Wording the World: Veena Das and Scenes of Inheritance

Front Cover
Roma Chatterji
Fordham University Press, 2015 - Philosophy - 481 pages
The essays in this book offer a detailed exploration of how Veena Das's work has been critically assimilated in the thinking and writing of a younger generation of anthropologists who have been deeply influenced by her work. Taking off from Das's writing on pain as a call for acknowledgement, several essays explore how social sciences render pain, suffering and the claims of the other as part of an ethics of responsibility. They ask what are the disciplinary devices that contest the implicit division between those whose pain receives attention and those whose pain is seen as out of synchrony with the times and hence written out of the historical record.

The second theme of the volume is the co-constitution of the event and the everyday especially in the context of violence. Das's groundbreaking formulation of the everyday as itself evented, provides the frame for an understanding of how both violence and healing might grow out of the everyday. Drawing on notions of life and voice and the struggle to author one's own narrative, the authors provide extraordinarily rich ethnographies of what it is to inhabit the world that has been devastated yet once again.

Ethics as a form of attentiveness to the other, especially in the context of poverty, deprivation, and corrosion of everyday life appears in several of the essays that go back to the classic themes of kinship and obligation but give them entirely new meaning. The essays reveal how the State's need to "know" what is happening in families and communities seeps into the microprocesses through which people learn how to inhabit kinship in these precarious sites.

An important question that animates the chapters of this volume is, What is the picture of thought in anthropological knowledge? Das's concerns with the philosophy of the everyday and her efforts to make philosophical reasoning responsive to those for whom everyday life must be secured against the precarious conditions of their existence, resonate in several essays. Yet the writing is not dry and distant. The affinity between anthropology, philosophy, romanticism, and the literary is evident not only in the themes but also in the forms of writing. These affinities are reflected in a final set of essays that show how forms of knowing in art and in anthropology are related through the work these authors have done with painters, performance artists and writers.

The uniqueness of this book lies in the concept of intellectual inheritance as itself a form of thinking ethnographically.

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About the author (2015)

Roma Chatterji is Professor of Sociology at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, India. Her most recent books are Speaking with Pictures: Folklore and the Narrative Imagination in India (Routledge 2012) and with Deepak Mehta, Living with Violence: an Anthropology of Events and Everyday Life (Routledge, 2007)

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