Fragments‎ > ‎

English abstracts

  • "Bosquejo de una teoría de antropología de las imágenes: para una nueva "imagen del pensamiento" antropológica" [Prolegomenon to a theory of the anthropology of images: toward a new anthropological "image of thought"], Quaderns-e No. 16(1-2): 16-30, 2011.
  • "Comments: From my own Deleuzian intersections", Tokimeki Seminar No. 6: "Author-meets-Critics, Deleuzian Intersections" (discussants: E. Viveiros de Castro, C. B. Jensen, N. Kasuga, T. Yanai and G. Mohacsi), Osaka University, Dec. 13, 2010. (handout in English)
  • "Outline of a Theory of Anthropology of Images: "Science" and "Art" Through Ethnographic Audio-visual Media," Japanese Journal of Cultural Anthropology 73(2), pp. 180-199, 2008.
  • "Immediacy and Cinema: Re-"appropriation" of the World through Films," Agora (ICRS, Tenri University), No. 2, pp. 39-76, 2004.
  • "What to Speak about Audiovisual Images?: An Essay concerning Gilles Deleuze's Cinéma," Agora (ICRS, Tenri University), No. 1, 75-134, 2003.
  • "Orality as a Mode of Thought and Existence among the Mapuche, Southern Chile," Bulletin of the National Museum of Ethnology 25(2), pp. 177-202, 2000.
  • "Remembrance and Repetition: Analysis of a Mapuche Dream Narrative," Japanese Journal of Ethnology, 58(3), pp. 223-247, 1993.
  • "Anthropology and "Ethnoscience": Reflecting on Galician Popular Medicine (Northern Spain)," Japanese Journal of Ethnology, 53(2), pp. 155-177, 1988.

Prolegomenon to a theory of the anthropology of images: toward a new anthropological "image of thought"

posted Apr 21, 2012, 5:20 AM by Tadashi YANAI   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 6:18 PM ]

Keywords: image, becoming, affect, theory, photography, ethno-cinema                                               

In this article I propose to rethink anthropology through the concept of “image” developed by Bergson, Deleuze and Iwaki. The “image” conceived in this way would include our experiences (for example, those of ethnographic fieldwork) as well as (audio)visual images, and images aroused by spoken or written words. Commenting on ethnographic photographs by Malinowski, Bateson and Lévi-Strauss, as well as “ethno-cinema” by Flaherty, Rouch, Gardner and Video nas aldeias, I consider that doing anthropology is to work with “images” in their “being” and in their “becoming”. The anthropology of images would be a conceptual machine to facilitate the continuous movement between words and images, between theory and practice, and between science and art— movement which seems to me to be crucial for the anthropology of today and of tomorrow.

Outline of a Theory of Anthropology of Images

posted Apr 21, 2012, 5:17 AM by Tadashi YANAI   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 6:18 PM ]

Keywords: image, ethnographic visual media, shot, cine-trance, the whole


1. This essay proposes to rethink anthropological practice as a discipline of images (and not only of words), and to reconsider the role of ethnographic visual media in that science/art of the "anthropology of images." Here, following K. Iwaki, I take "image" to be all that appears to our consciousness (sometimes taking form, while at other times formless). From that point of view, the experiences in the anthropological field constitute a set of "images," part of which the anthropologist fixes by means of ethnographic visual media (above all through photography). Once returned from the field, the anthropologist works on his or her data with those "images" in mind. In that process of anthropological creation, ethnographic visual media plays, in general, a more important part than one might think.

2. To see that, we have only to examine the ethnographic photography of three anthropologists of the classical era: Malinowski, Bateson and Lévi-Strauss. Photography had a vital importance for Malinowski. Not only did he express himself by means of photography (in his main books he combined his texts with numerous photos in quite an original way), but we can also assume that his photography constituted important material for his anthropological thinking, since his photos, mostly extreme long shots, were ideal for functionalist analysis. Ethnographic visual media was also very important for Bateson: we may say that the expressive and analytical possibilities of the media that he explored (montage, sequence-shot or sequential photography, materiality, etc.) were exactly what his theoretical thinking needed. If some of his photos in Balinese Character are so penetrating, it is because his shots, fluctuating between medium and long shots, reflect his almost impossible need to capture, at once, the materiality, the action and the context of the event. Meanwhile, Lévi-Strauss's photography is quite different from Malinowski's and Bateson's anthropological photography, in that he takes close-ups and candids with total freedom, with an artist's spirit. Nevertheless, his photography and his structuralist theory do have something in common: the invariable attention to "the sensible" no less than to the "intelligible."

3. In any case, it is also undeniable that for these anthropologists, the discipline of images is subordinate to the discipline of words. And my contention is that this is not the only way -nor, perhaps, the most fruitful after all. But first we have to look more closely at what photography is (including films and videos). On the one hand, the photographic act is, in a word, "overdetermined" by the photographer and the photographed, both in the selection of the topic and in the selection of the variables (framing, focus, camera movement, etc.), so that the resulting image has always an "intention" much broader than that of the photographer. On the other hand, the photographic act is never a neutral event: the eternity, although hypothetical, of the preserved image always ensures that the photographed person finds himself or herself, consciously and unconsciously, in another reality. Surely, photography is not a copy of the existing reality: it is a record of the reality created in front of the camera.

4. Those issues have been admirably approached and deepened by some of the most important "ethnographic" filmmakers, such as Robert Flaherty, Jean Rouch and Robert Gardner, filmmakers who are rather marginal in visual anthropology (obviously Rouch himself was not marginal in the least, but his whole career overrides - significantly - the field of visual anthropology). Probably, the very fact that their films continue to be marginal, both in visual anthropology and in anthropology tout court, testifies to the still preserved freshness of their experiments. It is just so with Flaherty's shooting method (a long period of preparation living with the people to film, and the projection of rush films in front of them) and the characteristic of his images that refers somehow, in the words of Frances H. Flaherty, to "the time beyond the time" and that go "into that clear, calm, whole world." Rouch's creative ideas of "cine-trance" and "cine-anthropology" - according to which the filmmaker becomes "possessed" by the filmed people (or reality) and, thus, becomes free of the external categories introduced by anthropologists (us/them, tradition/modernity, etc.) - still await a more thorough understanding. That may be even truer for Gardner's films: his sensitive way of showing the materiality of the human body and human world - materiality that is, after all, both our starting point and end - seems to suggest the possibility of a new kind of anthropological approach, namely, that is of great necessity in the current hypercodified world where, precisely, that fundamental materiality tends to be forgotten. And, as we see it at the end of the section, those topics, although not yet fully treated in anthropology itself, are taken further by the contemporary movements such as the ''video in the Villages" project in Brazil, and lived by its participants as vital issues.

5. To conclude, it is worth remarking that the "non-neutral" character of the photographic act is in fact shared by anthropological fieldwork outside the camera, since writing is another way of eternizing things. Now, what seems to have been suggested, both by the ethnographic filmmakers discussed above and by the indigenous filmmakers of Brazil, is that such a character is not necessarily something to be eliminated or overcome. Probably, what is important is not the seemingly objective (and static) sociocultural reality, but the profound truth glimpsed in the "motion" between existing reality and the reality created by the research (the truth of that "whole world" mentioned by Frances H. Flaherty), because in fact we are "in motion" in our most decisive moments just as in the moment of the photographic or research act. If it is really so, the "anthropology of images" will certainly have an important role to play in the anthropology of the future.

Immediacy and Cinema: Re-"appropriation" of the World through Films

posted Apr 21, 2012, 5:16 AM by Tadashi YANAI   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 6:19 PM ]

According to Bergson, in our daily life we see people and things around us through our framework of habits and language, and are thus separated from the immediate manifestation of the reality itself. For him, we can only restore immediacy through some activities exterior to our daily life, one of which -and probably the most remarkable- is art. And now the question is: can the cinema play such role? On the one hand, as W. Benjamin pointed it out, the cinema, for all the sensation of reality it creates, may rather deprives us of immediacy since it tends to show, instead of presenting us the living reality, nothing more than stereotyped images taken out of it. Nevertheless, we can also affirm --and Benjamin himself hinted at this possibility-- that beside these corny images another cinema exists: there are films that break precisely with those clichés and offer us a fresh vision of reality. This cinema may well be called the "cinema of immediacy".

In this essay I study thus the "cinema of immediacy" that helps us recover the direct contact with things and people in our present day world. Through filmic works and spoken words of the directors like Dreyer, Resnais, Perrault, Kiarostami and Iosseliani among others, I inquire into the creation process of such cinema (the encounter with the "phenomena" in the Bartokian sense, and the expression of that encounter), the necessities that emerge in that creation (to capture the "life" of reality and the birth of the words, as well as to display a whole series of signs in a Humean "medium" between sympathy and comparison creating at the same time the film's own musicality of images).

But what, concretely, does this cinema of immediacy reveal to us in our present condition of life? It seems to me that these films, opening us to the immediate relations with things and people, free us -or at least free our glance- from this world governed everywhere by the property rights. In effect, nowadays almost every relation is mediated, in some way or another, by legal rights and economic relations, to such an extent that we nearly forget that the world also existed before it has been transformed into a mass of legal-economic relations. But here the cinema of immediacy, certainly, can give us back a fresh vision: the films of Ouedraogo, Ford, Kurosawa or Iosseliani, among other directors, approach this problematic and show us the importance of re-"appropriation" of the world by our own eyes and hands. But surely this is not a Utopian story. As recent Iosseliani's films (Farewell, Home Sweet Home and Monday Morning) show clearly, we can't but continue to live in this society governed by the property rights and economic relations: another world does not exist. Only, perhaps by way of some Pathos der Distanz, may we be allowed to re-"appropriate" our world, although keeping on with our actual condition of life.

What to Talk about Audiovisual Images?: An Essay concerning Gilles Deleuze's Cinéma

posted Apr 21, 2012, 5:15 AM by Tadashi YANAI   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 6:19 PM ]

We sit back in front of the screen : the image appears and invites us to travel through other places, to live an unknown world. This may be what we expect of audiovisual images, but actually the experience tends to be reduced to a tour through what we may call pseudo-reality, that is, a kind of audiovisual amusement park in which what there is to see and live is neatly programmed from the beginning. And the problem is that this occurs not only in movies, telefilms and computer games, but also, in a subtler manner, in newscasts and other "non-fiction" images, so much so that we confuse increasingly our reality with this pseudo-reality of images. And I should add that this "pseudo-reality" is also real in that it has its own functions in the actual global political and economic system, although it is certainly not fully real in itself.-it is precisely for this reason the matter should be carefully examined.

In this context, the two books: Cinéma 1: l'image-mouvement and Cinéma 2: l'image-temps that French philosopher Gilles Deleuze published in the 1980s seem particularly relevant: in a philosophical perspective opened up by Kant and developed by Bergson and Nietzsche, he elucidates logical structures of diverse audiovisual images and offers us valuable tools to analyze the situation described above.

Concretely, we can learn from his analysis, on the one hand, how what he calls "action-images" tends to form a pseudo-reality and to make us live in it almost without our knowledge. And on the other hand, we can also learn how films by Dreyer, Ozu, Rossellini, Welles, Resnais or Perrault -to cite just a few directors- propose us a sort of transcendental exploration about the conditions of our experience and thus help us to recover, in a tangible way, our relationship with the surrounding world. Inmanence, collective fabulation, ritornello and territory would be some of the key notions to explicate this process.

I hasten to add that this essay, as it might be seen from above, is not a faithful summary of Cinéma but an attempt to clarify its philosophical background as well as to reinvent its basic ideas, on that background, for our epoch of digital reproduction. Thus, I study on my own account the meaning of "Kantianism" in cinema (especially, the notion of the audiovisual cogito) and the status of the image as simulacrum; I also make, on my own account and rather separating from Deleuze's own words, a distinction between the sensory-motor tie as vital process and the sensory-motor scheme as intellectualized process. Thus, I propose here a set of ideas that may serve to speak about audiovisual images in an immanent way, that is, in a way that help us free ourselves from the pseudo-reality of images, and create a lively relationship between images, our body and our earth.

Orality as a Mode of Thought and Existence among the Mapuche

posted Apr 21, 2012, 5:14 AM by Tadashi YANAI   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 6:19 PM ]

Key Words: Mapuche, orality, ceremonial dialogue, dream, existence
Among the Mapuche of Southern Chile, the importance of the oral mode of communication is immediately perceptible because of their highly developed system of ceremonial dialogue (ngütramkan). In this article, I survey the anthropological problems implied by Mapuche orality on the basis of ethnographic data gathered near Lake Calafquén in 1990-1992. Concretely, I will show how their ceremonial dialogue intimately unites oral traditions, dreams and rituals, and thus, crossing the central parts of their traditional sociocultural practices, means for many of them the very practice that gives shape to their traditional mode of thought and existence. Another intention of this article, along with these ethnographic discussions, is to characterize their oral mode of thought and existence by contrasting it with Platonism and modern subjectivity, mostly inspired by E. A. Havelock's classic Preface to Plato. This second aspect of the article will help to apprehend from an ontological level the actual problem of the existence of contemporary Mapuche-an ethnic minority in the Chilean state, modern and basically Western-most of whom are obliged to fluctuate between two conflicting cultures.

Remembrance and Repetition: Analysis of a Mapuche Dream Narrative

posted Apr 21, 2012, 5:13 AM by Tadashi YANAI   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 6:20 PM ]

Key Words: Mapuche, dreams, repetition, images


1. The Mapuche Indians of Chile have always been considered to be a fairly acculturated people. Yet, up to now, many of them have continued to define themselves to be Mapuche, in spite of the continual pressures from Chilean society. A remarkable fact in this concern is that they keep paying great attention to their dreams. "Dreams tell you the Truth", they always say, and this Truth naturally seems to influence their thoughts and conducts considerably. This is why I am interested here to examine what dreams are for them, and what kind of Truth they adhere to.

In this paper I intend to analyze a narrative given by Sebastian, an old Mapuche man, in order to illustrate how the Mapuche Indians today are living their Truth. In the narrative, Sebastian relates how he dreamt, more than twenty years ago, a dream that I name here as "the helicopter dream"; what this dream meant to him during those years when things were getting more and more unfavorable for the Mapuche way of life; and finally, how the "real" meaning of this dream was revealed to him in 1987, that is, twenty years after he dreamt it.


2. Before taking up this narrative, however, let us briefly consider some Mapuche ideas about dreams, and the close relationship between their dreams (or some of their dreams), myths and rituals.

The Mapuche insist that dreams should always be told, and curiously, they say that it is because by this way dreams can easily be remembered. Thus they often spend some morning hours recounting their dreams to each other. They do not hasten too much to find the meaning of each dream in general, and some of them affirm that the meaning will become known by itself when the time comes. This might be one of the reasons why they say that they should always remember their dreams.

Among many kinds of dreams, the Mapuche pay special attention to a genre of dreams that is called füta peuma ("great dreams"): dreams which are considered to be messages from Wenumapu Chau Wenumapu Nuke (their supreme God) or from some other spiritual being.

These dreams have to be remembered with great care, and they are repeatedly recalled by the dreamer. It should not be difficult to imagine that these "great dreams" may be related to Mapuche myths. Indeed they do have many themes in common. Actually, Mapuche mythology contains in itself innumerable accounts of "great dreams" dreamt by their ancestors.

Another important point about "great dreams" is that they often include some direct or indirect messages which urge the dreamer to realize some ritual act. For example, once a Mapuche dreamt of a yellow bull, which was a clear request for him to convoke a kamarikun, their greatest sacrificial ritual (in which the chief sacrificial animal is the yellow bull). This was something impossible for him to realize at that moment, but he kept this dream carefully in his memory; and sixteen years later, he finally convoked kamarikun, and thus fulfilled God's demand.

In this way, Mapuche dreams, or more exactly their "great dreams", are very closely related to Mapuche myths and rituals. This point is also attested by the fact that both mythical themes and ritual scenes appear quite frequently in their dreams. And there would be little doubt that these images, presented in their dreams, appeal much to the Mapuche as something related to their ideal way of life. This is the point that I will examine with Sebastian's "great dream" --"the helicopter dream".


3. In his narrative, after some introductory comments, Sebastian first recollects how he was some twenty years ago when he had the dream. On the one hand, he was an earnest believer of the Mapuche religion, and held (and still holds) the important office of sargento in the village ritual organization. Actually, he says that he was destined to do so because, as a child, he received a dream message from God. On the other hand, however, those years were when the village people were strongly influenced by both Catholic and Protestant missionaries; so much so that all Sebastian's sons and daughters were converted to Protestantism, thus rejecting totally their father's religion. Sebastian, in this manner, was torn internally by the two contradicting forces. He felt so alone that sometimes he almost lost his faith in the Mapuche God.

It was during one of these moments of doubt that he had his dream. In the dream he was at the barn of his house, watching the blue sky. There he saw many people running on horseback, circling counterclockwise, that is, just as the Mapuche do in their sacrificial ritual of kamarikun. Then he suddenly noticed a helicopter circling with them. It made four turns (the number four means completion for the Mapuche) in the sky and then landed near Sebastian's house. As he watched it, two soldiers came out of the helicopter, and came near Sebastian. One of them had a heart (which is clearly reminiscent of the heart of sacrificial animals that are presented to God in kamarikun) in his hand. He came to Sebastian and asked him what it was. Sebastian answered that it was "the faithful's heart". Then the soldier said: "All right. So, when you feel sorrowful, just look up to the sky!" and extended his arm up to the sky.

This dream impressed him so much that it remained with him for years to come. It was, as he says, the only solid basis for him to maintain his faith in the Mapuche religion. But there was one thing in the dream that he never got to understand: the meaning of the heart. He asked the elders, but no one could give him a clear answer.

Years passed. In 1987, there was a weak resurgence of the Mapuche religion among the villagers, and they held a kamarikun after some twenty years. Sebastian, as his village's sargento, now had to play quite an important role in the ritual. He was not confident of himself, since he evidently lacked experience, but he believed that God would help him.

The day came. The village priest prayed. Some people danced and ran at Sebastian's command, circling counterclockwise around the altar; others rode on their horses and ran circling counterclockwise around the ritual field. And then came the climax: the young men turned the yellow bull (the main sacrificial animal) over, and extracted its beating heart. The heart was passed to Sebastian, who was supposed to pray to God with it in his hand. At that moment, he did not know exactly how he had to pray because he had never played such an important role. Anyway, he decided to begin praying. Suddenly, he remembered his dream of twenty years ago: he remembered how the soldier had the heart in his hand, and what the soldier told him. And at that precise instant he knew what the prayer should be like. This, he says, was the very meaning of the heart.


4. Now I will analyze this narrative from two interrelated perspectives. First I will see how the narrative moves in the narrator's imagination from one plane of spacetime to another. Then I will examine the recurrent images found throughout the narrative.

At first, the story refers to the contradiction between the Mapuche world and the Chilean world. The former is, in Sebastian's mind, related to the almost mythical memory of his childhood dream, and he knows that it is decisively important for him. The latter, however, is also important and he cannot separate himself from it, as he cannot separate himself from his sons and daughters.

Then he recounts the helicopter dream. The spacetime of this dream is a concrete one, because it happened during his sleep some twenty years ago. Nonetheless, it is also reminiscent of the eternal world of Heaven (Wenumapu), which is represented by the people in the sky.

Actually, in this case, there is an ambiguity in the very word "blue sky" (kallfii wenu), because it means both the blue sky itself and the uppermost layer of Heaven. Now, the same kind of doubleness can be found in the kamarikun scene in 1987. It was held in real place and time, and simultaneously it is penetrated by timeless elements such as ritual symbols. In the final part, the image of the heart triggers Sebastian's memory of the helicopter dream. In his imagination, the spacetime of his dream, that of the ritual and that of the world of Heaven are all dissolved together, and are absorbed into the eternal world of God.

It would be clear from above that the narrative is full of recurrent images which go through several planes of spacetime and unite them. First, there are some repeated images of movement such as counterclockwise movement, four-time repetition, and the act of looking up to the sky: these are important because they appeal strongly to the motor-sensory imagery of the Mapuche, and recall their memory of their rituals.

Secondly, some powerful symbols appear repeatedly in the narrative; the most important of all is the heart, on which the narrative finally converges. Thirdly, there are some expressions such as "I live" or "I am sad" (which do not appear in this summary)· that appear here and there in the narrative. These expressions can be considered to be related to the Mapuche's profound ideas about their existence, and they give a philosophical touch to this narrative.

All these points seem to indicate that this narrative achieves an admirable presentation of the Mapuche religious ideas. It resorts to the various spheres of their imagery such as the motor-sensory, the symbolic and the philosophical, and finally refers to what could be called their religious Essence, which is glimpsed in Sebastian's imagination at the last moment.

Without any doubt, this was the Truth that Sebastian found. (back)


5. A problem remains, however. Why was Sebastian able to reproduce the Mapuche Truth so well in this narrative? It will be seen that this question is related to his realism. But let us first examine if Sebastian does not deviate in any way from the traditional Mapuche thinking in this narrative, with all his repetitions of traditional ideas.

In fact, there is a detail which may seem strange for the traditional Mapuche: the helicopter.

There would be no doubt, in this dream, that it serves as the vehicle of the messenger from God. Nonetheless, according to the normal Mapuche interpretation of dreams, helicopters, along with cars or planes, are thought to be transformations of malignant spirits sent by witches.

Another remarkable detail is the confession of his unfaithful statement (which does not appear in this summary): he once said that the Mapuche religion will probably be overwhelmed by Protestantism. This would be an impermissible statement for a person in his position, but Sebastian does not seem to feel guilty about it and simply says that he was in the wrong.

These facts indicate, in a word, that the dark elements of traditional Mapuche ideas are completely eliminated from Sebastian's thinking. He does not believe in witchcraft, and that is why the helicopter can appear as something divine in his dream. Moreover, he does not accept those fatalistic ideas about error and guilt, and that is why he can move freely from the Mapuche way of thinking to the Chilean one. Hence his realism. While the traditional Mapuche narratives begin in general with unquestioned mythical truths, Sebastian's begins with a profound doubt. His is not a combination of mythical stories, but is composed as a developmental drama in which the narrator begins with nothing and ends with belief. It is certainly thanks to this fact that we are able to follow him in his approach to the Truth in this narrative.

It is clear that in this regard Sebastian can also be seen as a destroyer of his tradition, because he feels no fear of rejecting some of its fundamental elements. In fact, another series of repetition begins here, that is, the repetition from Sebastian to his sons and daughters. In a sense they did not betray their father; they just repeated their father's fundamental doubt, only to produce different results.


6. In this paper I have tried to examine, by analyzing Sebastian's narrative, what the Truth of their dreams is for the Mapuche today. Now it could be said that the Truth of their dreams means a lot to them because it triggers in the dreamer an experience of profound repetition of their ideal, including the unconscious or physical level.

But what we can also learn from Sebastian's case is that one type of repetition does not exclude other ones. This is an especially important point when we observe that the Mapuche today are obliged to live both in the Mapuche world and in the Chilean world, and are internally torn in this contradiction. The helicopter in Sebastian's dream could be considered as a condensed symbol of this situation.

Anthropology and "Ethnoscience": Galician Popular Medicine (Spain)

posted Apr 21, 2012, 5:12 AM by Tadashi YANAI   [ updated Jan 23, 2014, 6:20 PM ]

1. Some recent ethnographic studies have shown the long-neglected importance of the personal aspect of the informants' and the anthropologist's experiences (See OBEYESEKERE 1980 among others). It is clear that ethnomedicine will be one of the fields where this problem is of great significance. Illness and its treatment certainly cannot be regarded as a simple social or cultural phenomenon that is 'objectively observable'. It is composed, at least in part, of a process which is experienced personally by the subject and the people around him or her, so to say, 'with body and soul'.

This article, which may also serve as a brief ethnographic introduction to Galician popular medicine, intends to sketch some of the methodological or epistemological questions concerning the above theme: I aim to present the Galician ethnomedical system as a set of 'ethnoscientific discourses' (the definition will be given later), which offer to the people pragmatic means to handle a variety of problems in human life. In this article, I first describe briefly the medical pluralism in a village in Galicia, and after a brief comment, I go on to look at two Galician 'illnesses', aire ('air') and mal de ollo (evil eye) to illustrate some aspects of the problem. During this discussion, I shall also suggest that the anthropological (and biomedical, psychiatric, etc.) frameworks, by which we interpret the local discourses, themselves are other 'ethnoscientific discourses'. Some consequences of this view will be discussed in the conclusion. (Note my use of the term 'discourse' in this article, which does not coincide with its normal linguistic use. It roughly indicates a flexible framework of ideas and actions which can be modified, remodeled, decomposed or newly constructed in the actual process of human life; the term is deliberately used to grasp the subtle relationship between 'theory' and 'practice', which seems to characterize not only 'ethnosciences', but even our 'scientific' investigations, as is shown by FEYERABEND 1981.)

My argument chiefly refers to the ethnomedical practices in Piñeiral, a Galician village located in the northwestern extreme of the Iberian Peninsula. Galicia is a Spanish region lying to the north of Portugal, and has an ambience fairly different from Castilla, Central Spain. It is featured by a rainy climate, undulating land covered with verdure, dispersed small hamlets, infinitely subdivided land possession, etc. The Galician language (galego) is of common origin with Portugese, rather than Spanish, though people are more or less bilingual with Spanish, owing to recent historical circumstances. (back)


2. In Piñeiral, the six following discourses are evoked when someone suffers from 'illness' (this term being defined here as a sum of folk and biomedical concepts) : (1) biomedicine, (2) herbal treatment, (3) practices by compoñedores (bonesetters), (4) magical practices by local healers of the village, (5) mainly magical practices by professional healers, (6) treatment by the grace of God and the saints.

Let us see how people regard the coexistence of these different discourses. Among the six, the first (biomedicine) is evidently the most influential and authorized discourse in the present situation of Piñeiral. This is both due to the presence of a medical clinic and a pharmacy in the village and to the implantation of the Social Security System. Next to this, the sixth discourse (that of God and the saints) is positively acknowledged in principle, since Catholicism forms an important part of the dominant ideology here. In contrast, people are manifestly ambivalent in respect of the fourth and the fifth (those of magical cure), which are ideologically disapproved and suppressed. It is notable that these discourses, especially the fourth, are curiously related to the Catholic ideology, because the healers generally assume that their magical power derives from the grace of God. The second and the third are neutral in this respect. (back)


3. These local discourses on illness and its treatment cannot be viewed simply as a set of cultural or social phenomena. They are constantly utilized, tested, and elaborated; in this sense, each of them ought to be regarded as an 'ethnoscience' (which obviously has little to do with mere folk taxonomies), in other words, as an authentic system of theories and practices which is justified by itself and not by reference to our 'sciences' (See LAPLANTINE 1982). The matter is clear when we consider the case of Chinese medicine, whose validity cannot be doubted, though the major part of its practices remain unexplained from a biomedical point of view. In this point, it is worth referring to Paul FEYERABEND (1981), who argues, in his criticism of the Popperian distinction of science and non-science, that modern science resembles mythology in many more points than the philosophy of science is ready to admit, and that it is one of the many forms of thought elaborated by man, not being necessarily the best. In fact, I suspect that each of the branches of our modern science could also be called an 'ethnoscience'.

With these reflections taken into account, we now proceed to look at some examples from Galician ethnomedicine. We shall take up two Galician 'illnesses', and shall briefly examine them from four of our 'scientific' (or rather 'ethnoscientific') discourses, that is to say, symbolism, ethnopsychiatry, sociology and social change. I believe that this procedure of contrasting 'their' discourses and 'ours' is fundamental for us to grasp 'in our own way' the merits of local discourses, in spite of an insufficiency that we shall observe later.

Aire is a local illness with an almost fixed set of symptoms such as decrease of appetite, physical enfeeblement, loss of weight, etc. Usually, it is treated successfully by local healers who utter incantations and prayers to cure it. The symptoms of mal de ollo (evil eye), in contrast, are not always the same: a person may wonder if it is mal de ollo whenever he is gravely ill or he has continuously bad luck. Note that the concept of mal de ollo is closely related with those of envexa (envy), meigallo (witchcraft or sorcery), and sometimes of endemoniamento (demonic possession), each of which designate slightly different situations, although they are in no way mutually exclusive. Mal de alto is treated either by local healers, or by professional healers, or through some religious practices.

Regarded as symbolic systems, these 'illnesses' and their treatment are of some interest. I argue that aire is related with the problem of transgression of the socio-cultural categorization.

As for mal de ollo, I mention VALENTE's view that some of its symptoms, particularly when it takes the form of endemoniamento, can be interpreted as the subject's total rejection of the collectively approved symbolic order (See VALENTE 1984). These results imply, on the other side, that the curing practices also could be interpreted in this manner (as LEVI-STRAUSS did), which is true only to some extent. After all, it becomes evident that what the theory of symbols clarifies is no more than a small part of reality, and further reflections are needed, particularly concerning what we may call the imaginary aspect of the phenomena.

Ethnopsychiatry offers another frame of reference that is of value. With respect to aire, suggest that it can be considered, in the ethnopsychiatric discourse, to be a manifestation of the subject's psychological problems which is triggered by contact with symbolically dangerous beings. Mal de ollo, once more in its aspect of endemoniamento, is here treated as an example of 'ethnic disorder' (a concept forged by Georges DEVEREUX), in which the subject's unresolved internal conflicts burst out in a culturally recognized manner (See VALENTE 1984 and GONZALEZ 1984). I hasten to add that this interpretation of mal de ollo, though it appears fairly successful, explains merely a part of the phenomenon. It is naturally incapable of explaining those cases in which animals or houses or ships are bewitched, and not human beings.

Let us now consider the problem sociologically. Though little can be said about aire, I point out, based on the above discussions, that it may be related to the questions of the society through the system of socio-cultural categorization. Mal de ollo raises two sociological interpretations, incompatible and equally founded. One intends to present mal de ollo as a system of social control, and it is partly justified by the local formulation of mal de ollo as envexa (envy) : envy is an antisocial desire, so that those who have it should be detected and controlled. I note that this interpretation has a serious defect, because, at least in Piñeiral, witch-hunting frequently ends without clear results. The other interpretation has to do with the above ethnopsychiatric one (and have the same defect as above): mal de ollo, in this way, is regarded as a system which facilitates the suffering individual to look for a means to readapt himself or herself both socially and psychologically.

Finally, the problem of social change is briefly discussed. I remark that three types of change are relevant here. First, we ought to take into account the changes of medical pluralism: introduction of new discourses (and loss of old ones). This is surely a fundamental phenomenon of ethnoscience, since these discourses (including biomedicine) are composed, as we have argued, of pragmatic ideas and actions, some of which can certainly serve In other natural-cultural-social environments (this is not only true of biomedicine, but also perhaps of urban folk healing, naturist medicine and Chinese medicine, which seem to be appearing now on the Galician ethnomedical scene). Secondly, ideological change is of great importance. The introduction of biomedicine in Galicia does not simply mean that people have another alternative for treatment, but that they are forced to accept the exclusive ideology that accompanies biomedical systems. However, it is worth pointing out that biomedicine can never be the supreme medicine: people continue choosing, every time, the best way to cope, with a health problem, which is not necessarily biomedicine. Thirdly, I argue that the change of the illnesses themselves has to be considered. In short, the human mind-body is closely related with its natural-cultural-social environment, so that it is not surprising that diseases should be transformed according to changes in their surroundings. I imply, although as a mere hypothesis, that cases of aire and mal de ollo are decreasing, possibly changing into other forms of illnesses, as the continuous process of urbanization goes on. (back)


4. The above discussions on aire and mal de ollo have, I believe, the merit of showing how the local 'ethnoscientific' discourses can be interpreted differently (which means how we can acknowledge in them a variety of pragmatic value), and at the same time how our frames of reference, our 'scientific' discourses are insufficient for estimating the value of the local discourses.

To conclude, I am tempted to refer to a fundamental question. What is the relationship between anthropology and 'ethnoscience'? What does the anthropological interpretation of local discourses consist in? As I have already emphasized, anthropology is merely another 'ethnoscience'; in fact, the privilege of anthropological discourses (as well as other 'scientific' ones) as our constant frames of reference is only justified by the fact that we perform our intellectual and social practices from the side of 'our' modern-urban societies, to which belong all anthropological discourses and (in principle) all anthropologists. Now, what we should always remember is the insufficiency of 'our' discourses to interpret 'theirs', as is illustrated by the example of mal de ollo. Based on this recognition, I think that our task lies in the double endeavour, on the one hand to understand 'their' discourses from inside, and, on the other, to enrich 'our' discourses by contrasting 'ours' with 'theirs'.

1-7 of 7