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An Anthropology of Images (2018)

posted Apr 25, 2018, 6:50 PM by Tadashi YANAI   [ updated Jan 14, 2019, 6:12 PM ]
 *If you would like to print the whole content (except links to related documents) of this page, you can download the PDF file at the bottom of this page; in  Japanese, here.  Related information is also available on UTokyo BiblioPlaza.

    My book, An Anthropology of Images   (『イメージの人類学』, in Japanese), has been published by Serica Shobo, in April 2018. The objective of this book is to reinvent theoretical framework of "sociocultural" anthropology in a rather unorthodox -I admit it- but coherent way, and to make, from this perspective, a broad survey of anthropology's past (during the 20th century), its present (since 1990s) and its future possibilities. 

    Unorthodox it is, indeed. I begin this book by proposing to subtract -following Gilles Deleuze's idea in Superpositions- the very concepts of "culture" and "society" from sociocultural anthropology, and to see closely what happens (*1). After laying down the guiding lines of my argument in the chapter 1, I first look into the relationship between ethnographic fieldwork and the concepts of "culture" and "society" in the two following chapters. It is only after examining this essential element of anthropological practice that I slowly develop two key concepts of the book, "image" and "body social"; my argument is that anthropological thinking will gain much more flexibility, sharpness and width if we substitute "culture" and "society" with these concepts. Of course, in order for this to make sense, the two terms, "image" and "body social", must be carefully and thoughtfully defined: thus, in the chapters 1 and 4, I analyze the elusive term of "image" and eventually redefine it as a combined process of "de-imaginization" and "re-imaginization"  (*2); and in the chapter 4, I introduce the idea of "body social" by transforming Hobbes' "body politic" and connecting it with Spinozist idea of body (corpus) -which is necessarily social.
*1  I explained this idea of subtraction -as well as some other ideas contained in this new book in Japanese- in Alternative Art and Anthropology edited by Arnd Schneider, Bloomsbury, 2017 (Chapter 7, "Theories in images: Tadashi Yanai in conversation with Arnd Schneider"; see here) .
*2  As it is clear, I have invented these awkward termes by imitating, formally, Deleuze and Guattari's idea of "deterritorialization" and "reterritorialization". The theoretical necessity of this invention, however, derives from elsewhere: Lévi-Strauss, William Labov, Lev Vygotsky, and recent developments in neuroscience (chaps. 1 and 4; see also several figures below). Actually, even our perception (of vision, hearing, etc.) is already de-imaginized and re-imaginized (for example, neurologically speaking, an apple as a material object is not red nor exactly round: it is only in our brain that it becomes red and round).

   I should add, however, that the real mood of the book is far from this skeletal -and too rapid- explanation. In fact, I am convinced that my argument there is such a concrete and ethnographically-conceived one that most readers can follow it without much effort. It is because "images" and "body social" -as I define them- are those things which are immediately perceived and lived by anthropologists doing their ethnographic fieldwork (whereas "culture" and "society" are never there in the field - they are products of abstraction or secondary elaboration on the desk). And importantly, as I argue in the chapter 2, Bronislaw Malinowski alreadly knew this when he admirably invented the idea of "imponderabilia of the actual life" (Argonauts of the Western Pacific); so was Robert Flaherty when he filmed Nanook of the North in such an ingenious way. Bateson and Mead's Balinese Character can also be recalled. Thus, starting from these pioneers, we can trace a different history of anthropology -that of an "anthropology of images"- up to the present and after. Is this perhaps too bold or disrespectful? But the truth is that the impulse for this thinking did not come from my caprices: I was forced to abandon the concepts of "culture" and "society" because of my fieldwork experiences in Peruvian Amazon under terrorism -in late 1980s- (cf. chap. 5) and with the Mapuche in Chile under neoliberalism -in early 1990s- (chap. 3). This book is a result of my prolonged reflections since then, which has taken no less than 30 years.

   Once the refurbished framework is given, in the second half of the book I propose to look at many of important ethnographic or anthropological themes of the past and the present, and intend to establish meaningful dialogues with them. In this part, I have found some lines of thought in contemporary anthropology of nature and body (Descola, Viveiros de Castro, Latour and Ingold) especially fruitful: I find the idea of "anthropology of images" resonates fairly well with them. So it is among these resonances that I study diverse ethnographic examples (from the chapter 6 to chapter 9), trying to get new insights for the anthropology of our times. More concretely, I have found Descola's fourfold scheme (animism, totemism, analogism and naturalism) quite inspiring to organize these chapters, even though, finally, I had to take the liberty of adapting it to the necessity of this book. Thus, for my own purpose, I discuss about "dynamism" (cf. van Gennep) instead of "totemism", and "the objectified 'nature'" instead of "naturalism"; and these four "visions of nature" (*) are not structured -as in Descola's theory- but simply juxtaposed, penetrated with each other, and "framed" one inside another (cf. Bateson) - I suggest this "framed" relationship, along with its possibility of inversion (from inside to outside and vice versa) is an important idea for the anthropology of -or around- the modern (chap. 8).
* I say "visions of nature", but surely I am not stressing "vision" as a particular sense. Here the term is meant to have its most inclusive sense. Suffice it to say that animals have developed their sense of vision from the sense of touch in their evolution: vision and touch are inseparable. In other words, "vision" is, as Deleuze and Spinoza thought, a shorthand of "the system of attitudes of a body for affecting -and being affected by- other bodies".

   Although this is a theoretical book, I have included many examples of ethnographies and documentary films to make sure that theory and image go always together. I am one of those who believe that each strong ethnographic description -its image- is, potentially, theory (or image-theory). Or, in fact, it is more than that. In the latter part of the chapter 8 and the chapter 9, I refrain from theorizing from above and turn to the method of montage of ethnographic examples. This is also a practical decision: given that ethnographies since around 1990 have come to cover such a vast range of subjects, problematics and ideas, I have thought this kind of montage of ethnographic images permit us to sense better the real potentialities of contemporary anthropology. Finally, in the concluding chapter, I reinterpret these four visions of nature and transform them into four visions about time; and I re-imagine anthropological practice as a practice of future, or of repetition of future (Deleuze). 

   I have conceived this to be a book open to everyone, and not just for professionals. With this in mind, I have constructed my argument from the ground up, like in a book of mathematics, so that any reader can follow my argument and, more importantly, understand this important way of thinking called anthropology (I gladly admit that, after all, the idea of "anthropology of images" count less than anthropology itself, both for me and for the book). My ultimate wish in writing this book has been nothing more than this: that any reader could somehow find enjoyment in each page of the book, as it occurs in those marvelous films of Carl Th. Dreyer, Victor Erice, Jacques Tati, or Charles Chaplin.

Tadashi Yanai, An Anthropology of Images (箭内匡『イメージの人類学』), 308+v pages, ¥3000 [in Japanese].
 Available at Amazon JAPAN.

Contents  Chapter and section titles are NOT literally translated.

Introduction: anthropology in mutation ......5
 Anthropology since the 1990s
 How this book is organized
Chapter 1  Toward an anthropology of images......14
1.1  Alterity as essential element
1.2  From "culture" and "society" to "images"
1.3  Image, de-imaginization and re-imaginization     
1.4  What are sensory images?: perspective from contemporary neuroscience
 [Figure 1] , [Figure 2] (de-imaginization and re-imaginization and image)
Chapter 2  Ethnographic fieldwork: Malinowski revisited......39
2.1  Becoming-other
2.2  The theory of the imponderabilia
2.3  Malinowski and Flaherty
2.4  From Flahery to Rouch: ciné-anthropology of the imponderabilia
Chapter 3  Ethnographic fieldwork: a case in 1990s......59
3.1  When there is no "core" to adhere to...
3.2  Image-thinkers: ceremonial dialogues of the Mapuche
3.3  Face, back and twists of reality
3.4  Ethnographic field as "field of forces"
 [Figure 3] (fields of forces according to Smale and Hirsch)
Chapter 4  Layers of image experiences......81
4.1  From Kant to Carpenter: images and space-time
4.2  De-imaginization and re-imaginization: lessons from structuralism
4.3  Micropolitics of re-imaginization: the linguistics of William Labov
4.4  Images, words, letters
     Case: Plurality of written image-planes (Scribner and Cole)
4.5  Image-planes and anthropological practice
     Case: Conflicts of image-planes in Ancient Greece (Havelock)
 [Figure 4]  [Figure 5]  [Figure 6]  [Figure 7] (de-imaginization and re-imaginization in Jakobson, Lévi-Strauss, Labov and Vygostky)
Chapter 5  What is the body social ?......109
5.1  Hobbes and Peruvian Amazon in 1989
    Case: Anarchy and sociality - Eastern Peru, 1989
5.2  How the body social is constituted
    Case: Body social in Bali (Bateson and Mead)
5.3  Images and words in Mapuche kinship terminology
5.4  Learning/participating the body social
    Case: Basic Training (Wiseman)
5.5  Images, forces and the body social
[Figure 8] (de-/re-imaginization and kinship terminology)
Chapter 6  People among Nature......142
6.1  Dynamism: feeling of the Nature's force
6.2  Animism: world in divergence
6.3  Coping with diverse forces in Nature
6.4  Body-toward-war
    Case: Dead Birds (Gardner)
 [Figure 9]  [Figure 10] (dynamism and animism)
Chapter 7  Analogism and the objectified "Nature"......165
7.1  Correspondences in Nature
7.2  Verticality and horizontality
7.3  Analogist economics
7.4  The objectified "Nature"
    Case: Tycho Brahe, astronomy and printing
 [Figure 11]  [Figure 12]  [Figure 13] (analogism and objectified "nature")
Chapter 8  Anthropology grappling with the modern......195
8.1  The body social of nation-states
    Case: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (Ford)
8.2  The objectified "society": economics and ontology
8.3  Potentialities of Tardian thinking
8.4  Politics of images, economy of images
    Case: Tamil Nadu 1985-1989 (Dickey/Balachander)
    Case: Manhattan 1979 (Wiseman)
8.5  "Frames" everywhere
    Case: Marseille 1993 (Bromberger)
    Case: Emperor Hirohito's death, 1988-1989
Chapter 9  Approaching nature and body today......242
9.1  Toward a new scheme
9.2  Thoughts on 21th-century ethnographic fieldwork
9.3  Disembodiment and re-embodiment
     Case: Robert Murphy and his "disembodied" body
     Case: John Hull's experience of losing vision
9.4  On the limits of human body
     Tim Ingold, "Stop, Look and Listen!"
     Deafness and language (Sacks)
9.5  Nature and state: the case of Peru
     Case: Yungay 1970-1971 (Oliver-Smith)
     Case: Pacchanta 1950-2007 (de la Cadena)
     Case: From Cuzco to Madre de Dios 2006-2011 (Harvey and Knox)
9.6  Technology, nature, body: contemporary lines of thought
     Case: Normandy 1987-89 (Zonabend)
     Case: Internet 2004-2007 (Boellstorff)
     Case: Pacific and Atlantic Oceans 2000-2005 (Helmreich)
     Case: Canada 2011-2013 (Vannini)
 [Figure 14]   [Figure 15] (nature and body: classic and contemporary schemes)
 "Four" visions of Nature
 Anthropological intuition
 Four temporalities
 Between "once" and "once-and-forever"
[Figure 16]   [Figure 17]   [Figure 18]   [Figure 19] (four temporalities)



Chapter 1: Figures 1 and 2     [click on the images to enlarge]

Figure 1
Figure 2

Chapter 3: Figures 3     [click on the image to enlarge]

Figure 3   

Chapter 4: Figures 4, 5, 6 and 7     [click on the images to enlarge]
Figure 4 Figure 5

Figure 6 Figure 7

Chapter 5: 
Figure 8     [click on the image to enlarge]
Figure 8

Chapter 6: 
Figures 9 and 10      [click on the images to enlarge]
Figure 9 Figure 10

Chapter 7: 
Figures 11, 12 and 13      [click on the images to enlarge]

Figure 11 Figure 12

Figure 13

Chapter 9: 
Figures 14 and 15      [click on the images to enlarge]
Figure 14 Figure 15

Figures 16, 17, 18 and 19      [click on the images to enlarge]

Figure 16 Figure 17

Figure 18 Figure 19

Tadashi YANAI,
Jun 15, 2018, 5:40 PM