A masterclass beyond disciplinary boundaries with Tim Ingold
(in co-operation with Martin Porr and Niels Weidtmann)
Date: 22.-26. September 2019
Venue: Forum Scientiarum, Tübingen University, Germany
Application: 19. May 2019
Organisation: Martin Porr, University of Western Australia, and Niels Weidtmann, University of Tübingen, Germany
The masterclass is sponsored by the Udo Keller Foundation Forum Humanum.
Over the last decades, Tim Ingold has become one of the most influential, innovative and prolific writers in anthropology. His work has been transcending established academic and disciplinary boundaries, particularly between social and biological anthropology. Related to this theme is his critical long-term exploration of the relationships between human beings, organisms and their environment. Overall, Tim Ingold’s work is truly transdisciplinary and his thinking is impacting more and more areas of research and other intellectual and artistic fields in profound ways. He is both deeply engaged in debates about latest developments in anthropology, archaeology, education and social theory, but at the same time does not engage in a fashionable proliferation of theoretical concepts and terminologies.
In an introductory statement to a recent paper, Tim Ingold summarises the core of his understanding of the anthropological endeavour: “Anthropology is a philosophical inquiry into the conditions and possibilities of life in the one world we all inhabit” (Ingold 2018b, p. 158). Anthropology is philosophy, because it asks questions about the character of humanity, what it means to be human; it wants to understand humans and their lives. It is, however, philosophy with the people in it. It is philosophy that engages with other people’s learning and deliberations in the real world. Tim Ingold insists to conduct an anthropology that takes other people’s views and ideas seriously. As such, it is inquisitive, educational, mutually constitutive and open to wonder and surprise. It wants to allow questions about and insights into the conditions of people’s lives and the possibilities that different people’s lives contain. This endeavour is not aimed at establishing the hidden causalities of human existence (e.g. genes, memes, algorithms etc.). It does not want to restrict or narrow down the understanding of human life but makes visible the continuous emergence of difference, innovation and activity. This orientation is fundamentally linked to the understanding of life in general. Indeed, Ingold’s anthropology follows an encompassing view of life as the “potential of the circulations of materials and currents of energy” of the world (Ingold 2018a, p. 23). Life is not a secret ingredient of and within organisms, but, rather, organisms themselves are in life. This perspective has a range of consequences for the understanding of human beings’ relationships with the environment, their acts of learning, perceiving, growing and making as processes of mutual correspondence and constitution. Tim Ingold always emphasises a perspective of the situated and engaged being who is dwelling in a life-world. This orientation makes his anthropology not a detached and disinterested endeavour. Rather, his interpretation of anthropology also considers the philosophical aim of an exploration of how we should live. It also has important implications for academia and the university as a place of learning and education. Through its deep and serious engagement with other people’s viewpoints, considerations, practices and wisdom, anthropology gains a crucial significance for today’s world, the world we live in and for this world’s future.
Ingold, T. (2018a). Anthropology. Why it matters. Cambridge: Polity.
Ingold, T. (2018b). One world anthropology. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 8(1/2), 158-171.