A Conversation with Marilyn Strathern About Intimacy & Entanglement

Joanna Elizabeth Latimer, Marilyn Strathern

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Marilyn Strathern is probably one of the most important thinkers alive today. Sometimes described as a classical anthropologist, there is actually very little that is traditional about what she does with thinking, concepts and anthropological knowledge. Her work critiques the conceptualizations, especially the material and social relations that body them forth, which produce the figure of the Euro-American individual. Through an engagement with some of the most profound political phenomena of contemporary life she critiques those phenomena and the ideas and relations they reproduce. Her extraordinary effect is to make
us think the concepts and the phenomena, particularly Euro-American culture in the late 20th and the early 21st century, differently. She does this through how she rewrites the ideas that underpin them, often through the prism of Melanesian ideas. My boldness in inviting her to have a conversation about intimacy for this volume comes from my own intimate entanglement with her work since first encountering her as a PhD student at Edinburgh (in around 1988) when I had the audacity to write to her and she had the grace to reply. Since then while I suspect that she is suspicious of me as both a sociologist and as a someone overly concerned with performance, she once told me on the publication of my essay on Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits and ‘dividual’ being (Latimer 2008) that she knew there was an example of dividuality outside of Melanesia and that sometimes I do seem to understand what it is that she means. My love of her work and of her as an academic comes from her very real activism. She has dedicated much of her life to institutions and public bodies as well as worked tirelessly both for Anthropology, for women, and as a public intellectual. In the Academy she challenges at every turn the oppressive technologies and forces that emplace and situate creativity, thinking and knowledge-making; while in her writing she expresses something so incredibly hard to express – that despite the endless ways in which we are positioned as individuals our creation(s) is/are in fact the effect of relations and the parts of others that make us up, including the debt we owe for what forms us. And it is some of the intimacy of this vision that I hoped to capture in our conversation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-496
Number of pages16
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number2
Early online date28 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

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