Minima Ethnographica: Intersubjectivity and the Anthropological Project

Chicago University Press: Chicago, 1998

No life is sufficient unto itself.  A person is singular only in the sense in which astronomers use the term: a relative point in space and time where invisible forces become fleetingly visible.

Minima Ethnographica outlines an existential theory of relationships.  In the same way that ecology approaches reality as a field of interdependent relationships rather than separable entities, existential anthropology argues that human reality is relational and that relations are prior to relata.  In exploring this view ethnographically, Michael Jackson unpacks the ways in which general or abstract relationships, such as those posited between nations, tribes, objects, and concepts, implicate the particular and intimate processes, strategies, and experiences we associate with interpersonal life.  Noting that intersubjectivity should not be construed as a synonym for empathy, Jackson gives equal weight to negative and positive modes of interaction, and argues moreover that the field of intersubjectivity includes persons, ancestors, spirits, collective representations, and material things. 

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