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Textures of the OrdinaryDoing Anthropology after Wittgenstein$
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Veena Das

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823287895

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823287895.001.0001

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Ethics, Self-Knowledge, and Words Not at Home

Ethics, Self-Knowledge, and Words Not at Home

The Ephemeral and the Durable

(p.120) 4 Ethics, Self-Knowledge, and Words Not at Home
Textures of the Ordinary

Veena Das

Fordham University Press

This chapter takes up a particular problematic in the depiction of the everyday—viz., that its very closeness makes it impossible to see it. The chapter pays particular attention to disorders of kinship, arguing that the fieldwork experience does not consist simply of collecting stories or coherent narratives with a clear plot and a delineation of characters. Rather, words and gestures swell up suddenly, often out of context, and provide a glimpse into the turbulent waters that often flow behind the seemingly peaceful and uneventful everyday. Tracking moments such as death-bed statements or moments in a ritual performance when something discordant happens, the chapter delineates how such moments signal the risks to which our actions and expressions are prone. Instead of privileging the psychological subject, the chapter considers the grammatical person with which to think of the self and its opacity. The chapter argues for the salience of the second person as the addressee of a speech event and the relevance of the other for giving life to words. The signature theme of finding one’s voice in one’s history finds ethnographic and literary affirmation in attentiveness to fleeting moments that, from another perspective, it is argued, might last forever.

Keywords:   context, death, ephemeral, everyday as opaque, grammatical person, kinship, ritual, subject, subjunctive, voice

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