Toward an Enactive Anthropology
For a while now I’ve been thinking about how the enactive approach in the cognitive sciences needs to get a better grip on anthropology. In particular, it seems that with the notion of ‘participatory sense-making’ we have converged on a similar description of our modus operandi as the anthropologists’ notion of participatory observation. If we want to make the enactive approach more relevant to specifically human cognition, then it seems this is the best place to look.
Still, part of the problem is to find some anthropologists whose approach is amenable to become integrated into the enactive framework in a mutually enriching way. While discussing this idea with various people I’ve received a number of suggestions of books that would be good starting points. I list them here, as best as I can remember, for the benefit of others.
John Stewart has been arguing for a long time for the relevance of anthropology for the enactive approach. Thus, we had Ed Hutchins give a talk at the first enaction summer school in France, for example. More recently, he has been suggesting that Emile Durkheim may help us to better understand the notion of the ‘social’.
Marek McGann has recommended that I take a look at the work of Terrence Deacon if I want to better understand the origins of symbolic forms of cognition. He has also suggested that the different stages of cognition identified by Merlin Donald are useful to enactivists. For a more recent approach inspired by Gibsonian psychology, Marek pointed out the work by Tim Ingold.
Joerg Fingerhut recommended that if I’m interested in symbolic forms of cognition then I should take a look at the work of Ernst Cassirer, especially one of his essays on man as a ‘symbolic animal’.
I’m sure this reading list could be extended. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.
Cassirer (1944) – An Essay on Man
Deacon (1997) – The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain
Donald (1991) – Origins of the Modern Mind: Three stages in the evolution of culture and cognition
Durkheim (1912) – The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
Hutchins (1995) – Cognition in the Wild
Ingold (2000) – The perception of the environment: essays on livelihood, dwelling and skill