Against Identity: hermeneutical and ethical aspects of anthropological misunderstanding
(University of Heidelberg)
Paper short abstract:
This paper reflects the problem of ethnographic representation and cross cultural understanding in light of a philosophical hermeneutics and its idea of 'productive misunderstanding' as opposed to 'value free' identification.
Paper long abstract:
During the last decades, epistemological discussions in the field of anthropology have emphasized that anthropological attempts to analyze and to understand different cultures and thus to overcome the intellectual dominance of western thought and culture, inevitably lead to contradictions because power and knowledge are interrelated. Thus, the very task of anthropology: to provide an objectice understanding of foreign cultures vis-a-vis the normative claims of Western society and knowledge, seems to be self-contradictory. This paper deals with this epistemological crisis of anthropological representation by reassessing its idea of understanding as objective or neutral identification of cultural difference. Thereby I will relocate theoretical and ethical problems of cross-cultural understanding within the framework of philosophical hermeneutics and its idea of ‚productive misunderstanding' as opposed to neutral or 'value free' identification.
Towards an anthropology of misunderstanding (EN)