This panel is interested in bringing together different ethnographic examples in which death or the dead exhibit an intense kind of presence. Are there any unique 'death' points of view articulated and in what way? How are biographies harnessed by those of the dead? What is the 'evidence' of death?
The Scottish Enlightenment, being part of an emerging modern empiricist tradition, hosted lively debates on morality, science and religion and the origins, causes and evidence of the claims concerning them. The nascent humanistic sciences (then called 'moral philosophy') encompassed all such issues. For instance, evidence was sought in order to argue for or against the existence of God or mortality versus immortality. It would be wrong to view the Scottish Enlightenment as a period of rigidly formulated unanimous convictions about the world. Rather, it was critical enquiry and the search for empirical evidence as an epistemological stance that would support different, even contrasting, views about the world. In the previous example, both mortality and immortality were defended or refuted by recourse to evidence. 'One epistemology, many ontologies', to paraphrase Viveiros de Castro. Broadly inspired by this kind of empiricist epistemology, this panel is interested in ethnographic contexts where death (as past, present or future) and the dead occupy significant spaces and moments, exhibit dynamic subjectivity; even articulacy in formulating unique points of view. What is the affective and visceral 'evidence' of death and the dead? Seeing death as exceeding 'its Durkheimian boundedness' (Straight 2006), what is the process of exchange of perspectives between life (or the living) and death (or the dead)? How do biographies (both individual and collective) form and are formed by 'necrographies'? If there is an intense kind of communication and interaction between life and death, what is it exactly that sets them apart and/or unites them?