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Blind Spots in the Ethnographic Gaze: Rethinking Indigenous Amazonian Relationality Through a Microbial Lens

03.09.2023 06:00 PM

Event Summary

Growing understandings of the microbiome open possibilities to look at classic anthropological issues with fresh eyes. In ethnography from the Wari’ of western Brazil, bringing the animacy of place-based multispecies assemblages into focus expands interpretations of Wari’ praxis around biosocial identity, alterity and hospitality, death rituals, and landscape relations. Reflecting on what we may have been missing by discounting the empiricism of Indigenous “practical reason” in favor of immaterial, cognitively focused interpretations foregrounds the double standard in anthropological respect for Indigenous knowledge and commitments to take Indigenous ontologies seriously. Thinking microbially enables us to ask new questions about the interplay between cultural forms and lived experience.

This event was presented as part of a lecture series jointly organized by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society and the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge at the University of Chicago.


Beth A. Conklin


Beth A. Conklin is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University.