Volume 93, #4

Fall 2020

IN THIS ISSUE:
Carolyn Schwarz’s “Paying for Something Bigger: The Sentiment of Sociality and Health Care Sharing Ministries in the United States”

 

phone: 202-994-3215  e-mail: ifer@gwu.edu

 

Volume 93, #4 • Fall 2020

 

 

SOCIAL THOUGHT & COMMENTARY

 

I Heart Complexity

Talia Dan-Cohen, Washington University in St. Louis

ABSTRACT—In 2016, the United States election delivered what seemed like a rebuke of technocracy. At every turn, experts, often to no avail, denounced the logics and arguments by which politicians paired simple solutions with misguidedly simple renderings of complex problems. Complexity has thus become the object of intense rhetoric and strong affective responses. Within this polarized domain, anthropologists can be counted among the lovers of complexity. Yet the self-perception of much of the discipline as primarily committed to complexity requires a fairly blinkered view. In the first half of the commentary, I suggest that we are blinded by our love of complexity to other dimensions of anthropological work. In the second half of the commentary, I develop some tools for thinking about the relationship between forms and affect, building on the writing of the early 20th century historian of ideas Arthur Lovejoy. More specifically, I discuss Lovejoy’s notion of metaphysical pathos: the affective response conjured by the formal properties of the representations and characterization of the world one inhabits. I close this article by turning to a modality of response. If complexity is under attack today, one response is to dig in heels and insist on more complexity. Instead, I frame the abandonment of the a priori allegiance to complexity as an act of resistance. [Keywords: Complexity, knowledge practices, politics, affect]

 

A Therapy of Screens: Psychotherapy and the Visual Apparatus

Samuele Collu, McGill University

ABSTRACT—The realm of the visual, in its metaphoric and literal dimensions, has been widely troubled by anthropological and philosophical debates which de-centralized the epistemological supremacy of vision over other senses. Vision has been understood as a sense that produces a split between subjects and objects, between the real and the imagined, science and superstition. The capacity of visual mediums to disappear while showing us what we see has supported these ideals of transparency and objectivity of the visual. In this article, I engage with an ethnography of systemic psychotherapy in Argentina to consider another approach to the visual. The systemic model of therapy utilizes visual technologies including one-way mirrors and closed-circuit television to allow teams of therapists to observe live sessions of therapy. While systemic therapy assumes a transparency of visual surfaces, I explore their imaginative opacity and consider the therapeutic relevance of the anonymous gaze behind the mirror. To conceptualize the imaginal and subjectifying features of the visual, I engage with Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the invisible in order to develop an anthropology of visual dispositifs. Considering the constitutive resonance between vision, the work of theory, and psychotherapy, I take visual dispositifs as the symptom of, and the cure for, contemporary forms of life. [Keywords: Dispositif, vision, Merleau-Ponty, Subjectivity, psychotherapy, screens