Beyond Nature and Culture

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University of Chicago Press, Jun 1, 2013 - Social Science - 485 pages
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Philippe Descola has become one of the most important anthropologists working today, and Beyond Nature and Culture has been a major influence in European intellectual life since its French publication in 2005. Here, finally, it is brought to English-language readers. At its heart is a question central to both anthropology and philosophy: what is the relationship between nature and culture?
Culture—as a collective human making, of art, language, and so forth—is often seen as essentially different from nature, which is portrayed as a collective of the nonhuman world, of plants, animals, geology, and natural forces. Descola shows this essential difference to be, however, not only a specifically Western notion, but also a very recent one. Drawing on ethnographic examples from around the world and theoretical understandings from cognitive science, structural analysis, and phenomenology, he formulates a sophisticated new framework, the “four ontologies”— animism, totemism, naturalism, and analogism—to account for all the ways we relate ourselves to nature. By thinking beyond nature and culture as a simple dichotomy, Descola offers nothing short of a fundamental reformulation by which anthropologists and philosophers can see the world afresh.

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About the author (2013)

Philippe Descola holds the chair of anthropology and heads the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale at the Collège de France. He also teaches at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales. Among his previous books to appear in English are In the Society of Nature and The Spears of Twilight. Janet Lloyd has translated more than seventy books from the French by authors such as Jean-Pierre Vernant, Marcel Detienne, and Philippe Descola. Marshall Sahlins is the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. A member of the British Academy, he is the author of many books, including Culture and Practical Reason, How “Natives” Think, Islands of History, Apologies to Thucydides, and What Kinship Is—And Is Not, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

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