Tuesday morning update

M&M’s intro, Tuesday morning

Recap from yesterday:

Daunting task. Solved with bravery and wit.

Stupified. Although we did not know what the CoT is, we did have some ideas as to which outcomes might be produced. We were surprised.

What were our expectations and were they distorted?

Experiment vs experimentation.

Experiments is about keeping something steady in order to make something else move. What we want to hold steady is the time limits and the materials.

Why these artifacts?

The reason for why we have chosen these particular artifacts is that they are a distillation or a condensation of the arch-like horizon within which the anthropological project takes place.

Not irony

Not irony but playfulness (as equidistant from tragedy to irony). Not exercise in violently distancing ourselves from our material but to get closer and investigate it in a controlled space.

Comedy of Things was and is not about making something that is entertaining but a process of making that is supposed to be playful and entertaining. We really love anthropology and we want to seriously explore the anthropological process of knowledge-making.

What is the Comedy of Things?

Through that playfulness we want to seriously and earnest investigate how anthropological knowledge comes into being. The actual making of anthropological knowledge through an experimentally framed looking glass.

What is the Comedy of Things (MN)?

So in that sense, humor and comedy have served as apt catalysts or media for exploring certain kinds of knowledge-making that seem to be particularly pertinent for anthropologists. Explore and use comedy as method for understanding how anthropological knowledge is made. We are not here to make comedy – we are here to make anthropology.


This also implies that output doesn’t necessarily need to depart radically from conventional forms. What we are more than anything interested in is to explore the process by which they come into being. Best way is to make this set-up that might have a comedic character: limitations of material, time, forms of output that have already been determined.

Most of what we saw cannot be uploaded. Not suited for website. Cannot technically accommodate that.

(1) Texts: We have told the publication house that each group will produce 30-60 pages of texts. That is what we imagined. Also that the text production consisted of certain elements (silo). Raw material, responses to what the comedy of things is; textual asssemblages that you will produce on the background of your textual materials; optional: meta-text reflecting on the process.

(2) Artifacts: Artifacts will be combined into one configuration for each group and they will be put into the boxes.

Manual: What is it called? How did it come into being? How does it work? what is the scale and size of this object and what is the context?

Distribution of tasks

Begin to start talking about how to distribute tasks among participants. For example one who is responsible of meta-text.


Totemic dialogue

From today will be working with a method that I have come up with and which I have used in various settings (examples). Bring artifacts to discuss their projects. Intention is crystallize that it is a way in which can criticize and observe anthropological analysis and the kinds of associations between different kinds of materials that this entails. As, it is a study of anthropological knowledge as it comes into being.

Why called is it called Totemic Dialogue?

  • Insired by Levi-Straussian studies of totemism. LS postulates a homology between a “natural series” of totemic creatures and the set of human groupings that they represent, in which “it is not the resemblances, but the differences, which resemble each other” (1962:77). In other words, the differences between natural species are used as a model for social distinctions. In contrast to shamanism which Levi-Strauss defines as metonymic, totemism is metaphoric and marked by discontinuity both within and between the series. Whereas shamanism is a ‘technical system of operations,’ totemism is an ‘interpretative system of references;’ the first is of the order of parole, the second, of langue.
  • The logical transformations of totemism are established between terms whose reciprocal positions are modified by permutations, inversions, chiasmas and other combinatory and extensive redistributions — meaning basically that totemism is a topic of discontinuity. Resorting to a mathematical (and Leibnizian) allegory, we could say that totemism’s model of structural transformations is combinatory analysis; it is a system of forms that uses natural diversity to signify intra-human relations.
  • Totemism, and here I refer to Descola, is a heterogeneous phenomenon, primarily classificatory rather than cosmological: it is not a system of relations between nature and culture (as for example in animism or perspectivism) but rather purely logical and differential. It is therefore not a model for difference, insofar as nothing happens, nothing flows between the correlative series of the totemic classifications. The totemic potential differences are internal to each series.
  • It is not a question of deleting the contours, say, between the girl and the plant, but of folding them, multiplying them, densifying them, twisting them, breaking them and fractalizing them. Immersion in the differences without assuming a process of becoming across the boundaries.
  • With Totemic Dialogues I want to use this idea of totemic homologies to think about the production of anthropological knowledge. In particular, I want to consider the analytical purchase of using the notion of totemic dialogue as a heuristics for collectively exploring the anthropological process of making concepts and associations; not as final and polished analytical accounts but as relatively unstable tropes for pushing our conceptual imaginaries.
  • Totemic dialogues will be used as an overall approach both for working with texts and with artifacts.

Plan for today

What will happen now is that you’ll start using 30 minutes to an hour tinkering with the artefacts. Key task is to be pairing two artefacts. They might your own but equally well a cross. Then you continue building outwards with the intention or goal of creating an anthropological world that consists of the associations that you have established between the artefacts. Looks arbitrary. We believe that it is not. Is about conceptual affordances. It is this process of associating things and building outwards that I call Totemic Dialogue.

Purpose is to understand anthropological the knowledge process through which it’s made. We believe that this approach – totemic dialogue that is the method that we call comedy of things and by which we explore how anthropological knowledge comes into being.

While doing so you should document the thought process: how are the connections established and what is the entity that gradually emerges?

Presentation of today’s two wildcards

Initially be be in background but will gradually be involved.

Final comments on texts and artifacts.