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Accepted Paper:

Post-conventional anthropology: A paradigm for cultivating pluralism and confidence in uncertainty  
Amanda Kearney (San Diego State University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper details an encounter of anthropological instruction on cross-cultural perceptions of the sea which was provided to lawyers and marine scientists regulating offshore fossil fuel ventures. My task was to inspire unknowing and release their grip on epistemic certainty. But did it work?

Paper Abstract:

In 2023, I stepped into a room of lawyers, marine scientists and environmental engineers employed in the service of regulatory decision-making on offshore deep sea fossil fuel extraction. My task - to assist them in developing a cross cultural orientation towards ways of knowing, specifically, how to engage with different cultural viewpoints concerning the sea. Operating within a contentious and litigious space, regulatory decision making on the risk that deep sea fossil fuel ventures pose to Indigenous peoples’ heritage is a concern which keeps this regulatory body in a state of directive anguish. The hope was that sharing anthropological insights on ways of knowing, plurality, ethics and care, configured cross-culturally, might alleviate their concern and open pathways towards better informed decision-making.

This undertaking follows 25 years of ethnographic collaboration with Indigenous maritime groups in Australia, thus posed intellectual and ethical challenges. It took shape as an applied post-conventional anthropology, in which the post-conventional is distinguished as going above and beyond normative practice and aligning with a broader social contract. The moment in which these exchanges took place serves as the ethnographic encounter from which I draw several observational points on the role of anthropology in ‘doing unknowing’ – a project aimed at releasing the grip of epistemic certainty. This encounter allows me to confront the translational impasse that hinders communicative success for Indigenous viewpoints in dominant western knowledge scenarios; to explore commensurability in ways of knowing, and to examine confidence in uncertainty as a paradigm for holding multiple, divergent perspectives.

Panel P146
Doing and undoing regulation
  Session 1 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -