Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description
By Tim Ingold
Routledge – 2011 – 270 pages
Anthropology is a disciplined inquiry into the conditions and potentials of human life. Generations of theorists, however, have expunged life from their accounts, treating it as the mere output of patterns, codes, structures or systems variously defined as genetic or cultural, natural or social. Building on his classic work The Perception of the Environment, Tim Ingold sets out to restore life to where it should belong, at the heart of anthropological concern.
Being Alive ranges over such themes as the vitality of materials, what it means to make things, the perception and formation of the ground, the mingling of earth and sky in the weather-world, the experiences of light, sound and feeling, the role of storytelling in the integration of knowledge, and the potential of drawing to unite observation and description.
Our humanity, Ingold argues, does not come ready-made but is continually fashioned in our movements along ways of life. Starting from the idea of life as a process of wayfaring, Ingold presents a radically new understanding of movement, knowledge and description as dimensions not just of being in the world, but of being alive to what is going on there.
"For three decades, Tim Ingold’s has been one of the most consistently exploratory and provocative voices in contemporary scholarship. This book leads us, in prose that is exactingly lucid and charged with poetic eloquence, on a journey through, amongst other things, Chinese calligraphy, line drawing, carpentry, kite flying, Australian Aboriginal painting, native Alaskan storytelling, web-spinning arachnids, the art of walking and, not least, the history of anthropology, none of which will ever look quite the same again! The work is at once a meditation on questions central to anthropology, art practice, human ecology and philosophy, a passionate rebuttal of reductionisms of all kinds, a celebration of creativity understood in the broadest possible sense and a humane and generous manual for living in a world of becoming."
- Stuart McLean, University of Minnesota, USA
"Simultaneously intimate and all-encompassing, Tim Ingold’s second landmark collection of essays explains how it feels to craft an existence between earth and sky, among plants and animals, across childhood and old age. A master of the form, Ingold shows how aliveness is the essential resource for an affirmative philosophy of life."
- Hayden Lorimer, University of Glasgow, UK
"In these iconoclastic essays, Ingold breaks the dichotomies of likeness and difference to show that anthropology’s subject, and with it that of the human sciences more generally, is not constituted by polarities like that of space contra place, but by a movement along paths that compose a being that is as alive to the sentient world as this world is to its human inhabitants."
- Kenneth Olwig, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
PROLOGUE. PART I: CLEARING THE GROUND. PART II: THE MESHWORK. PART III: EARTH AND SKY. PART IV: A STORIED WORLD. PART V: DRAWING MAKING WRITING. EPILOGUE.
Tim Ingold is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, UK. He is the author of The Perception of the Environment and Lines.