Author:Gaetano Mangiameli (Università degli Studi di Milano)
Paper short abstract:
The basic subject of an anthropology of life is constituted by multiple levels of interaction not necessarily working in harmony, by multifactorial processes whose unpredictable outcomes are the temporary ground upon which we try to grasp meaning.
Paper long abstract:
Narratives of equilibrium or natural balance fail in understanding life, both at the level of the individual human body and at the level of communities of humans and non-humans. In this paper I will use Schrödinger's cat paradox, which represents, to some extent, what science has become during the Twentieth Century, as a starting point in order to sketch out how the practice of anthropology might look if the focus of inquiry shifts from human beings as such to the emergent systems in which they live. The anthropology of life is an attempt to understand human beings in the context created by their interaction with other entities, and more precisely in terms of what they do rather than what they are, which, in turn, makes the use of the verb "to be" somewhat slippery. Our experience in the world provides several examples of whirls of organisms meant as spirals of life in which humans and non-humans are entwined. In this framework, the basic subject of anthropologists' interpretive efforts is constituted by multiple levels of interaction not necessarily working in harmony, in other words by multifactorial processes whose unpredictable outcomes are the temporary ground upon which we try to grasp meaning.
Whirls of organisms: forms and movements of life