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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Ecologies of participation: In between shamans, diviners, and metaphysicians
by Cabot, Zayin Lawrence, Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2013, 414; 3606921
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation revolves around the riddle of how to honor seemingly disparate traditions such as West African (Dagara) divinatory practices and Western philosophical praxis. The project, following the participatory approach of Jorge Ferrer and Jacob Sherman, sets out to honor these differences by embracing the agapeic-erotic metaphysics of William Desmond, and in so doing delimits modern distinctions between science, philosophy, religion, and anthropology. Rather than move beyond the important scholarly contributions of these fields, however, this dissertation embarks on an interdisciplinary adventure between these traditions by critically reading the work of Philippe Descola and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro in parallel with Desmond. This project articulates multiple ecologies of participation, with totemism, animism, and naturalism foremost among them. It clarifies how Descola and Viveiros de Castro's robust reading of animist/Amerindian shamanic perspectivism is in keeping with Ferrer and Sherman's participatory enaction. It is critical of Viveiros de Castro's dismissal of totemism as overly abstract, as well as Descola's conflation of naturalism solely with post-Enlightenment thought, and his broad use of the category of analogism to include disparate traditions such as Vedic, Ancient Chinese, Greek, West African, and Central American thought. By way of clarifying this critique, this dissertation applies the same participatory understanding offered to animism by Descola and Viveiros de Castro to both totemic (divinatory) and naturalist (metaphysical/philosophical) enactions, placing all three under the broader heading of ecological perspectivism. The subsequent comparative lens allows for a more balanced reading of these three ecologies by broadening the use of these terms. By including the work of Desmond, it also answers important concerns leveled by critics regarding the metaphysical underpinnings of Descola and Viveiros de Castro's assertions regarding ontological relativity. In so doing, this project sets the stage for renewed dialogue between what are often seen as radically divergent traditions (e.g., the animism of the Achuar, the totemism of the Guugu Yimithirr, and the naturalism of modern science).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ferrer, Jorge N.
Commitee: Sherman, Jacob H., Weber, Michel
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Humanities with a concentration in East-West Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 75/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Philosophy, Comparative religion
Keywords: Animism, Ethnographic theory, Latour, Bruno, Naturalism, Totemism, Whitehead,, Alfred North
Publication Number: 3606921
ISBN: 978-1-303-64257-9
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