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This chapter lays out a path for imagining an anthropology of the natural contract. It does so by staging a conversation between Michel Serres’s writings on parasites and symbiotic ontologies and anthropological theories of exchange and by exploring the complex entrapments between the nature of gifts and the gifts of nature. Whereas Serres founded his natural contract on a metaphysics of geometrical justice, where a reason-that-judges and a reason-that-proves precariously balance their differences out, ethnographic analysis can offer other vernaculars of exchange, such as melodic contaminations or spiderweb anthropologies.

The hybrid term “limitrophe” derives from the Latin limes (“boundary”) and the Greek trophos (“feeder”) and trephein (“to nourish”). In its original meaning, limitrophus designated lands that provided food for troops defending an outpost of empire. More generally, the word connotes a porous borderland between contiguous nation states or states of consciousness where openness to the ineffable and indeterminate may prove edifying and regenerative. Michel Serres’s work exemplifies creative boundary-crossing as a way of both enhancing life and revitalizing thought. This chapter revisits several of Serres’s insights that have inspired and informed Michael Jackson’s ethnographic writing over the past thirty-five years. Drawing on Serres’ Hermes (1982), this chapter reflects on the ethical ambiguity of the trickster and trickery in the Kuranko social imaginary, and revisits Serres’s views on natural justice in The Natural Contract (1995) and the violence of asymmetrical power in Statues (1989).

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