Dialogic anthropology

Dialogic anthropology is a line of research in which the recognition of the essential role of dialogue as a privileged mode of expression of human intersubjectivity is central. The dialogical anthropology is a theoretical acquisition of the last decades of the twentieth century, whose main exponent is the American anthropologist D. Tedlock. Tedlock.

Between research in the field of natural sciences and research in the field of social sciences, according to Tedlock, there is a fundamental difference, but which has often been overlooked by scholars: in the first case we proceed through silent observation, while in the second case it is necessary to enter a world of knowledge, intentions, cultural notions, values and behavior patterns shared by a multiplicity of people.

This is the world of intersubjectivity, which is impossible to access except through dialogue. Dialogue makes it possible to “build a bridge” between different cultural worlds that, at the beginning of the conversation, are infinitely distant. Neglecting the importance of dialogue, as has largely been done by classical anthropology, makes, according to Tedlock, research in anthropology impossible unless it is mistakenly packaged in an apparent objectivity that, by its very nature, it cannot have. This simulated objectivity turns out, in fact, to be a superimposition of the subjectivity of the observer (the anthropologist) on the subjectivity of the observed (the indigenous person).

Tedlock then proposes that we should never lose sight of the fact that it is dialogue that can ensure the validity of anthropological research; this is why it is necessary to integrate it with interpretations, questions, intuitions, observations and everything else that has allowed the anthropologist to know what he or she demonstrates to know by writing a monograph on the population he or she has studied. The adoption of the dialogical way of doing anthropology, then, does not so much imply the abandonment of past methodologies of cultural analysis, but the adoption of a perspective that also includes the active role of indigenous people in the process of building anthropological knowledge.

Between the XX and XXI centuries, V. Crapanzano and J. Clifford are among the most illustrious exponents of the dialogical current of anthropology. In particular, Clifford proposes a dialogic anthropology in which the text is not only the product of the anthropologist, but the result of the encounter between observer and observed and the ethnographic subject is no longer just a mass of information subjected to anthropological writing.

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