Accepted paper:

Revisiting Levy-Bruhl and “the law of participation”: some reflections on its relevance to contemporary anthropology


Signe Howell (University of Oslo)

Paper short abstract:

The dissolution of the division between humanity and nature in much contemporary anthropology raises important questions regarding ramifications of our ethnographic studies of societies commonly characterized as animistic. In his critique of Frazer, Tyler and Lang, Levy-Bruhl attempted to elicit a formal differences between “primitive” and “civilized” thought or logic His critics dismissed this as racist. Reading his work today this is a false accusation. His presentation of the issues has much to say to contemporary debates. The crux of his argument echoes much current thinking: that primitive thought is indifferent to contradiction; and that all things, beings, or whatever, are in some fashion linked together, that there is no distinction between self and other, objects and subject, past and present, animate and inanimate Absurd at the time, highly acceptable today – when, one might say, primitive thought has become human thought. A mutuality between the human and natural worlds also in non-exotic ethnographic settings is uncontroversial. But does “post-humanism” in its various guises limit rather than expand the scope of anthropology?

Paper long abstract:

panel Plen03
Human / Nature