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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Notes toward a theory of objects and persons
Author:Thornton, RobertISNI
Year:1997
Periodical:African Anthropology (ISSN 1024-0969)
Volume:4
Issue:1
Period:March
Pages:36-51
Language:English
Geographic term:Africa
Subjects:philosophy
Anthropology and Archaeology
Abstract:The moral injunction that it is not right to confuse persons and objects has been instrumental in determining a multitude of historical interactions between Europeans and Africans. The absolute opposition and uniqueness of subjectivity as a property of persons, and objectivity as a property of objects, excludes any middle ground. Thus objects with personality, or persons with objectivity (that is, object-likeness) cannot be explored so long as the categories of Western (Judaic, Hellenic, Christian) philosophy are taken for granted. The present author submits there is room for a theory of persons and objects, and the relation between them, and advances some ideas in view of such a theory. He argues that things are apprehended differently in Africa and in the West, and the nature of the relationship between 'the thing' and 'the person' is different. In Western metaphysics goods have individuality, authorship and authority, while in personal network societies, goods are seen as the conduit of personal powers. Besides having implications for time and for the role of women, especially the role of reproduction, this also implies a radical difference between the 'economic' or 'market' or 'gesellschaft' type of society and the kinship or 'personal network' type of society. Heritage, ownership and desire in the former hold similar relations to past, present and future as ancestry, family and reproduction in the latter. Notes, ref.
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