Natures in Southeast Asia: The ontological approach

Lecture at Chiang Mai University, Faculty of Social Sciences

Wednesday, September 13 (09h00 – 12h00).
International Program Meeting Room 1 (SB3201)

Speaker : Dr. Abigaël PESSES (deputy director of Irasec)
Moderator/discussant : Dr. Robert Farnan (Faculty of Social Science, Chiang Mai University)

Partners : Irasec, RCSD Chiang Mai University, CAS (Center of Asean Studies, CMU)

Abstract : This lecture will present the work of the French anthropologist Philippe Descola and focus on the main ideas he developed in his master piece, Beyond nature and culture, published in 2005 (2013 for English edition). This book is a deconstruction of the idea of a unique and universal nature as opposed to the diversity of cultures. Descola’s ethnographic experience among the Amazonian Achuar led him to build a relational ecology that connects together human and non-human actors including plants, animals, spirits and artifacts. Adopting a comparative approach, using ethnographic datas from the whole world as case of studies, he proposed to consider that there are four modes of identification, or ontologies, by which societies relate to others, humans and nonhumans: animism, analogism, naturalism and totemism. This ontological model invites us to reconsider Southeast Asian ethnographic material and more specifically the relations between natures and societies in the light of this typology. We will especially question the overlapping of three ontologies – animism, analogism and naturalism – that seems to be more significant in the region. This lecture will also prepare the venue and discussion with Philippe Descola who will come in November 2017 for a two days’ workshop “Natures and Cultures in Southeast Asia” organized at Chiang Mai University