Friday, October 11, 2013

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro: The Inconstancy of the Indian Soul - The Encounter of Catholics and Cannibals in 16-century Brazil

In the mid-sixteenth century, Jesuit missionaries working in what is now Brazil were struck by what they called the inconstancy of the people they met, the indigenous tribes of the Atlantic coast. Though the Indians appeared eager to receive the Western religion, they also had a tendency to forget the missionaries’ lessons and go back to their natural state of war, cannibalism, and polygamy. This peculiar mixture of acceptance and rejection, compulsion and forgetfulness is the starting point for Viveiros de Castro's brilliant research into how the priests took this as a sign of the natives’ incapacity to believe in anything durably.

Drawing from anthropologists as James Clifford and Claude Lévi-Strauss, Viveiros de Castro sees how the ongoing dialogues between cultures creates new knowledge and affect each other ceaslessly. In this short book Viveiros de Castro starts by looking at two sculptures: one made of marble and the other of myrtle. By doing so, he  situates the Jesuit missionaries’ accounts of the meeting the indigenous people in historical perspective, and in the process draws out some startling and insightful implications of their multiple perspectives, their specific ontology and how Western universalism stands in the way for understanding otherness.

To download the brilliant text "COSMOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVISM IN AMAZONIA AND ELSEWHERE" by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro click here. The work of Viveiros de Castro has been central in developing the concept for the OuUnPo session in Brazil.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Nietzsche's "On the Genealogy of Morals" (the second treatise especially)

To breed an animal that is permitted to promise-isn't this precisely the paradoxical task nature has set for itself with regard to man? isn't this the true problem of man?”

So begins the second treatise of Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals, entitled "Guilt," "Bad Conscience" and related Matters. The text brings up a whole array of extremely interesting issues related to our culture and especially to the idealism that so defines our society and few writings offer so much hope for the future. Nietzsche looks at how the relationship between the promise that the individual who borrows makes to the person he or she lends from and how this forms the foundation for the structure of our lives. If there is one text that you should read (or re-read) this summer, I suggest you choose this one. You can download the second treatise here.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


FREDERIC NEYRAT is a French philosopher who is associated with the journals Multitudes, Rue Descartes and Ctheory. In French, he has published seven books ranging from philosophical study of Heidegger to a book on biopolitics and catastrophe. The author of numerous articles on issues in continental philosophy and contemporary culture, in he was recently a fellow of the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. You will find fascinating material on his website.