(University of Minnesota)
Paper Short Abstract:
This presentation juxtaposes Hastrup's reflections on the transformative power of moments of encounter with Tylor's concept of "survivals" to explore the ways in which an engagement with the presence the untimely can open new pathways for thought and imagination.
Paper long abstract:
A recurring theme in Kirsten Hastrup's work is the transformative power of moments of encounter: a sighting of one of the "hidden people" on a fog-shrouded Icelandic mountainside, when distinctions between reality and unreality appear suddenly malleable and uncertain; or the impingement of the "argument" of the Arctic ice upon worlds of human thought and imagination, forcing an acknowledgement of other than human presences that exceed human purposes and understandings. This presentation stages an encounter of its own between Hastrup's reflections and Edward Tylor's concept of "survivals" (beliefs, practices, customs etc. "carried on" to the present from an earlier state of society), which was to influence Aby Warburg's studies of the "afterlife" of images from pagan antiquity in the European Renaissance and, latterly, has been given renewed currency in the work of anthropologist Carlo Severi and art historian Georges Didi-Huberman. These scholars emphasize not the stadial theory of social evolution that frames Tylor's discussion but rather the disruptive, untimely quality of survivals, their capacity to call into question the seeming coherence and self-evidence of the present by making manifest that which is contemporaneous with it, yet appears not to belong to it. Understood thus, I argue, survivals force us to question such familiar binaries as past/present, reality/fiction, nature/culture, human/nonhuman. My aim is to consider survivals as potential scenes of encounter and to place Hastrup's insights in dialogue with those of a number of thinkers who have not often been discussed in relation to her work.
Anthropology as a tool for discovery: celebrating Kirsten Hastrup's research and professional contributions on the occasion of her retirement