Trickster anthropology: theorizing ontological ambiguity, transgression and transformation
Diana Espirito Santo (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
Anastasios Panagiotopoulos (CRIA-Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
R10 (in V)
Wednesday 11 July, 11:30-13:15, 14:30-16:15, Thursday 12 July, 9:00-10:45 (UTC+0)

Short abstract:

This panel seeks to understand the role of 'trickster' ontologies in anthropological analysis, namely, by exploring how ambiguity, transgressiveness and uncertainty in social and religious life can point to novel ways of treating 'disorder' as an analytical, and not just epistemological, object.

Long abstract:

Anthropology now talk of flows, communities of practice, and mobile cultural geographies in what appears to be a radical shift of object, from social structures and a standardizing view of collectivities, to individuals, processes, entities and agencies. But if the myth of the universality of order results more from the institutional anxieties of the anthropologist than those of the societies studied, disorder, malleability and ambiguity, as ontological - as well as epistemological or social - facts, have only rarely been the subject of analytical interest. Anthropologists of religion have long grappled with the figure of the 'trickster' - the playful, shape-shifting archetypical spirit whose resistance to categorical stasis and ontological certainty is a reminder that cosmology can often escape human determination and containment. Through diverse ethnographic instances and contexts, we explore the idea of 'anthropological tricksters' and their dividends more generally - not only in their 'religious' forms, but also (and as we understand the word ontology) in the more encompassing domains of politics, kinship, and social identity, where ambiguity may not be just transitive but indeed constitutive. We wish to focus on ethnographic accounts of ontological uncertainty that would challenge what has arguably been an anthropological bias towards ontologically 'ordered' ethnographies. In this way we call for papers that can provide insight into 1) instances of disjuncture between the analyst's expectations and the 'behavior' of the various 'entities' (metaphysical, social, political, etc) of his field; or 2) field methodologies suggesting novel ways of recording and theorizing ontological transgressiveness and transformation.