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Contours of Relationships: Anthropology as a Conceptual Morphology

Holbraad, M; (2022) Contours of Relationships: Anthropology as a Conceptual Morphology. Logos: Philosophical and literary journal , 32 (2) pp. 131-166. 10.22394/0869-5377-2022-2-131-165. Green open access

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Building critically on anthropology’s “ontological turn,” the author of the article isolates conceptualization (as distinct from explanation and interpretation) as a core concern for anthropological thinking: Anthropology as the activity of transfiguring the contingency of ethnographic materials in the formal language of conceptual relations and distinctions. Focusing on works by Marcel Mauss and Edward Evan Evans- Pritchard, as well as his own research, the author concludes that such a project is of morphological nature. Despite its similarity to philosophy such attention to the “shapes” of conceptual relations is analogous to the practice of art in its concern for the expressive potentials of these acts of conceptual transfiguration. The author prefers the term “shape” over “form” or “structure” because due to its simplicity and theoretical lightness the term “shape” better conveys the variety of conceptualization models. Terms such as “form” and “structure” are so saturated with debate in anthropology that they risk weighing this suggestion down with unnecessary theoretical baggage. The concern for concepts and their relationships as an anthropological sensibility — a kind of intellectual aesthetic that permeates anthropology even though it is not necessarily always recognized for what it is. This sensibility is of morphological nature as long as it puts ethnographic phenomena into particular conceptual shape. Therefore anthropology could be reasonably compared not with science or humanities nor even philosophy, but with an art practice instead depicting anthropology as a sort of painting by concepts.

Type: Article
Title: Contours of Relationships: Anthropology as a Conceptual Morphology
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.22394/0869-5377-2022-2-131-165
Publisher version: https://logosjournal.ru/articles/633250/
Language: Russian
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: 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
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10154131
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