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Accepted Paper:

Assembling time: collaboration, life histories, and multiple emplotment in research and narratives  
Nathan Light (Uppsala University)

Paper short abstract:

Life histories are processual at multiple levels, and call upon us to explore the overlapping of knowledge and experience as they unfold and interconnect

Paper long abstract:

Life histories unfold across interviews and written texts, representing lived events and memories, but also reflecting the goals and projects of the teller for the future. To explain these multiple processes within the telling of lives adds another layer to already complex stories. This paper will present several Kyrgyz narratives of lived events and examine carefully what it means to thread explanation and interpretation into a life history. If as the panel proposal suggests, theories are temporary, contingent, and doomed to supersession, does this also apply to other emergent explanations, such as those given by interlocutors or those that we create in collaboration with them? Or is there something more particular about such explanations that makes them less vulnerable to being replaced? Are they closer to experience and thereby woven into it? Can we thus imagine theories that do not have to be given up, but remain closely tied to the concerns within which they emerged?

Kyrgyz historical knowledge also emerges from a variety of discovery processes including dreaming and divination. Thus, the process of coming to know something can also be narrated as experience. This fact points to the broad spectrum of human experiences such as memories, concepts and theories that similarly unfold in time and can be narrated. Learning and discovery are also experiences, and we have inadequate language for discussing the ways that experience and knowledge come together in such processes. Life histories themselves, with their capacity to both constitute reality and represent it, seem thus to challenge the distinction of ontology and epistemology.

Panel P024
History as lived reality and the future of anthropology
  Session 1