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“This book is a thoroughly wise one, learned, patient, and humane: an inspiring companion with which to journey anthropologically to human lifeworlds at any stage of one’s life-project.”• American Ethnologist
“…what is truly worthwhile in this loose grouping of essays is the ethnographic examples. Powerfully presented, beautifully written (the final three pages of the book offer poignantly evocative description of ethnography as a way of living) and loaded with telling detail…”• Arthur Kleinman in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological institute
Inspired by existential thought, but using ethnographic methods, Jackson explores a variety of compelling topics, including 9/11, episodes from the war in Sierra Leone and its aftermath, the marginalization of indigenous Australians, the application of new technologies, mundane forms of ritualization, the magical use of language, the sociality of violence, the prose of suffering, and the discourse of human rights. Throughout this compelling work, Jackson demonstrates that existentialism, far from being a philosophy of individual being, enables us to explore issues of social existence and coexistence in new ways, and to theorise events as the sites of a dynamic interplay between the finite possibilities of the situations in which human beings find themselves and the capacities they yet possess for creating viable forms of social life.
Subject: Theory & Methodology in Anthropology
Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2013
Anthropology must deploy a double perspective that encompasses particular situations – local, familial, and personal – and general conditions – global, national, cosmopolitan, historical, and human.
Michael Jackson’s Lifeworlds is a masterful collection of essays, the culmination of a career aimed at understanding the relationship between anthropology and philosophy. Seeking the truths that are found in the interstices between examiner and examined, world and word, and body and mind, and taking inspiration from James, Dewey, Arendt, Husserl, Sartre, Camus, and, especially, Merleau-Ponty, Jackson creates in these chapters a distinctive anthropological pursuit of existential inquiry. More important, he buttresses this philosophical approach with committed empirical research.
Traveling from the Kuranko in Sierra Leone to the Maori in New Zealand to the Warlpiri in Australia, Jackson argues that anthropological subjects continually negotiate—imaginatively, practically, and politically—their relations with the forces surrounding them and the resources they find in themselves or in solidarity with significant others. At the same time that they mirror facets of the larger world, they also help shape it. Stitching the themes, peoples, and locales of these essays into a sustained argument for a philosophical anthropology that focuses on the places between, Jackson offers a pragmatic understanding of how people act to make their lives more viable, to grasp the elusive, to counteract external powers, and to turn abstract possibilities into embodied truths.