Glass Bead: seminar #2
Wednesday October 1st 2014, 7 pm

Martin Holbraad: Anthropology, metaphysics, art: ethnographic aporia at the limit

One can think of the particular turn of thinking we associate with anthropology as a calibration of two scales of alterity: one that plots difference on geo-cultural coordinates, from one society to another, and one that measures distances on the terrain of the imagination, from thought to thought. Anthropologists translate ethnographic alterities into intensities of argument, transfiguring the aporia of ethnographic ‘culture shock’ in the activity of thinking new thoughts. If metaphysics is par excellence devoted to thinking new thoughts, then anthropology conceived in this way is a royal road to it. One might even say that anthropology is hyper-metaphysical, inasmuch as its constitutive investment in alterity renders novelty of thinking as a kind of methodological necessity: the ‘meta’ of metaphysics must, by disciplinary exigency, also be ‘alter’, which is to say constitutively different, new.
This paper seeks to address the complaint that this vision of anthropology as ‘alterphysics’ does not quite live up to its promise in practice. Even when looking at the work of anthropologists who most deliberately ascribe to versions of the alterphysical project, at a certain level of analytical abstraction one tends to find a rather similar-looking set of ideas being (re-)generated with reference to ethnographic settings as different from each other as ceremonial gift exchange in Papua New Guinea, Mongolian shamanism, Japanese finance, Afro-Cuban divination, Amazonian hunting, European laboratory science, West African political violence, and so on: relationism, ontological transformation, mutual constitution, self-differentiation, multiplicity, process, becoming, non-humanism, cyborgs, the post-, the para-, the off-, the exo-, the minor. Indeed, these kindred ideas are typically not a million miles away from the conceptual currencies of certain strands of contemporary social theory, if not metaphysics – often the trendier ones. So how aporetic exactly, goes the complaint, are ethnographic exposures that tend so typically to issue in one version or other of, say, relationism? Taking this complaint as the single-most urgent challenge to the discipline of anthropology at present, this paper seeks to set out the coordinates within which different responses to it might be developed, and assess their chances of succeeding. In this connection, with reference to Lévi-Strauss’s idiosyncratic characterisation of art as a manner of allowing ‘the necessary’ to be revealed through ‘the contingent’, I end with the suggestion that anthropology’s distinctive claim to creativity may be cast as an inversion of art – a matter of allowing the contingent (i.e. ethnography) to be revealed through the necessary (i.e. analytical conceptualizations).

Franck Jedrzejewski: Ontological fields: a categorification of space

We live in a world of fields - mathematical fields, scalar or tensor fields, electric fields or the Earth’s magnetic field - that keeps us bolted to the ground in complete indifference. In this lecture, I would like to show that the very existence of things is also a question of fields that I would qualify as ontological. These fields which induce appearances are responsible for the mutability of things and for the topology of multiple and heterogeneous sites that we develop today, such as the multiverse and pluriverse. I will illustrate my points with several examples, and show that to grasp these fields and the real in both its actual and virtual components, diagrammatic thought offers a suitable solution – as the diagram has a machinic and rhizomatic generosity that structure does not have. Finally, I will look at how the concept of field is a “categorification” of space – a concept I borrow from category theory in mathematics – and clarify what “to categorify” means in terms of methodology.

Free entrance on reservation at and +33 153 561 590

Monday, September 29, 7pm
Seminar #1: Andrée C. Ehresmann (mathematician), The Glass Bead Game revisited: weaving emergent dynamics with the Memory Evolutive Systems methodology and Olivia Lucca Fraser (philosopher), Artificial Intelligence in the age of sexual reproduction: sketches for xenofeminism.
Wednesday, October 1, 7pm
Seminar #2: Martin Holbraad (anthropologist), Anthropology, metaphysics, art: ethnographic aporia at the limit and Franck Jedrzejewski (philosopher, mathematician, musicologist), Ontological fields: a categorification of space.
Friday, October 3, 7pm
Seminar #3: Frederik Stjernfelt (philosopher), Diagrammatical reasoning and natural propositions and Giuseppe Longo (mathematician, logician, epistemologist), The constitution of meaning: from mathematical structures to organisms (e ritorno).