Toward an Anthropology of Ethics: Foucault and the Pedagogies of Autopoiesis

Anthropology has come to exhibit a certain ethical self-consciousness, a certain ethical anxiety, which the immediate heirs of Franz Boas would hardly have countenanced, perhaps hardly have under- stood. It emerged with the protests of the 1960s and had its earliest collective voice in Reinventing Anthropology, published in 1969 under the editorship of Dell Hymes. It has, however, proven to be far more durable than the Generation of Love. Though prevailingly leftist, its voices—neo-Marxist, feminist, postcolonial, ‘‘queer’’—have become increasingly diverse over the past three decades. The recent controversy over Alfred Kroeber’s treatment of his Yahi interlocutor, Ishi, is only one of many indications that its intensity remains quite high.1 What might thus be called anthro- pology’s ‘‘ethical turn’’ is indeed still very much in process. Here, I am less inter- ested in all that it has grown to encompass and enliven than in what, as yet, it has left almost entirely by the wayside. Anthropologists may worry at present over the stance they should take toward the Islamic veil, pharaonic circumcision, the Occi- dentalist trappings of the notion of universal human rights, or the ostensibly pater- nalistic regard of Ishi and of his remains, but they have yet systematically to put the ethical itself into anthropological question, systematically to inquire into the social and cultural themes and variations of ethical discourse and ethical practice, into the social and cultural lineaments of what, for lack of any better terminological placeholder, one might simply call the ‘‘ethical Ž eld.’’


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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