Reply To: Mon 14 Apr: The Perception of the Environment

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Anonymous # Posted on April 16, 2014 at 09:35

Comment on Anna’s text by Wenzel

I can largely agree with you, Anna, in that Ingold implicitely confronts us with a unnecessary either/or – choice between two models of the formation of indigenousness by only finding critical words for the genealogical model. He also seems to deny that people to create strong bonds to their parents and grandparents, that these or other elders can be an important source of education and self-definition.
But I think that this impression is mainly due to the slightly abstract writing style and black-and-white contrasting tendencies of his.
If we look closer at f.ex. his explanation of substance under the relational model, it seems that his relational model actually can imply the other one in specific cases: “Persons are conceived as passing along lives of movement and exchanging substance at the places where their respective paths cross or commingle.” (p.145) For me this means that in his definition, indigenousness can actually be “passed on” along a genealogical line, if the persons we look at here are parents and children “commingling”. On the other hand, the model also opens for people becoming indigenous without having been born from such a person: a stranger that comes into such a community and “becomes” indigenous while coexisting with their indigenousness could start to perceive himself as one of theirs.

As you, I am wondering about Ingold’s intent when questioning common patterns of categorisation. In the beginning of the chapter, he says, regarding indigenous people: “At the time of colonisation, they were the original inhabitants. This is no guarantee, of course, that their forbears had not, during some earlier wave of population movement, displaced a yet earlier people, nor is it to deny that people of settler origin might develop deep and lasting attachments to the land.” I found this quote very promising and was thus disappointed by the rest of his reasoning, as it didn’t try to transcend such categorisations, but only proposed a different way of shaping them, which shows how little he reflects that there would be political ramifications of his scrutiny, even if he tries to avoid it. In this perpective, I agree that his definition of these people as hunter-gatherers is slightly strange. As Morag said when commenting my text, “there is a lot of abstraction and quite a bit of impracticality in applying some of Ingold’s ideas. I suppose a lot of that is rooted in the way the world is organized and thought about today.” Ingold might propose a lot of interesting solutions to things, but probably only in a world where people’s perception are largely in line with his.