant what Rattansi had to grant to the French poststructuralists he discusses: in principle their work contains the starting point for a non-ethnocentric theorising of processes of globalisation, identity and signification; cf. Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1999, ‘Guattari en het einde van het westerse subject’, in: Oosterling, H., ed., Chaosmose: Félix Guattari en de hedendaagse cultuur, Rotterdam: Instituut voor de Studie van Filosofie en Kunst. A much more extensive Dutch version of this argument may be found at, link to Guattari from homepage.

15 Not only interculturality, but also interlinguality is a relatively underdeveloped aspect of the mainstream philosophy. The twentieth century has seen a very rich harvest of approaches to the philosophy of language. However, also in this domain one has tended to limit oneself to one’s own language, as an expression of the philosophical ethnocentrism which takes North Atlantic society, ‘culture’, and historical experience as self-evident and as the universal norm. Philosophical approaches to interlinguality (concerning such topics as translation from one language into the other, and as the ethnographic representation of concepts and representations embedded in a different cultural orientation) are rare. However, cf. : Hookway, C., 1993, ‘Indeterminacy of translation’, in: Dancy, J., & Sosa, E., eds., A companion to epistemology, Oxford/Cambridge (Ma.): Blackwell, first impression 1992, p. 196; Quine, W.V., 1960, Word and object, Cambridge (Ma.): MIT, ch. 2; Quine, W.V., 1990, Pursuit of truth, Cambridge (Ma.): Harvard University Press, ch. 3; Gadamer, H.-G, 1975, Wahrheit und Methode: Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik, Tübingen: Mohr (Paul Siebeck), first impression 1960; Gadamer, H.-G., 1967, Kleine Schriften, I-III, Tübingen: Mohr; Volosinov, V.N., 1973, Marxism and the philosophy of language, New York: Seminar. Meanwhile it is good to realise that not only the anthropological, but also the philosophical practice is virtually entirely bases on the tacit assumption of the possibility of adequate translation -- despite the existence of philosophical theories, such a Quine’s, claiming the indeterminacy of translation. Contemporary philosophers, including those in the most entrenched Western position, rely on a large number of predecessors, who wrote in the following languages among others: Greek, Latin, Italian, Arabic, Hebrew, French, English, German, Danish, and in the Dutch/Afrikaans language domain als Dutch and Afrikaans. The great majority of philosophers only command one, two or three of these languages at the specialist level necessary for philosophical discourse and for independent research in the history of philosophy. Manifestly it is accepted practice that one consults the great majority of relevant philosophical texts in translation. Now in Western philosophy we are only dealing with two large linguistic families, Indo-European and Afroasiatic (with the sub-family: Arabic and Hebrew); in intercultural philosophy the problem is even substantially more complex, since this field in principle deals with all current and extinct languages of the world; cf. Raju, P.T., 1966, Oosterse en westerse wijsbegeerte, Utrecht/Antwerpen: Spectrum, oorspronkelijk Introduction to comparative philosophy, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1962, ch. 1. Whether one conceives of the German, English, French and Italian language as the boundary marker of just as many distinct ‘cultures’, or alternatively, whether (as I prefer to see the case myself) these are various different local linguistic forms within one comprehensive North Atlantic civilisation at the end of the second millennium of the North Atlantic era depends largely on the stance one takes vis-à-vis the project of the European Union. But while these are mere details, it is important to stress that philosophers in their everyday practice give every indication of a solid, self--evident trust in their own and other people’s capability of interlinguality -- pace Quine. This does not make them our best prima facie guides in the exploration of problems of interlinguality as an aspect of interculturality.

16 Cf. Kimmerle, H., 1990, ‘In plaats van emancipatie: wederzijdse erkenning als gelijkwaardig en als anders’, in: Tiemersma, D., 1990, ed., Wijsbegeerte, universiteit en maatschappij: Liber amicorum voor Jan Sperna Weiland, Baarn: Ambo.

17 Main events in this debate are, in alphabetic order: Appiah, In my father’s house, o.c.; Duerr, H.P., 1981, ed., Der Wissenschaftler und das Irrationale, I, Frankfurt on Main: Syndikat; Gellner, E.A., 1959, Words and things, London: Gollancz; Gellner, E.A., 1990, Relativism and the social sciences, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, first impression 1985; Hallen, B., & Sodipo, J.O., 1986, Knowledge, belief and witchcraft: Analytical experiments in African philosophy, London: Ethnographica; Hollis M., & Lukes, S., 1982, eds., Rationality and relativism, Oxford: Blackwell; Horton, R., & Finnegan, R., 1973, Modes of thought: Essays on thinking in western and non-western societies, London: Faber & Faber; Horton, R., 1967, ‘African traditional thought and western science’, Africa, 37, 1967: 50-71 & 155-87; Kippenberg, H.G., & Luchesi, B., 1978, eds., Magie: Die sozialwissenschafliche Kontroverse über das Verstehen fremden Denkens, Frankfurt on Main: Suhrkamp Verlag; Sogolo, Foundations, o.c.; Wilson, B.R., 1970, ed., Rationality, Oxford: Blackwell; Winch, P., 1964, ‘Understanding a primitive society’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 1: 307-24; Winch, P., 1970, The idea of a social science and its relation to philosophy, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, first impression 1958. As is generally known, Winch’s main inspiration was: Wittgenstein, L., 1953, Philosophical investigations, Oxford: Blackwell.

18 Islamic philosophy since in the few centuries of its flourishing, in the 8th-11th centuries CE/ 3rd-5th century AH, it remained close to classic Greek philosophy; African philosophy because it is either old but unrecorded, or new and heavily contaminated by the North Atlantic philosophical tradition.

19 For the potential of Guattari & Deleuze’s work for contemporary cultural anthropology, cf. van Binsbergen, ‘Guattari’, o.c. Meanwhile this potential of poststructuralist philosophy for cultural anthropology does not take away the fact that -- as I argue at length in the article cited -- Guattari himself has only realised this potential in a very partial way, while relying on concepts and pints of view which are unacceptable from an anthropological point of view. In this respect, incidentally, he has much in common with today’s intercultural philosophers.

20 Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1997, Virtuality as a key concept in the study of globalisation: Aspects of the symbolic transformation of contemporary Africa, The Hague: Netherlands Foundation for Tropical Research (WOTRO/NWO); for a revised, full Internet version, cf., virtuality link from homepage. Also cf. Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1998, ‘Globalization and virtuality: Analytical problems posed by the contemporary transformation of African societies’, in: Meyer, B., & Geschiere, P.L., eds., Globalization and identity: Dialectics of flows and closures, special issue, Development and Change, 29, 4: 811-837.

21 Kaphagawani, D.N., & Malherbe, J.G., 1998, ‘African epistemology’, in: Coetzee & Roux, The African philosophy reader, o.c., pp. 205-216; MacGaffey, W., 1986, ‘Epistemological ethnocentrism in African Studies’, in: Jewsiewiecki, B., & Newbury, D.,1986, eds., African historiographies: What history for which Africa?, Beverly Hills: Sage, pp. 42-48.

22 Harding, S., 1994, ‘Is science multicultural? Challenges, resources, opportunities, uncertainties,’ Configurations, 2, 2; Harding, S., 1997, ‘Is modern science an ethnoscience?: Rethinking epistemological assumptions’, in: Eze, Postcolonial African philosophy, o.c., pp. 45-70. A rather less extreme form of the same idea underlies: Hountondji, P.J., 1994, ed., Les savoirs endogènes: Pistes pour une recherche, Paris: Karthala/Dakar: CODESRIA.

23 Coming from an empirical scientist who insists on the methods and results of contemporary empirical science as an example for philosophy, my argument here may remind one o that of the physicists Sokal and Bricmont a few years ago (Sokal, A., & Bricmont, J., 1997, Impostures intellectuelles, Paris: Odile Jacob). In the most Droogstoppel-like fashion (cf. Multatuli’s Max Havelaar) they demonstrate how the appropriation of contemporary physics idiom has yielded some of the most obscure pages of the mot prominent French philosophers. Sokal and Bricmont can think of nothing better but assess the philosophical use of idiom in the light of the conventional meaning of the terms in question in their original physics and mathematics context. My point of view is fundamentally different from theirs: they do not make the slightest attempt to understand and apply the philosophical use of language in its own intentionality, and they persist in a naively uncritical view of their own empirical science; cf. van Binsbergen, ‘Guattari’, o.c.

24 Ahmad, A., 1992, ‘Orientalism and after’, in: Ahmad, A., In Theory: Classes, Nations and Literatures, London: Verso; Breckenridge, C., & Veer, P. van der, eds., 1993, Orientalism and the postcolonial predicament: Perspectives from South Asia, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press; Clifford, J., 1988, ‘On Orientalism’, in: Clifford, J., The predicament of culture: Twentieth-century ethnography, literature and art, Cambridge (Ma.): Harvard University Press; Lewis, B., 1993, ‘The question of orientalism’, in: Lewis, B., Islam and the West, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 99-118; Malek, A.A., 1963, ‘Orientalism in crisis’, Diogenes, 44, 1963; Mani, L. & Frankenberg, R., 1985, ‘The challenge of Orientalism’, Economy and Society, 14, 2; Said, E., 1978, Orientalism, New York: Pantheon Books; Turner, B.S., 1994, Orientalism, postmodernism and globalism, London/New York: Routledge; Veer, P. van der, 1995, Modern orièntalisme: Essays over de westerse beschavingsdrang, Amsterdam: Meulenhoff.

25 Derrida, J., 1967, De la grammatologie, Paris: Minuit; also cf. Passmore, J., 1992, Recent philosophers, La Salle: Open Court, first impression 1985, p. 30f.

26 Here I am not entirely speaking as an outsider to this field of study; cf. Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1997, ‘Alternative models of intercultural interaction towards the earliest Cretan script’, in: van Binsbergen, W.M.J., ed., Black Athena: Ten Years After, Hoofddorp: Dutch Historical and Archaeological Society, special issue of Talanta, xxviii-xxix, pp. 131-148 (cf., ‘Ancient models of thought’ -- a link to this book title from the homepage indicates how to order this book; and my extensive Internet article: ‘Cupmarks, mankala board-games, and prehistoric star maps: An archaeoastronomical exploration into Neandertal mentality’, same website.

27 Cf. van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1997, ‘Rethinking African conribution to global cultural history: Lessons from a comparative historial analysis of mankala board-games and geomantic divination’, in: van Binsbergen, Black Athena: Ten Years After, o.c., pp. 219-252, pp. 240f.

28 Amselle, J.-L., 1990, Logiques métisses: Anthropologie de l’identité en Afrique et ailleurs, Paris: Payot; Amselle, J.-L., & M’bokolo, E., 1985, ed., Au coeur de l’ethnie: Ethnies, tribalisme et État en Afrique, Paris: La Découverte; Barth, F., 1969, Ethnic groups and boundaries: The social organization of culture differences, Boston: Little, Brown & Co.; Chrétien, J.-P., & Prunier, G., red., 1989, Les ethnies ont une histoire, Paris: Karthala/Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique; Fardon, R., 1987, ‘African ethnogenesis: Limits to the comparability of ethnic phenomena’, in: Holy, L., rd., Comparative anthropology, Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 168-188; Gutkind, P.C.W., 1970, ed., The passing of tribal man in Africa, Leiden: Brill; Helm, J., 1968, ed., Essays on the problem of tribe: Proceedings of the 1967 Spring meeting of the American Ethnological Society, Seattle/Londen: University of Washington Press; Vail, L., 1989, ed., The creation of tribalism in Southern Africa, Londen/Berkeley & Los Angeles: Currey/University of California Press; Binsbergen, W.M.J. van, 1985, ‘From tribe to ethnicity in western Zambia: The unit of study as an ideological problem’, in: Binsbergen & Geschiere, Old modes, o.c., pp. 181-234; Binsbergen, W.M.J. van, 1994, ‘The Kazanga festival: Ethnicity as cultural mediation and transformation in central western Zambia’, African Studies, 53, 2: 92-125; Binsbergen, W.M.J. van, 1997, ‘Ideology of ethnicity in Central Africa’, in: Middleton, J.M., ed., Encyclopaedia of Africa south of the Sahara, II, New York: Scribners, pp. 91-99.

29 In the context of anthropological fieldwork as a knowledge acquiring practice, participation has a totally different meaning from that which philosophers derive from the work of the French ethnologist Lévy-Bruhl -- for many philosophers their principal source of a furtive conceptualisation of humanity outside the North Atlantic region. For Lévy-Bruhl, who worked at the beginning of the twentieth century, participation was a specific form of incomplete, diffuse and porous subjectivity allegedly characterising so-called ‘non-western’ or -- as one preferred to say then -- ‘primitive’ man -- a model of experience according to which the human subject does not juxtapose itself vis-à-vis the surrounding nature and society, but largely merges into them. By the same token, such juxtaposition was supposed to be characteristic of the logical rationality of the North Atlantic subject under the habitual conditions of modernity.

30 Cf. Kristeva, J., 1983, Histoires d’amour, Paris: Denoèl.

31 Cf. the exhange between J.D.M. van der Geest and myself in Human Organization, 38, 2 (1979); and Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1987, ‘De schaduw waar je niet overheen mag stappen: Een westers onderzoeker op het Nkoja meisjesfeest’, in: van Binsbergen & Doornbos, Afrika in spiegelbeeld, o.c., pp. 139-182.

32 An exception is: Salamone, F.A, 1979, ‘Epistemological implications of fieldwork and their consequences’, American Anthropologist, 81: 46-60.

33 In view of the reputation (as being highly philosophical) of: Fabian, J., 1983, Time and the other: How anthropology makes its object, New York: Columbia University Press, I was surprised to see, upon a recent re-reading, that its explicit philosophical references are in fact very limited (Baudrillard, Foucault, Hobbes, Ricoeur en Schutz). Kloos’ book on the philosophy of anthropology mainly deals with the Popperian and logical positivist underpinning of comparative anthropology, and with the ethical problematisation of fieldwork in unmistakably imperialist situations. Fabian and Kloos display a philosophical competence which is absolutely exceptional among anthropologists in Dutch-language environments, with the exception of such (post-)Roman Catholic fortresses as Nijmegen and Louvain, full of (mainly former) priests and ex-students for the priesthood, with a decent two-years philosophical training. Characteristically, philosophy is not part of the secondary school curriculum in the Netherlands; although this situation is about to change drastically. In French, German and American cultural anthropology implicit reference to contemporary philosophy is rather more usual, but even there it is very rare to find specific studies exploring the relationship between both disciplines; interesting attempts however may be find, among other places, in: Müller, E.W., König, R., Koeppig, K.-P., & Drechsel, P., eds., Ethnologie als Sozialwissenschaft, Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, themanummer, Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie.

34 E.g. the Nietzschean distinction between Apollinic and Dionysian, in: Benedict, R., 1946, Patterns of culture, New York: Mentor, first impression 1934; cf. Nietzsche, F.W., Die Geburt der Tragödie (1872), in: Nietzsche, F.W, 1967-1980, Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, I-XV, Colli, G. & Montinari, M., eds., München: DTV). Moreover the critique of anthropology for being imperialist, in the aftermath of the anti-imperialism of the 1950s and ‘60s; as well as the rise of poststructuralist and postmodern anthropology, a few decades after this was the intellectual fashion in architecture, literature and philosophy. A convincing example is also the book by Marshall Sahlins, who for years was leader of one of the University of Chicago: Sahlins, M., 1976, Culture and practical reason, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. For any philosopher this title refers in the first place to Kant (Kritik der praktischen Vernunft, in deel IV van: Kant, I., Werke in zehn Bänden, Weischedel, W., ed., Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft), but Sahlins’ concept has nothing whatsoever to do with Kant, there is a deliberate non-reference; cf. Drechsel, P., 1984, ‘Vorschläge zur Konstruktion einer ‘‘Kulturtheorie’’ und was man unter einer ‘‘Kulturinterpretation’’ verstehen könnte’, in: Müller et al., Ethnologie als Sozialwissenschaft, o.c., pp. 44-84, p. 81 n. 12.

35 Cf. footnote 21; as is clear from that list of references, that discussion -- however shunned by contemporary anthropologist -- has become a fixed point of orientation within African philosophy.

36 In Geertz’ approach the distinction between ‘tick’ and ‘thin’ description corresponds with that between emic and etic. Geertz has rendered anthropology not an altogether indubious service by adapting Ricoeur’s phenomenological hermeneutics to what Geertz thought were the requirements of ethnography (cf. Clifford, The predicament of culture, o.c. p. 38f; Ricoeur, P., 1971, ‘The model of the text: Meaningful action considered as a text’, Social Research, 38: 529-562; Geertz, C., 1973, The interpretation of cultures, New York: Basic Books; Geertz, C., 1976, ‘From the native’s point of view: On the nature of anthropological understanding’, in: Basso, K., & Selby, H., eds., Meaning in anthropology, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, pp. 221-238; Geertz, C., 1983, Local knowledge: Further essays in interpretative anthropology, New York: Basic Books). It amounted to a major coup de force: the decision to conceive in terms of texts, of all the pluriform events -- including non-lingual ones -- which lend themselves to ethnographic description. A quarter of a century later -- under the influence of the further elaboration of textual theories in literature science -- this conception has led, among a minority of anthropologists, to a hermetic view of the ethnographic corpus as complete, introverted, and as effectively lacking links with the dynamics of social relationships in the social domain which is situated around that corpus and to which that corpus refers in important ways; cf. Drews, A., 1995, Words and silences, Ph.D., Amsterdam University.

37 Cf. Geuijen, K., 1992, ‘Postmodernisme in de antropologie’, Antropologische Verkenningen, 11, 1: 17-36. Never has there been so much discussion of modernity as in the last few years, and usually in terms of a condition already passed, already overtaken by post modernity. This does not take away the fact that the majority of anthropologists have taken a curious position in the debate on modernity and post modernity. For the ethnographer is on the one hand -- the postmodern aspect -- the champion of the specific, the local, and the vernacular (the etic), but this often serves as merely a stepping-stone towards something else: towards an attempt to search -- and this is the typically modernist aspect of the ethnographic practice -- in the local for later generalisations which transcend the local context. This search is informed by the construction of the final ethnographic text to be published, and of the use therein of general anthropological concepts and theories (etic). In this way the specific, local and vernacular is on the one hand -- postmodern fashion -- claimed to be ‘other’ in a unique way which does not allow a relative view, but on the other hand that very same local aspect is -- modernist fashion -- dragged along to a dialectics which subsumes that otherness as part of a larger whole, a no-longer-other. The anthropologist balances between modernity and post-modernity, in an inimitable circus act which philosophers can very well deconstruct but which they would scarcely emulate.

38 For instance the work, very influential in contemporary anthropology, by Jean Comaroff en John Comaroff, 1991-97, Of revelation and revolution: Christianity, colonialism and consciousness in South Africa, I-II, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. This does not take away the fact that Foucault had already been signalled much earlier by a handful of anthropologists such as Rabinow and Clifford.

39 Fabian, Time and the other, o.c.

40 Lyotard, J.-F., 1979, La condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir, Paris: Minuit.

41 Asad, T., ed., 1973, Anthropology and the colonial encounter, London: Ithaca; Copans, J., 1975, Anthropologie et impérialisme, Paris: Maspero; for the Orièntalism discussion, cf. footnote 32.

42 Rattansi, o.c.; Boyne, R., & Rattansi, A., 1990, eds., Postmodernism and society, London: Macmillan; Donald, J., & Rattansi, A., 1992, eds., ‘Race’, culture and difference, London: Sage; Spivak, G.C., 1987, In other worlds: Essays in cultural politics, London: Methuen; Spivak, G.C., 1988, ‘Can the subaltern speak?’, in: Nelson, C., & Grossberg, L., eds., Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, London: Macmillan; Spivak, G.C., 1990, The post-colonial critic: Interviews, strategies, dialogues, London: Routledge.

43 Cf. Chilungu, S.W., 1984, ‘Alternative Ethnologie aus der Dritten Welt’, in: Müller et al., Ethnologie als Sozialwissenschaft, o.c., pp. 314-338.

44 Mudimbe, V.Y., 1988, The invention of Africa: Gnosis, philosophy, and the order of knowledge, Bloomington & Indianapolis/London: Indiana University Press/Currey; Mudimbe, V.Y., 1991, Parables and fables: Exegesis, textuality, and politics in Central Africa, Madison (Wi.): University of Wisconsin Press, Madison; Mudimbe, V.Y., 1992, ‘African Athena?’ Transition, 58: 114-123; Mudimbe, V.Y., 1992, ed., The surreptitious speech, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Chicago; Mudimbe, V.Y., 1994, The idea of Africa, Bloomington/London: Indiana University Press/Currey; Mudimbe, V.Y., & Appiah, K.A., 1993, ‘The impact of African studies on philosophy’, Bates, R.H., Mudimbe, V.Y., & O’Barr, J., eds., Africa and the disciplines: The contributions of reseach in Africa to the social sciences and humanities, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 113-138; Jewsiewicki , B., & Mudimbe, V.Y., 1993, ‘African memories and contemporary history of Africa’, in: Mudimbe, V.Y., & Jewsiewicki, B., eds., History making in Africa, special issue of History and Theory: studies in the Philosophy of History, 32, 4.

45 Winch, The idea of a social science, o.c., p. 100f; Sogolo, Foundations, o.c.; Jarvie, I.C., 1972, Concepts and society, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul -- I cannot enter here into a disussion of Jarvie’s profound critiism of Winch (which has been rendered admirably by Sogolo).

46 Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1980, ‘Popular and formal Islam, and supralocal relations: The highlands of northwestern Tunisia, 1800-1970’, Middle Eastern Studies, 16, 1: 71-91; Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1980, ‘Interpreting the myth of Sidi Mhâmmed: Oral history in the highlands of North-Western Tunesia’, in: Brown, K., & Roberts, M., eds., Using oral Sources: Vansina and beyond, special issue, Social Analysis, 1, 4: 51-73; Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1985, ‘The cult of saints in north-western Tunisia: An analysis of contemporary pilgrimage structures’, in: Gellner, E.A., ed, Islamic dilemmas: Reformers, nationalists and industrialization: The southern shore of the Mediterranean, Berlijn/New York/Amsterdam: Mouton, pp. 199-239; Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1985, ‘The historical interpretation of myth in the context of popular Islam’, in: Van Binsbergen, W.M.J. & Schoffeleers, J.M., eds., Theoretical explorations in African religion, London/Boston: Kegan Paul International, pp. 189-224.

47 Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1991, ‘Becoming a sangoma: Religious anthropological field-work in Francistown, Botswana’, Journal of Religion in Africa, 21, 4: 309-344; Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1998, ‘Sangoma in Nederland: Over integriteit in interculturele bemiddeling’, in: Elias, M., & Reis, R., eds., Getuigen ondanks zichzelf: Voor Jan-Matthijs Schoffeleers bij zijn zeventigste verjaardag, Maastricht: Shaker, pp. 1-29.

48 Cf. Brocker, M., & Nau, H.H., 1997, eds., Ethnozentrismus: Möglichkeiten und Grenzen des interkulturellen Dialogs, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft; Garaudy, R., 1977, Pour un dialogue des civilisations: L’Occident est un accident, Paris: Denoèl; Janz, B., 1997, ‘Alterity, dialogue, and African philosophy’, in: Eze, Postcolonial African philosophy, o.c., pp. 221-238; Kimmerle, H., 1992, ‘Non-Africans on African philosophy: Steps to a difficult dialogue’, Quest - Philosophical Discussions: An International African Journal of Philosophy, 6, 1; Kimmerle, H., 1995, Mazungumzo: Dialogen tussen Afrikaanse en Westerse filosofieèn, Boom: Meppel; Odera Oruka, H., 1990, ‘Cultural fundamentals in philosophy: Obstacles in philosophical dialogues’, Quest - Philosophical discussions: An International African Journal of Philosophy, 4, 2: 20-37; Tymieniecka, A.-T., 1984, ed., Phenomenology of life in a dialogue between Chinese and Occidental philosophy, Belmont (Ma.). In the background this is informed by a dialogical conception of philosophy, going back to Plato and having received a new impetus, in modern times, by the thought of such great Jewish thinkers as Buber and Levinas; cf. Bernasconi, R., 1988, ‘ ‘‘Failure of communication’’ as a surplus: Dialogue and lack of dialogue between Buber and Levinas’, in: Bernasconi, R., & Wood, D., eds., The provocation of Levinas: Re-thinking the other, London/New York: Routledge, pp. 100-135. Frm a more speifically ultural anthropologial perspective, cf. Abbink, J., 1989, ‘Historie, etnografie en ‘‘dialoog’’: Problemen van het antropologisch postmodernisme’, in: Bosboom, A., ed., Liber Amicorum A.A. Trouwborst: Antropologische essays, Nijmegen: Instituut voor Culturele Antropologie, pp. 3-24; Dwyer, K., 1977, ‘On the dialogic of field work’, Dialectical Anthropology, 2: 143-151; Dwyer, K., 1982, Moroccan dialogues, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; Pool, R., 1994, Dialogue and the interpretation of illness: Conversations in a Cameroon village, Oxford: Berg; Tyler, S., 1987, The unspeakable: Discourse, dialogue, and rhetoric in the postmodern world, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press; Webster, S., 1982, ‘Dialogue and fiction in ethnography’, Dialectical Anthropology, 7, 2: 91-114.

49 Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1997, ‘Verzoening: Perspectieven vanuit de culturele antropologie van Afrika’, In de marge: Tijdschrift voor levensbeschouwing en wetenschap, theme issue on reconciliation, 6, 4: 28-39; an English version of this paper is presented at the Human Sciences Research Council along with the present paper: Van Binsbergen, W.M.J., 1999, ‘Reconciliation: A major African social technology’. Van Binsbergen, ‘Divinatie met vier tabletten’, o.c.; van Binsbergen, ‘Four-tablet divination’, o.c.

50 Jackson, M., 1989, Paths toward a clearing: Radical empiricism and ethnographic inquiry, Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press (significantly, the book has been dedicated to, among others, Renaat Devisch, founder of the Louvain school of cultural anthropology); cf. p. x:  

‘But while my interest lies in the kind of metacultural understanding that Sartre and Merleau-Ponty sought, this should not be construed as a search for the essence of human Being but for ways of opening up dialogue between people from different cultures or traditions, way of bringing into being modes of understanding which effectively go beyond the intellectual conventions and political ideologies that circumscribe us all’.

51 A characteristic figure of style of the Louvain school of anthropology is the following: the writer leaves in the middle who in fact it is who is speaking: the ethnographer, or a characteristic member of the society she describes. Clearly, this practice has been inspired by justified critique of certain aspects of the ethnographic relationship. In the Louvain case moreover this practice is usually carried by meticulous ethnographic methods and a profound language mastery. Yet one cannot fail to observe that it is impossible to solve the hegemonic problematic of ethnography, by dissimulating that problematic (as the Louvain figure of style seems to do).

52 Van Binsbergen, ‘Reconciliation’, o.c.

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