Saturday, November 1, 2014

[Yasmin_discussions] [Yasmin-discussions] The Plight of the Supernatural... taking experience seriously

Dear discussants,

I appreciate Roger's and Dan's reminders of the dialogic, the need for
tolerance in face of the 'untranslatable' and challenges of diversity,
especially in the context of the varieties of cultural appreciations of
phenomena ('culture' in the widest sense i.e. shared ideas, etc.).

In this discussion so far the term 'super-natural' has featured in several
disguises some more dominant than others; e.g. as concept associated with
the unknowable, with belief, as politically/ideologically instrumentalised
domain, as the untranslatable...

One of the aspects widely associated with phenomena that have frequently
been summoned under the term 'super-natural' which has had more of a
dormant presence so far is the domain of experience, although the notions
of awe and the sublime would in some sense fall within this area.

What had initially attracted me to the choice of cultural anthropology as
main subject of academic study in combination with philosophy were indeed
the political implications of the resistance to uniformity in the
respectful acknowledgement of diversity in pursuit of the very basic
questions around what it means to be human (and else and other) on this
planet/planetary system during the particular transitions and contingencies
of time. What anthropology had and still has to tell is how different ways
of knowing, as Roger already referred to, have their roots in experiences
and best practices which change over and with time, contingent within the
manifold contextual interactions, but also, and which I would like to
emphasise, as they are consciously and pro-actively enacted, reenacted,
resisted and continuously transformed (individually and collectively).

The constantly changing categorisations of knowledge practices have
variously integrated or excluded those experiences that are frequently
gathered under the umbrella of the problematic term we are currently
discussing, be it for ideological, political or simply fashionable reasons.
A considerate mobilisation of connected ideas and concerns might shift the
study of these phenomena from the 'safe' grounds of 'cultural ghettos' to
the wider implied cognitive domains and their epistemological implications,
as some previous research has demonstrated (see for example Roger
Luckhurst's work on telepathy).

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