Saturday, September 7, 2013

ethnomusicology and Habermas

I’m enchanted by trying to make unusual relations fruitful. I happened across a graduate student of ethnomusicology who expressed interest in Habermas, but who disappeared before I got a chance to appreciate his interest. So, I’m prospecting a connection myself: philosophy and anthropology; easy. Anthropology and ethnomusicology; of course. Philosophy and ethnomusicology might be an area of theoretical cultural anthropology. Altogether, this makes a normal context of interdisciplinary studies, a topic in communion between field-level human sciences and conceptual humanities.

philosophy and ethnomusicology: This is as natural as the subject of philosophical anthropology itself, giving special attention to how the spirit of a culture or ethnicity may inform conceptual notions of cultural evolving. A friend of mine, a PhD in ethnomusicology working in the Andes outside of Cuzco, found in the musical life of Q’eros society a practical and sanctified holism holding together their world—a musicality of mindfulness: sustaining appreciation of the Andean peaks (origin of water), their cyclical crop practices (belonging to different elevations), their social integration (public health), Llama wool weavers (the sacred industry of women), etc. The way that worldview is embodied through the invocative spirit of dance and song was a keynote of her dissertation. So, interdisciplinary anthropology is a boundless resource for thinking. I wonder: How can anthropological thinking be enriched by new kinds of conceptual interdisciplinarities? 

Habermas and anthropology: He’d be the first to admit that his work with theory of social evolution was just a beginner’s effort in a kind of practice that needs to be taken beyond what he was brilliantly able to do with resources at hand circa 1980, e.g., in terms of how differentiation of—and within—value spheres evolve (and modernize). But his beginning clearly took Weberian/Parsonian understanding of value spheres way beyond those influences, and he at least exemplified what philosophical anthropology can be. But I deeply wonder what philosophical anthropology can be. It’s exciting to me to regard Theory of Communicative Action as a Beginning, not a foundation.

Habermas and philosophy: The future of the human sciences (and humanities, I think) is certainly a matter of interdisciplinary studies. Ethnomusicology is exemplary here. But there’s a lot of good interdisciplinary work happening—but not a lot of conceptual innovation for working with it. Philosophy might be especially well-positioned, as kind of inquiry, for working with conceptual issues in interdisciplinary inquiry. But that can be no better than the conceptual prospecting of the interdiciplinarians themselves—speaking up about what brings them to philosophy or to a particular philosopher. Otherwise, philosophy tends to be kept insular.

Robert Rauschenberg had a notion of the artwork as “freestanding combine.” I think that’s a tangible way of representing the nature of conceptual innovation.

If I think in my own way about how creativity within a culture can be brought to bridge premodern, modern, and postmodern life, I easily want to think about how the mind of the artist (as a generic notion) may figure into reconceptualizing—re-trope-ing—The Present realistically, which is to “play” the bricolagic nature of our presence in original ways, accordant with the originality of Our Time. I think of Heidegger’s “Building Dwelling Thinking.” I think of my own notions of conceptual gardening.

There’s great opportunity, I think, for understanding ethical life relative to ethnic engagements, such that the generalization of ethical life is related to the generalizability of one’s shared sense of human flourishing—our humanity in a thriving sense, rather than essentialist or structural sense.

I see grand complementarity around for understanding notions of humanistic union, but it requires bricolagic imagination that’s pragmatic (i.e., at once idealizing and realistic). How do we bring ourselves to grow from loving our region to loving our continent to loving to support those who love to save our planet and our species? It’s like a scale of horizons of love, which may be related to Nussbaum’s subtitle to Political Emotion: “Why Love Matters for Justice.”