This essay asks: Is “culture” the subject of a communication among anthropologists, or are anthropologists subjects to a communication among cultures? Put more simply, is there only one culture, comprised of multiplex variations recovered from various parts of an ever-changing world, or are there a great many, all of them variations on a single theoretical insight, which anthropologists have made up in secret and carefully keep as a secret from themselves? (Why not? the author asks, adding that such is exactly how the modern state operates.) Is it possible, he further asks, for a memory to have an independent existence, untroubled by the people who constantly keep occurring to it? It is of course absurd to ascribe agency to what amount to mere figures of speech, metaphors, or enigmatic perceptual cues, “but if a metaphor could not think, as an agency in and of itself, then neither could we.” (Memories would have to be metaphors; otherwise how could we forget them?) Finally, the essays asks: What is more natural than the agency of the one you see in the mirror, that steals your act of looking, but only to view itself?
Roy Wagner; VÚJÀ DE AND THE QUINTESSENTIALISTS' GUILD. Common Knowledge 1 January 2011; 17 (1): 155–162. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2010-048
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