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No sugar, please! Tobacco anthropology and the merits of contingent conceptualisation

Holbraad, M; (2019) No sugar, please! Tobacco anthropology and the merits of contingent conceptualisation. Anthropologica , 61 (1) pp. 5-11. 10.3138/anth.61.1.02. Green open access

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Abstract

Deploying Fernando Ortiz’s ethnological contrast, in Cuban Counterpoint, between the generality of sugar and the particularity of tobacco, this article argues that the practice of anthropology is best compared to the latter. Anthropology’s constitutive investment in the particulars of ethnography renders it a “science of the contingent” par excellence, inherently averse to necessities and generalisations of all types. With reference to the recent literature on the “ontological turn” in anthropology, I argue that this investment consists above all in the attempt to turn contingent ethnographic materials into equally contingent conceptualisations. Such a procedure, however, is not contrapuntal in its nature. This is because the relationship between ethnography and its conceptualisation is not symmetrical on the horizontal axis in the way counterpoint is. Unlike counterpoint, therefore, it is the basic difference in kind between ethnographic realities and the concepts they generate that makes their relationship in the process of anthropological analysis interesting.

Type: Article
Title: No sugar, please! Tobacco anthropology and the merits of contingent conceptualisation
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3138/anth.61.1.02
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3138/anth.61.1.02
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Fernando Ortiz, counterpoint, ontological turn, conceptualisation, contingency, morphology
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10079413
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