‘Culture’ is in many ways the most fundamental of anthropological concepts. Yet it has been the subject of a range of critical interventions in the course of the discipline’s history, the most recent of which is the ‘ontological turn’. Proponents of the ontological turn argue that ‘culture’ carries with it significant metaphysical baggage. In particular, they point out that it implies that although human beings may differ in their ideas about or viewpoints on the world and other material or natural objects, such objects themselves do not vary with these ideas. ‘Cultures’ may differ, but nature does not. The ontological turn proposes that we dispense with these metaphysical implications, in favour of a radical methodological openness to difference of all kinds, be it what we would call cultural and epistemological or natural and, indeed, ontological. This entry surveys some of the reasons proponents of this approach have given for adopting it, describes some examples of its use, and discusses some critiques of it, before concluding by pointing to the importance of the questions it raises for anthropology.
Research Professor on society, culture, art, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, neuroscience, autopoiesis, self-organization, complexity, systems, networks, rhizomes, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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