vrijdag 27 januari 2012

'Nature' does not exist for everyone

Achuar map of their territory.

In an interview with Phillipe Descola (earlier, earlier, earlier), published in the Tipiti journal, comes the following quote that is good to have on record as it explains how Descola came to see during his fieldwork with the Achuar that nature does not exist:
...what really made me marvel was the realization that, although the Achuar certainly recognized certain discontinuities between humans and non-humans, these discontinuities were radically different from our own. And this was a bit surprising in an expected way, but also in an unexpected one. I was expecting this because I’d read, of course, not only the South American ethnography, but also Tylor, Frazer, Durkheim and a few others pioneers of our discipline whose work was entirely devoted to resolve this bizarre scandal, that some people appear not to make distinctions between humans and non-humans. So, I was prepared to find that. I was prepared to find it at the level of, as we would say at the time, ‘representations’ at the level of ways of thinking about life. But I had no way of understanding how people would actually live with this idea and put it into practice, or really experience the world in this fashion. And this is the discovery. No? It’s not only what people say; their whole way of life revolved around the fact that they didn’t make a distinction between nature and society.

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