Anthropology Courses

ANTH134 HM Rationalities

What does it mean to be rational? Does it mean anything, to say that you are thinking rationally? This seminar takes an anthropological approach to knowledge and knowledge-making practices; it explores connections between rationality and culture. We will ask how and where, in which kinds of practices, “scientific rationality” – as we will call it for the moment – is “located.” What is it about this kind of rationality that is so compelling? Are other kinds of rationalities thinkable, possible, or plausible? Are such other kinds of rationalities perhaps “at work” even as we speak, in parallel with, or embedded in, the ways in which scientists make knowledge? To answer thee questions, we will examine objectivity and calculatory logic — the elements of “scientific rationality. Are objectivity and logic perhaps values as much as they are practices? We will then mine the anthropological literature for alternate logics than the ones we take for granted, examining magical thinking, belief, and indigenous practices that define for “us” what is “irrational.” Are such practices perhaps less irrational than we assume them to be? Finally, we will take on actual scientific practices of knowledge-making, empirically and anthropologically. We may assume that rationality as we know it imbues such practices. But are they perhaps informed by alternate logics as well? Here is where subjectivity and affect come into our picture of what scientific practices are made of; we will try to give such alternate values a place in how the bodies that “do” science act, think, and make knowledge. Writing intensive.