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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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Concepts Crisscrossing

Concepts Crisscrossing

Anthropology and Knowledge-Making

Chapter:
(p.275) 10 Concepts Crisscrossing
Source:
Textures of the Ordinary
Author(s):

Veena Das

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823287895.003.0011

This chapter takes up a reading of certain classic texts of British anthropology to ask how are anthropological concepts generated? Looking closely at the terms around which religious beliefs and practices are organized among the Dinka and the Nuer, as described by Lienhardt and Evans-Pritchard respectively, the chapter shows that the idea of God is transported from the Old Testament notions to decide which terms can qualify to be translated as God depending on what is taken to be real and what an illusion. As a thought experiment, the chapter draws on different notions of god(s) and of ritual practices (such as sacrifice) from Vedic texts in the Sanskritic tradition and asks what if gods were seen as entities produced through grammar, brought into existence only for the duration of a ritual, as some texts on ritual hermeneutics in India argued? Would we have thought of the Dinka and Nuer concepts of god or witches or spirits differently? The chapter also offers a way to think of what Cora Diamond called a “crisscross” philosophy as a tapestry of overlapping threads put together patiently and with many hands.

Keywords:   beliefs, British anthropology, concepts, Gods, illusion, Old Testament, religion, sacrifice, spirits, translation

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