Annals of the Fondazione Luigi Einaudi

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Economics, History and Political Science

The Annals is a forum for the free exchange of ideas
among scholars working in the field of social sciences
Volume LV 1 - 2021

From the Continuum of Reciprocities to the Multiplicity of Perspectives. Problematising Sahlins’ Triad into Animist Ontologies

Pol Llopart i Olivella,
pp. 107-126
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Sahlins proposed a tripartite classification of reciprocities mostly sustained with ethnographic data of hunter-gatherer societies but non-human persons, vital agents in their lifeworlds, were omitted. Extensive anthropological literature tested the viability of Sahlins’ model, sometimes facing successful integration but often confronted as inherently problematic. The present proposal aims to revisit those critiques and literature that moved away to fully embrace non-human persons into the analysis. These ethnographic theories postulate the capacity of a person to take on the appearance and viewpoint of another being, apprehending reality from distinct points of view which is characteristic of animist ontologies. Rejecting, on the first instance, the idea of the continuum of reciprocities ordered in concentric circles allows us to take into consideration the concept of perspectivism. In that light, actors involved take on a fluid and ever-emerging place in the world to direct their activities in interchangeable and relational statuses of predator and prey. Perspectivism acknowledges shifts in the ever-changing animist world and the multiplicity of interpretations it produces, for example, over the thin division between sharing and theft (irreconcilable opposites in Sahlins’ argument). The aim is to think about affinities and divergences between the diverse perspectives of human-animal sociality and Sahlins scale of reciprocities.