…Every experience of another culture offers us an occasion to engage in experimentation with our own…
— Eduardo Viveiros de Castro. Cannibal Metaphysics
Analyzing the beliefs and practices of Amazonian peoples, anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro raises the question of a need for a new social and cultural anthropology.
Cannibal Metaphysics invites us to look back at the very beginnings of anthropology and the writings of Claude Lévi-Strauss in order to rethink the structural foundations of the discipline. Unlike traditional anthropology that sees indigenous peoples as an object of analysis, Viveiros de Castro assumes their perspective, turning them into the subjects of his anthropology of immanence.
Putting the Western distinction between nature and culture in question, he shows that Amerindian peoples have the same right to epistemology as the Narcissist Western scientist who traditionally considers himself the ultimate subject of knowledge. Following Deleuze and Guattari’s example in Anti-Oedipus, Viveiros de Castro outlines a new anthropological theory embodied in the figure of Anti-Narcissus. ‘…The intention of Anti-Narcissus,’ he writes, ‘is to show that the styles of thought proper to the collectives that we study are the motor force of anthropology. A more profound examination of these styles and their implications […] should be capable of showing their importance to the genesis, now underway, of a completely different conception of anthropological practice.’
The key features of indigenous anti-narcissist thinking pointed out by Viveiros de Castro include interspecific perspectivism (the ability to see any thing or being as a subject) and ontological multinaturalism (an inversion of the Occidental multiculturalism). Such thinking does not only constitute an alternative to Western objectivist epistemology, but also can contribute to the ‘decolonization of thought.’ Drawing on his own research materials as well as on a wide range of scientific and philosophical sources, Viveiros de Castro’s analysis lays the foundation for a radically new anthropology.