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Anthropology and Philosophy: Dialogues on Trust and Hope

Sune Liisberg
Esther Oluffa Pedersen
Anne Line Dalsgård
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    Anthropology and Philosophy
    Book Description:

    The present book is no ordinary anthology, but rather a workroom in which anthropologists and philosophers initiate a dialogue on trust and hope, two important topics for both fields of study. The book combines work between scholars from different universities in the U.S. and Denmark. Thus, besides bringing the two disciplines in dialogue, it also cuts across differences in national contexts and academic style. The interdisciplinary efforts of the contributors demonstrate how such a collaboration can result in new and challenging ways of thinking about trust and hope. Reading the dialogues may, therefore, also inspire others to work in the productive intersection between anthropology and philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-557-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Introduction. Trust and Hope
    (pp. 1-20)
    Esther Oluffa Pedersen and Sune Liisberg

    Trusting and hoping alike are conjectural modes of understanding. They relate to the practical identity of human beings as persons. Who can I trust? What may I hope? Although both trust and hope are related to factual understandings of past experiences, they equally imply a move toward the future that depends on the imaginary anticipation of the imminent. They concern future states that exceed the immediate control of the person trusting or hoping. But whereas trust typically concerns near and probable futures that mostly meet our expectations, hope may very well paint a scenario of a possible and radically different...

  5. Dialogue One. Practical Philosophy and Hope as a Moral Project among African-Americans

    • Joint Statement
      (pp. 23-23)
      Cheryl Mattingly and Uffe Juul Jensen

      The two authors of this chapter, one a philosopher (Uffe Juul Jensen) and the other an anthropologist (Cheryl Mattingly), have been in conversations over the past two decades. We have decided to write this together as part of our long project of discussion. Some of our observations about the challenges and possibilities of cross-disciplinary dialogue are informed by our own history of conversation (Jensen and Mattingly 2009). Some parts of this chapter are also being further developed in forthcoming books. The structure of our chapter is as follows. After a brief review of some crucial challenges to an interdisciplinary dialogue,...

    • What Can We Hope For? An Exploration in Cosmopolitan Philosophical Anthropology
      (pp. 24-53)
      Cheryl Mattingly and Uffe Juul Jensen

      This chapter proposes a cosmopolitan philosophical anthropology to consider a particular human problem—the problem of hope. In light of the ethnographic material presented, we consider hope as a cosmopolitan (or “indigenous”) concept, examining how it reveals itself in practice and, especially, the kinds of ethical demands it poses. Before carrying out this theoretical and interpretive exercise, however, we begin the chapter by stepping back to reflect—in broad strokes—upon the challenges posed by carrying out an interdisciplinary conversation between the two disciplines. We first take up this matter from the perspective of anthropology, and subsequently from a common...

    • References
      (pp. 54-56)
  6. Dialogue Two. Existential Anthropology and the Category of the New

    • Joint Statement
      (pp. 59-60)
      Michael D. Jackson and Thomas Schwarz Wentzer

      Both chapters in this dialogue envisage an existential dimension that is likely to appeal to all human beings as such. We address the human desire to improve a given situation, and the suffering caused by not being able to do so. This gap between expectation and opportunity is experienced by a large segment of the world’s population, often on a dramatic scale. Our point of departure is a shared interest in the simple but nevertheless astonishing fact that so many people, against all odds, continue to hope. What is more, they maintain their conviction of being entitled to hope—hope...

    • The Reopening of the Gate of Effort: Existential Imperatives at the Margins of a Globalized World
      (pp. 61-75)
      Michael D. Jackson

      The title of my chapter is from the Arabic,fatah al ijjihad,and borrowed from Jean Duvignaud’s (1970) anthropological classic,Change at Shebika: Report from a North African Village.In this work, which Duvignaud described as utopian because it was at once a work of the sociological imagination and a description of the extravagant yearnings of young Tunisian villagers in 1960–1966, we read of quandaries very similar to those that dominate the thinking of many young people on the margins of today’s globalized world—the desire, amounting to an ethical demand, that they receive an education, find paid work...

    • The Eternal Recurrence of the New
      (pp. 76-89)
      Thomas Schwarz Wentzer

      Human power and weakness are nowhere more intimately attached than in the imagination. They can be phrased simultaneously in just two words, which begin a certain kind of sentence: “What if.” With these words we try to invite other people to join us in our dreams, or to share our worries. We bracket the world and its usual course in order to conceive of a new world, a different world. In its wishful version, the what-if clause is omnipotent in the sense that it allows us to leave reality and its limitations behind, imagining a world where things are exactly...

    • Joint Afterword
      (pp. 90-94)
      Michael D. Jackson and Thomas Schwarz Wentzer

      That our face-to-face and emailed exchanges of ideas, and critical feedback on each other’s work-in-progress, proved both personally and intellectually edifying is a testament, we like to think, to the value of bringing ethnographic and philosophical perspectives into conversation. While the first draws on raw material from, as well as direct experience in, contemporary life-worlds, the second exploits historical sources and critical theory to interrogate that data from a detached point of view. This is not to imply that such detachment secures scientific objectivity; nor is it intended to privilege any Western tradition of thought over any other. Rather, it...

    • References
      (pp. 95-98)
  7. Dialogue Three. Intentional Trust in Uganda

    • Joint Statement
      (pp. 101-103)
      Esther Oluffa Pedersen and Lotte Meinert

      A shared curiosity about and interest in understandingtrust and distrustas features of social interaction makes up the basis of our collaboration. Our understandings of the phenomenon of trust and distrust have gained significantly from the process of discussing and writing together. The questions that an anthropologist poses to a philosopher are simply different from the discussions sparked within philosophical contexts and vice versa. The conclusions that philosophy reaches often have a welcome verve and generalizing power that is seldom reached in empirically grounded ethnographic discussions. On the other hand complex ethnographic data challenge generalizing philosophical statements and taken...

    • An Outline of Interpersonal Trust and Distrust
      (pp. 104-117)
      Esther Oluffa Pedersen

      The main idea behind the interpretation of interpersonal trust and distrust put forward here is that any attempt to understand the social phenomenon of trust needs to pay attention to three characteristics. Firstly, whether a person trusts or distrusts others and whether she herself is trustworthy or untrustworthy depends for a large degree on her personal life story. She may be prone to either trust or distrust most people because of her past experiences and social interaction. Similarly, she will be inclined to act trustworthy or untrustworthy depending on how others have reacted on her past actions, that is, whether...

    • Tricky Trust: Distrust as a Point of Departure and Trust as a Social Achievement in Uganda
      (pp. 118-133)
      Lotte Meinert

      The Danish philosopher Knud E. Løgstrup argued that it is basic to human life that we meet each other with natural trust. We do not distrust other people unless we have a reason to, and we do not anticipate that another person will lie before we have an experience of this other person lying (Løgstrup 1997; see also Jackson in this volume). Løgstrup (1997) regarded trust as fundamental to the human condition and wrote that it takes extraordinary circumstances for us to meet other human beings with mistrust; situations such as war, betrayal, and the breakdown of law and order....

    • References
      (pp. 134-136)
  8. Dialogue Four. Trust, Ambiguity, and Indonesian Modernity

    • Joint Statement
      (pp. 139-140)
      Sune Liisberg and Nils Bubandt

      This dialogue centers on the relationship between trust and ambiguity. Ambiguity, we both suggest, represents a challenge to trusting behavior. Both chapters seek to address the same overall questions: How is trust possible in uncertain conditions? What kinds of paradoxes go into trust when trust itself is being eroded by the exigencies of existential life-worlds or political power? How, inversely, do existential life-worlds and political power interpellate each other—call each other into existence—through the ambiguities of trust? Indonesia and Sartre are strikingly apposite—and in some ways similar—places to begin an inquiry into the ambiguities and paradoxes...

    • Trust in an Age of Inauthenticity: Power and Indonesian Modernity
      (pp. 141-157)
      Nils Bubandt

      One of my favorite media quotes comes fromMiami Vice, the 1980s television series starring Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas. They play two fashion-conscious police detectives, Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs, who see their share of the shady side of human behavior in the Florida underworld. But their experiences are nothing compared to those of their lieutenant, Martin Castillo, who has a past as a drugenforcement agent in war-torn Vietnam in the 1970s. Often, during an interlude between shootouts and car chases, the lieutenant tells horrific stories from the Vietnam War’s heart of darkness that shock even the seasoned...

    • Trust as the Life Magic of Self-Deception: A Philosophical-Psychological Investigation into Tolerance of Ambiguity
      (pp. 158-175)
      Sune Liisberg

      Our human social world is, to a large extent, a world of probabilities and possible interpretations, and so it consists of all kinds of ambiguity with which we must cope. This is the underlying existential assumption of the present chapter, in which I propose the general claim that trusting behavior is intimately related to a human category that psychologists, since the 1940s, have labeled “ambiguity tolerance.” I thereby take up a suggestion that psychologist Robert W. Norton (1975: 618) put forth as one of several desiderata for further investigations into ambiguity tolerance, namely the question: “How is trusting behavior related...

    • References
      (pp. 176-180)
  9. Dialogue Five. Gift-Giving and Power between Trust and Hope

    • Joint Statement
      (pp. 183-186)
      Sverre Raffnsøe and Hirokazu Miyazaki

      The chapters in this dialogue insist on elucidating trust and hope as they are enacted in their delicate relationship to each other and to other human and social phenomena of similar vital importance, such as knowledge and experience, power, gift-giving, freedom, agency, and, ultimately, grace and sleep. Trust and hope are thus to be understood as modes of existence that are distinct and significant, and play a part within a larger social fabric. As attitudes that are turned toward, and modes of being that are affected by, an uncharted future still to be negotiated, hope and trust concomitantly transcend the...

    • Empowering Trust in the New: Trust and Power as Capacities
      (pp. 187-208)
      Sverre Raffnsøe

      During the past century, management has become an all-embracing concept and a phenomenon with a profound and pervasive impact on the communities and the lives of individuals in the Western hemisphere. As soon as we have to confront and solve problems in organizations and society, to improve our performance or to reorganize, we look for better and more efficient ways not only to wield physical resources but also, and especially, to direct and conduct human efforts and behavior (Wren 2005: 3).

      Management as a ubiquitous activity implies an ongoing exertion of power. Pouvoir is a sine qua non of management....

    • Hope in the Gift—Hope in Sleep
      (pp. 209-218)
      Hirokazu Miyazaki

      In his chapter, “Empowering Trust in the New: Trust and Power as Capacities,” Sverre Raffnsøe investigates the currently pervasive and yet underexamined “trust in trust” as an unproblematic “universal value” in the context of management and management studies. Raffnsøe seeks to define trust in terms of its delicate relationship with power. In his view, trust becomes an effective tool of management when it is recognized as “an active and deliberate exercise of power.” What makes Raffnsøe’s formulation of trust particularly compelling is his insistence that trust is “motivated by hope” as well as by “knowledge and experience.” In other words,...

    • References
      (pp. 219-224)
  10. Dialogue Six. With Kierkegaard in Africa

    • Joint Statement
      (pp. 227-227)
      Anders Moe Rasmussen and Hans Lucht

      This interdisciplinary exchange concerns the connection between self-transcendence and hope. It is an exchange of thoughts rooted in very different academic traditions but concerned with the same topic and the same problem. Anders Moe Rasmussen gives an account of a fundamental feature of being human, namely our capacity to transcend ourselves and our world, thereby interpreting hope as a special kind of self-transcendence. Hans Lucht, on the other hand, uses a concrete ethnographic study to explore how hope is experientially kept alive in the everyday give and take of human life. Even in situations involving the utmost uncertainty and danger,...

    • Self, Hope, and the Unconditional: Kierkegaard on Faith and Hope
      (pp. 228-242)
      Anders Moe Rasmussen

      After years of pragmatic and strategic thinking within the contemporary political debate, the concept of hope has reappeared on the agenda, most prominently in the American president Barack Obama’s rhetoric of hope. This is interesting news, as it holds the potential to revitalize both the political and the cultural debate, which are stuck in discourse theory and the platitudes of anti-ideology. However, the exact meaning of this new talk of hope still remains somewhat unclear. What is more, we have yet to consider whether it makes any sense at all to speak about hope in a contemporary context. Perhaps the...

    • Kierkegaard in West Africa: Hope and Sacrifice in a Ghanaian Fishing Village
      (pp. 243-254)
      Hans Lucht

      Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a small fishing village on the Ghanaian coast of the Gulf of Guinea, this contribution explores how the erratic marine environment is drawn into a relationship of mutual obligation through symbolic exchange encounters. Through gift-giving and sacrifice, the positively unresponsive sea is experientially imbued with hope; hope that one’s appeal for a response will be met, and that by giving one will receive something of commensurate worth in return for one’s efforts. The sea is thus drawn into the fishermen’s sphere of in-fluence, and they are provided with a sense of having a say in...

    • References
      (pp. 255-256)
  11. Epilogue. Anthropology and Philosophy in Dialogue?
    (pp. 257-281)
    Anne Line Dalsgård and Søren Harnow Klausen

    It has been a challenge for anthropologists and philosophers to talk productively together, not just in general but in this book as well. In the opening chapter for this volume Cheryl Mattingly and Uffe Juul Jensen offer a careful and extended treatment of some of the troubles implied as well as some possible avenues for improving the conversation. We intend to follow up on their questions and add our perspective on the exercise that this book represents. The discussions in the preceding chapters have led us to ask: What could be learned in philosophy by more “craftsmanlike” inquiry into the...

  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 282-285)
  13. Index
    (pp. 286-293)