Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Prologue

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pp. vii-xii

Not in the time of calendars, chronicles, or clocks, not in the time of history . . .
No land, or sea, or sky. Darkness. Fire and ice, condensing into a giant body. His name is Ymir. Or is he a he? The name means something like “two-fold being.”1 One leg copulates with the other, and a boy-child is the result. A giant and giantess spring from his armpits. ...

Part I. Anthropology: A Fabulatory Art

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1. An Encounter in the Mist

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pp. 3-20

Now imagine yourself as a shepherdess on a farm in Iceland in the early 1980s. The farm in question, Hali, is situated in the district of Suðursveit on the southeastern coast of Iceland, on a narrow strip of land with the sea on one side and mountains on the other. Further along the coast to the southwest is the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, ...

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2. Talabot

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pp. 21-33

Now picture yourself at the theater, seated in one of several rows of seats bordering a narrow performance space. The scenery is minimal, just a ramp and platform assembly at either end of the playing area. Most of the lighting is provided by flashlight bulbs suspended overhead from two electrical cords. ...

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3. Fake

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pp. 34-44

A Paris train station. We catch a glimpse of a film crew, preparing for a shoot. A voice (off camera) says: “For my next experiment, ladies and gentlemen, I would appreciate the loan of any small, personal object from your pocket—a key, a box of matches, a coin.” ...

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4. Anthropologies and Fictions

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pp. 45-48

“This is the point where I feel myself turning away from the line between poetry and anything else, where I become a face in the other direction, shimmering,” writes Carrie Lorig, a contemporary American poet.1 In contrast, anthropologists who have discerned commonalities between their own work and that of artists and literary writers ...

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5. Knud Rasmussen

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pp. 49-66

The man in the center left foreground of the photograph, trim of physique, clean-shaven, purposeful, unsmiling, could hardly seem more different from the corpulent, black-caped, self-described charlatan who introduces himself at the opening of F for Fake. Knud Johan Victor Rasmussen was born in 1879 in Jacobshavn (now Ilulissat) in Greenland. ...

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6. The Voice of the Thunder

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pp. 67-72

The flood had subsided, the receding waters leaving behind an earth covered by dense forest. Across this sylvan expanse were scattered the survivors, Noah’s descendants. The race of Ham wandered through southern Asia and Africa, that of Japheth through northern Asia and into Europe, and that of Shem through central Asia and onward to the east. ...

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7. Metaphor and/or Metamorphosis

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pp. 73-87

Given anthropologists’ and linguists’ frequent endorsements of the constitutive role of metaphor in the making of human worlds, it can be disconcerting to encounter the very different view put forward by Deleuze and Guattari in their study of the writings of Franz Kafka. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari applaud Kafka precisely for destroying metaphor: ...

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8. “They Aren’t Symbols—They’re Real ”

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pp. 88-96

The Mueda plateau, northern Mozambique, late 1994, two years after the end of a fifteen-year civil war, following on from a ten-year independence struggle, and shortly before the country’s first-ever democratic elections. A young American anthropologist who has been conducting doctoral fieldwork in the region ...

Part II. In Between

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9. Liminality: An Old Story?

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pp. 99-113

The middle, as Michel Serres keeps reminding us, is where everything begins.1 This particular middle begins by returning once more to Iceland, this time to a photograph taken in July 2009 during a visit there. Thingvellir National Park, lying twenty-three kilometers east of Reykjavík, is Iceland’s first national park and, since 2004, a Unesco World Heritage Site. ...

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10. The Dead Have Never Been Modern

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pp. 114-126

“But what do we really know of the dead? / And who actually cares?” asks Nick Cave in his song “Dig, Lazarus, Dig” (2008), which reimagines the biblical Lazarus as an outcast turned junkie, unwillingly restored to life and wandering the streets of present-day San Francisco and New York. What do we know of the dead? ...

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11. The God Who Comes

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pp. 127-131

The ancient Greek city of Thebes, on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain, date unspecified but sometime before the fifth century BCE. A stranger has arrived in town—or is it several strangers? Or perhaps all the strangers? Dionysus, aka Bacchus, aka the Stranger God, aka the God Who Comes, ...

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12. Between the Times

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pp. 132-146

One explanation for the complex of associations extending seemingly across Europe (and beyond) linking the midwinter season with the power of metamorphosis, the temporary suspension of the everyday order, and the return of the dead can be sought in the fact that, like the festival of All Souls, the Twelve Days of Christmas ...

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13. Anthropology ≠ Ethnography

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pp. 147-155

How might anthropology engage the between without reducing it to such ready-made explanatory formulae as structure, signification, or context? Are there lessons to be learned from literature, the visual arts, and, not least, ritual performance, considered not as objects of knowledge but as possible modes of anthropological engagement? ...

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14. Fabulatory Comparativism

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pp. 156-162

My appeal to the legacy of anthropological comparativism may seem an odd choice. It is intended, however, to evoke not the resuscitation of a disciplinary history and identity but a minoritarian flight from canonical formulations of the same, past and present. The comparative method (or antimethod) that I envision would appeal not to a closed totality ...

Part III. Gyro Nights: Inhuman Culture / Inhuman Nature

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15. Islands before and after History

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pp. 165-168

Kirkwall Airport, Orkney, 3 PM on a gray, blustery day at the end of February. I am boarding a flight to the island of Papa Westray (or Papay, as it is known locally), lying some nineteen miles to the north. The sky is overcast, and the wind is gusting from offshore. My fellow passengers are a family including two young children, traveling onward ...

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16. Papay Gyro Nights

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pp. 169-186

No less than the Pacific region that the Tongan-Fijian anthropologist and writer Epeli Hau’ofa describes so evocatively, the North Atlantic is a “sea of islands”: Orkney, Fair Isle, Shetland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland—stepping-stones for some, final destinations for others; the “lives lived in the shadow of Arctic eschatology” ...

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17. The Time of the Ancestors?

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pp. 187-201

Orkney is an environment densely marked not only with the mineralized remains of long-extinct life-forms but also with the archaeological aftertraces of now vanished human populations, along with the shipwrecked and the drowned, resting invisibly beneath the waves. ...

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18. In the Beginning Were the Giants

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pp. 202-217

In the story of the earth’s formation told by geologists, the present-day distribution of continents across the globe’s surface is the result of the incremental breakup of the onetime supercontinent of Pangaea, itself the product of the formation and dissolution of a succession of other, earlier supercontinents. ...

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19. Tiamaterialism

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pp. 218-223

What would it take to affirm the disavowed and dispersed body of Tiamat, or of her Eddic counterpart, Ymir, as a presence manifest within but not exhaustively defined by the humanly fashioned cultural artifacts through which it finds contemporary expression? ...

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20. Blubberbomb

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pp. 224-240

A darkened room. Four walls, four projectors, four talking heads. And what heads they are! A seventeenth-century ruff; ears of corn, butterflies, and a lobster; an octopus; a mask of prawns (cooked); a whitened face sprouting thornlike protuberances, resembling an arrow-studded Saint Sebastian or a Christ fused with his own mocking crown of thorns. ...

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21. A Globe of Fire

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pp. 241-247

An explosion on an altogether larger scale was envisioned by Walter Traill Dennison (1825–94), probably Orkney’s best-known and most prolific nineteenth-century folklorist, addressing a meeting of the Orkney Natural History Society in the town of Stromness on Orkney Mainland. Dennison was the son of a well-to-do farming family from Sanday, ...

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22. Nighttime

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pp. 248-258

How does one begin to imagine the radical absence of an imagining human subject—if indeed imagination is to be understood as an exclusively human faculty? Like the primordial waters of the Mesopotamian and Judeo-Christian creation narratives, darkness has also served diverse human communities as an imaginative placeholder ...

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Afterword: Anthropology Is Art Is Frog

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pp. 259-264

In February 2013, I participated in Frogtopia. At once no place and multiple places, Frogtopia is the creation of Frog King, who in turn is the creation, or the costumed alter ego, of Kwok Mang-ho. Born in Guandong province in 1947 and educated in Hong Kong, where he now lives, Kwok is recognized today as one of the pioneers of multimedia ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 265-268

This book has been many years in the making, during which time it has amassed many debts of gratitude. At the University of Minnesota I have been blessed with a remarkable group of colleagues, among whom I must single out Bill Beeman, Bruce Braun, Tony Brown, Cesare Casarino, Maria Damon, Vinay Gidwani, Karen Ho, John Ingham, ...

Notes

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pp. 269-304

Bibliography

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pp. 305-326

Index

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pp. 327-336

About the Author

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