Happy Hour #3 Zigon og Pedersen

Antropologforeningens podcast – Anthropological Happy Hour #3 Jarrett Zigon and Morten Axel Pedersen

This episode of Antropologforeningens Podcast – Anthropological Happy Hour is a recording of a Theoretical Happy Hour held on the 6th of June 2018 in Ethnographic Exploratory at the University of Copenhagen. This type of event aims at presenting and discussing paradigmatic turns within anthropology, using anthropological texts as point of departure. The event of this podcast addresses a dialogical debate between two books circulating around the theoretical approaches known as the ontological turn and critical hermeneutics.

In this episode you will meet Jarrett Zigon, professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia, and Morten Axel Pedersen, professor in the Department of Anthropology at Copenhagen University.

The podcast begins with Jarrett Zigon giving a short review of Morten Pedersen’s book titled The Ontological Turn: An Anthropological Exposition. Hereafter, Morten Pedersen gives a review of Jarrett Zigon’s latest book called Disappointment: Toward a Critical Hermeneutics of Worldbuilding. Finishing of, the two embark on an open discussion, engaging the audience as well.


Find more information and buy the books here:

Jarrett Zigon – Disappointment: Toward a Critical Hermeneutics of Worldbuilding

Morten Axel Pedersen & Martin Holbraad – The Ontological Turn: An Anthropological Exposition

After the event, we asked Professor Zigon about his theoretical and thematic anthropological interest. Read along and get a sneak peak of some of the issues discussed in the podcast.


Interview with Jarrett Zigon


1) What brought you into the research field of the global anti-drug war movement and to the theoretical field of connections between philosophy, anthropology and questions on morality and ethics? And what inspired you to write the book Disappointment – Toward a Critical Hermeneutics of Worldbuilding?

While doing research in Saint Petersburg, Russia at a Russian Orthodox Church heroin rehabilitation program (see: “HIV is God’s Blessing”: Rehabilitating Morality in Neoliberal Russia) I became aware of the political struggle against the violent and repressive drug war. This struggle was being led by active and former drug users – and their allies – and it seemed to me that what they were doing was offering us an example of how to think and do politics and ethics in another way. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to explore this ethnographically. But of course this project – and ultimately the book – is more than an ethnographic project, it is, like all of my work, a critical hermeneutic exploration. Having come to anthropology from a background in philosophy, I have always been interested in exploring traditionally philosophical questions through ethnographic and other anthropological means. To ask serious questions about what it means to be human, for example, seems to necessitate being in the world with others in a very intense way – thus, anthropology – and to do anthropology we must go beyond ethnography to think these ways of being in a manner that I believe continental philosophy offers.   This, of course, is not to say we should apply the concepts of philosophy to ethnography. Far from it. Rather, by engaging the two in a conversation both concepts and – with hope and activity – the world change.


2) Can you point to an especially inspiring experience during some of the fieldwork underpinning your book?

Ultimately, what I found most inspiring was not any one particular experience but rather the fact that a group of people who are systematically excluded (often violently so) from any kind of belonging (whether conceived as the nation, society, or the family, or whatever) work so hard – politically and ethically – to build new worlds that are inclusive for all. In my follow up book to this one – A War on People: Drug User Politics and a New Ethics of Community – I explore this in much detail.


3) How do you think your book would have been received in i.a. 1930? 1970? 2050?

Books always address the age of their coming to be; as authors we can only hope this address resonates throughout time. It is difficult enough to know how the time of its production will respond to a book; other moments remain a mystery.


Find the podcast here: