Fictionalizing Anthropology: Encounters and Fabulations at the Edges of the Human

Fictionalizing Anthropology: Encounters and Fabulations at the Edges of the Human

by Stuart J. McLean


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What might become of anthropology if it were to suspend its sometime claims to be a social science? What if it were to turn instead to exploring its affinities with art and literature as a mode of engaged creative practice carried forward in a world heterogeneously composed of humans and other than humans? Stuart McLean claims that anthropology stands to learn most from art and literature not as “evidence” to support explanations based on an appeal to social context or history but as modes of engagement with the materiality of expressive media—including language—that always retain the capacity to disrupt or exceed the human projects enacted through them.  

At once comparative in scope and ethnographically informed, Fictionalizing Anthropology draws on an eclectic range of sources, including ancient Mesopotamian myth, Norse saga literature, Hesiod, Lucretius, Joyce, Artaud, and Lispector, as well as film, multimedia, and performance art, along with the concept of “fabulation” (the making of fictions capable of intervening in and transforming reality) developed in the writings of Bergson and Deleuze. Sharing with proponents of anthropology’s recent “ontological turn,” McLean insists that experiments with language and form are a performative means of exploring alternative possibilities of collective existence, new ways of being human and other than human, and that such experiments must therefore be indispensable to anthropology’s engagement with the contemporary world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781517902728
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication date: 11/22/2017
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Stuart McLean is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He is author of The Event and Its Terrors: Ireland, Famine, Modernity and coeditor of Crumpled Paper Boat: Experiments in Ethnographic Writing.

Table of Contents



Part I. Anthropology: A Fabulatory Art

1. An Encounter in the Mist

2. Talabot

3. Fake

4. Anthropologies and Fictions

5. Knud Rasmussen

6. The Voice of the Thunder

7. Metaphor and/or Metamorphosis

8. “They Aren’t Symbols—They’re Real”

Part II. In Between

9. Liminality: An Old Story?

10. The Dead Have Never Been Modern

11. The God Who Comes

12. Between the Times

13. Anthropology ≠ Ethnography

14. Fabulatory Comparativism

Part III. Gyro Nights: Inhuman Culture/Inhuman Nature

15. Islands before and after History

16. Papay Gyro Nights

17. The Time of the Ancestors?

18. In the Beginning Were the Giants

19. Tiamaterialism

20. Blubberbomb

21. A Globe of Fire

22. Nighttime

Afterword: Anthropology Is Art Is Frog





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