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'An anthropological concept of the concept': reversibility among the Siberian Yukaghir

AuthorsCorsín Jiménez, Alberto ; Willerslev, Rane
Issue Date2007
CitationJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Volume 13, 2007, págs. 527-544
AbstractThis article attempts to sketch a new anthropological epistemology. It does so by revisiting the work that concepts do in economic models, and by suggesting an alternative ‘anthropological concept of the concept’ for the economy. The article looks to how concepts create their own limits of meaning and uses the very idea of limit to rethink how conceptual thought out-grows and transforms itself. We develop our epistemology by looking at the socio-economic practices and institutions of the Yukaghirs, a small group of indigenous hunters, living along the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia. The Yukaghirs’ moment of creative possibilities is given through the reversibility of every one of their economic practices, informed by the work of a shadow force (ayibii) that aims for the limit. We gain insights from this notion of reversibility to rethink the purchase of the ‘economic’ in our contemporary world, questioning the validity of such ‘conceptual’ descriptions as virtualism or the knowledge economy.
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