Join us for this years Malinowski Memorial Lecture.
Ontological polyglossia: the art of communicating in opacity. What do communicating with a baby, with an ancestor and with an animal, have in common? In these three cases, we engage in opaque communication that is far from the standard psycholinguistic model of transparent discussion between adults. Yet anthropologists know that these asymmetrical situations can be some of the most emotionally intense in human lives. This willingness to build sociality beyond linguistic humanity (with infants, deceased and non-humans) allows humans to have a future, a past and a rich relationship with their living environment. This lecture argues that our ontological polyglossia is not a deviance but an intrinsic feature of the human condition. In these asymmetrical situations, the mind of our interlocutor remains opaque to us, which requires exploratory imagination and communicational creativity from us. We will explore this polyglossia in ritual language and in the kinship relationships Siberian peoples build with animals and the dead.
Meet our speaker and chair
Charles Stépanoff is director of studies at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris). He has conducted fieldwork in Siberia, Mongolia and France on human-environment relations. He published works on shamanism, pastoralism and hunting.
Catherine Allerton is Head of the Department of Anthropology at LSE and is a specialist in the anthropology of island Southeast Asia, with research interests in children and childhoods, migration, kinship, place and landscape.
More about this event
The Department of Anthropology (@LSEAnthropology) at LSE is world famous and world leading. Our work is based on ethnographic research: detailed studies of societies and communities in which we have immersed ourselves via long term fieldwork. Placing the everyday lives and meanings of ordinary people - whoever and wherever they are - at the heart of the discipline, we take nothing for granted.
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Podcast & Video
A podcast of this event is available to download from Ontological Polyglossia: the art of communicating in opacity.
Podcasts and videos of many LSE events can be found at the LSE Public Lectures and Events: podcasts and videos channel.