Professor Joao Pina-Cabral
Having been trained as a social anthropologist in Johannesburg (South Africa) and at Oxford, Professor Joao Pina-Cabral has taught in the UK and in Portugal, where he founded the Portuguese Association of Anthropologists and participated centrally in the consolidation of the Social Sciences, which took place during the 1990s.
His concern to expand the role of social anthropology in Europe has led Joao to actively participate over the past decades in the launch and running of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. He has always favoured an approach to the discipline that emphasises the richness of its plurality and, to that end, he was a member of the founding committee of the World Council of Anthropological Associations.
More recently, he has engaged in a wide range of academic exchange activities, in Brazil, Spain, France and the United States, where he has been visiting professor at various universities. As Scientific Director of the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon (1997-2004) and as Head of School in the School of Anthropology and Conservation at Kent (2013-2016), Joao was responsible for running two vast interdisciplinary projects of study and research.
Recently, he has been involved with HAU Books in producing a work that lays out the theoretical conditions of possibility of ethnographic research from an interdisciplinary perspective: World. An anthropological examination (available online here).
Professor Joao Pina-Cabral is a social anthropologist whose work over the years has dealt with:
- religion, symbolism and power
- family, kinship and the person
- ethnicity in colonial and post-colonial contexts
- the history of ethnographic methodology.
Over the years, he has carried out prolonged fieldwork in northern Portugal (Alto Minho), southern China (Macau) and northeast Brazil (Bahia). At present he is writing about personhood, family and community in Bahia, with an emphasis on naming practices and on the way identity and emotion interact creatively in personal ontogeny. He is also engaged in the general effort of rethinking kinship studies along a neurophenomenological perspective.
Current research projects
Professor Pina-Cabral’s teaching interests are mostly in matters of anthropological theory, and on personhood and the family, with an ethnographic emphasis on southeast Africa, southern Europe and Brazil.
- SE596: Theoretical Perspectives in Social Anthropology
- SE588: Advanced Social Anthropology I
- SE587: Ethnographies 2
- SE801:Theory and Ethnography in Social Anthropology I
Pina-Cabral, J. (2019). Turning to life: A comment. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory [Online] 8:522-529. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.1086/701115.Life is a concept that is commonly encountered in ethnographic literature. Most social anthropologists seem happy to live with a broadly uncritical approach to it. In recent years, however, it has come to our notice that if we truly aim to take on interdisciplinarity in any serious way, we cannot avoid dealing with life as an analytical tool. In this essay, I examine the notion of life in light of ethnographic theory. I outline three broad families of meaning of the category “life” as it appears in the ethnographic register. Taking recourse to Marilyn Strathern’s inspiration, I conclude that these meanings can be integrated if we see them in terms of “scale.”
João, P. (2019). My mother or father: person, metaperson, and transcendence in ethnographic theory. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute [Online] 25:303-323. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.13027.How do humans, who are materially composed biological constructs, come to transcend, that is, to see themselves as present in the world? This paper sustains that, in order to understand transcendence in personhood, we have to see the latter as a product of dividual not individual participation, as initially proposed by Lévy-Bruhl and recently developed by a number of phenomenologically inspired cognitive scientists. Personal ontogeny is what explains the relation between essence and existence in the case of metapersons (ghosts, deities, ancestors, some animals, etc.). In order to explore this problem, I discuss a minor occurrence that took place in my presence without my noticing it at the time when I was visiting an Afro-Brazilian temple compound in coastal Bahia (NE Brazil) in July 2011.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2018). Modes of Participation. Anthropological Theory [Online] 18:435-455. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1463499617751315.This paper focuses on the notion of ‘participation’ as it has been used in the social sciences throughout the twentieth century. It proposes that there are two main traditions of use—a ‘poorer’ and a ‘richer’ one—and it argues in favour of the second. It does this by examining how Simmel and Goffman, on the one hand, and Lévy-Bruhl and Durkheim, on the other, defined participation. Developed by Lucien Lévy-Bruhl in the first part of last century, ‘participation’ in the richer sense is today being given new live by sociocultural anthropologists such as Marshall Sahlins and phenomenologically inclined cognitive scientists such as Shaun Gallagher. The paper addresses the roots of the concept in Scholastic theology and proposes to show how central it can come to be to a sociocultural anthropology that is willing to take on frontally the challenges presently being posed by embodied cognition.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2018). Familial Persons in Dark Times. Social Anthropology [Online] 26:376-390. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1469-8676.12489.A whole generation of Europeans who came to adult life in the 2000s in the peripheral countries of the Eurozone have had to construct their adult lives within a recessive financial regime that is now widely known as ‘austerity’. In relation to earlier generations, they have been subjected to high rates of permanent unemployment, to recurrent situations of working poverty, to a significant reduction in citizenship rights and ultimately to the tragic fate of having to emigrate to perform underpaid jobs in richer European countries. Theirs are dark times in the sense given to the expression by Hanna Arendt, for whom darkness is produced by acts of communication that, instead of informing, de?inform. The millennial generation was robbed of a sense of future in that they are caught up in a social system where working and the means for sustaining life as a familial person in a consumer society have moved apart. This paper is based on the life history of a young historian in southern Portugal and his struggle for making sense of his life condition.
João, P. (2018). Filiation as a Crossroads in Bahia. Anthropology Today [Online] 34:5-8. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.12418.This is a short essay arguing for a new comparative definition to the central analytic concept of filiation. Not only is the word used with different meanings in French and English, but it also bears in its use complex ideological implications that need to be unearthed. By using the example of a sermon heard in Bahia (NE Brazil) given by a woman who had no father, the paper proposes a view on filiation that depends on the notions of participation and personal ontogeny.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2017). Comment An Ecumenical Anthropology. American Anthropologist [Online]. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/aman.12875.This is a comment to Luciana Cordeiro's paper on Brazilian Aid to Africa. It proposes a critical view of the notions of 'world anthropologies' and 'South-South Cooperation'. It argues in favour of an ecumenical approach to anthropology.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2016). Brazilian Serialities. Personhood and Radical Embodied Cognition. Current Anthropology [Online] 57:247-260. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/686300.This paper investigates the relationship between personhood and family in light of the impact that radical embodied
cognition has had in anthropological theory over the past years. The paper is based on a study of onomastic seriality
among siblings and cohabiting cousins in Brazil, where it became clear that interruption of the series is more
common than full compliance. Since name attribution is a central aspect of launching early personal ontogeny, the
paper argues that this kind of interrupted seriality amounts to a narrative strategy of triangulation that fosters the
creative imagining of familial persons. The paper attempts to deepen our understanding of the modes of operation
of personhood by diverging from the established representationist theories of cognition that remain dominant in
Pina-Cabral, J. (2015). Contribution to debate concerning "Re-thinking Euro-Anthropology". Social Anthropology (Journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists) [Online] 23:344-345. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1469-8676.12216.This short contribution to the debate proposes that European anthropology must be seen both within a broader disciplinary remit and within a changing meaning of Europe.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2015). The Sin of Cain. Anthropology Today [Online] 31:28-28. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8322.12192.This short contribution aims to raise the voice against the wave of divisive and egoistic nationalism that has engulfed Europe by showing that none can improve their lot by discarding their neighbours.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2014). World. An anthropological examination (part 2). Journal of Ethnographic Theory [Online] 4:149-184. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/0.14318/hau4.3.012.This paper is the second of a two-part essay that aims to examine anthropologically
the category “world.” The first part argued in favor of a single-world approach and for
the unavoidable centrality of personhood in the human condition. In this second part
of the essay, I address the metaphysical implications of the category “world” and relate
them to the process of “worlding,” thus defending the continued heuristic value of the old
anthropological category of worldview. I suggest that a consideration of the Ontological
Proof of God’s existence, developed by St. Anselm of Canterbury in the late eleventh century,
helps us develop a comparative theory of personhood by showing how the experience of
transcendence is inherent in personal ontogenesis.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2014). Agnatas, vizinhos e amigos: variantes da vicinalidade em África, Europa e América. Revista de Antropologia, São Paulo, USP [Online] 57:23-56. Available at: http://www.revistas.usp.br/ra/article/view/89107.Neste ensaio, pretendo descrever sucintamente três tipos de vicinalidade e mostrar que eles remetem a lógicas muito diferentes tanto de agregação familiar como de narrativização dos laços de parentesco. No caso da costa leste de África, a linguagem da descendência agnática encobre uma pluralidade de lógicas de agregação familiar. Assim, ela realiza uma mediação entre o sistema familiar e os níveis mais abrangentes de organização política. No noroeste português, a lógica da residência é dominante e há um corte fundamental entre vida familiar e o nível básico de organização política, que é a freguesia. Não existe um princípio de descendência e o sistema de parentesco é teoricamente bilateral – apesar do seu forte pendor uxorilateral. Tal significa que as relações supradomésticas não podem ser descritas como dando azo a entidades de ação coletiva e são subsumidas debaixo da categoria polissêmica abrangente de “família”.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2014). World. An anthropological examination (Part 1). Journal of Ethnographic Theory [Online] 4:49-73. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau4.1.002.Anthropologists often take recourse to the word “world” as if its meaning were selfevident,
but the word remains highly ambivalent, often extending its meaning in a
perilously polysemic fashion. So, the question of “what world are we engaging?” imposes
itself, particularly as it leads to another important question: are there “worlds”? This latter
question raises some of the fundamental perplexities that have haunted anthropological
theory throughout the past century. In this series of two articles, I propose to abandon the
established dichotomy between rather crude forms of realism and equally crude forms of
semiotic idealism. I sustain that we cannot discuss world without considering for whom,
but that this is fully compatible with single-world ontology if we take into account the role
of personhood in the human condition. This first article argues for a single-world ontology
and for the centrality of personhood. It explores the implications of a form of minimal
realism that best suits the ethnographic gesture, while the second article responds to the
question of world-forming, the matter of worldview.
Matos Viegas, S. and Pina-Cabral, J. (2014). Na encruzilhada portuguesa: a antropologia contemporânea e a sua história. Etnográfica [Online] 18:311-332. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4000/etnografica.3694.No presente artigo, sugerimos uma leitura da formação da antropologia em Portugal
que assume que a “construção da nação” e a “construção do império” nunca estiveram
muito afastadas uma da outra e tenderam sempre a mesclar-se – em certos
momentos de forma muito evidente, noutros de forma mais mediada. De facto,
numa perspetiva mais ampla, entendemos a antropologia em Portugal como parte
do que poderíamos denominar uma “quinta tradição” – isto é, uma história disciplinar
abertamente cosmopolita, que se posiciona fora das quatro tradições imperiais
da antropologia dos séculos XIX e XX (alemã, francesa, britânica e americana).
Neste sentido, o cosmopolitismo não hegemónico dos cientistas sociais portugueses
coloca-os numa posição semelhante à dos japoneses, indianos ou brasileiros. Em
particular, o lugar de Portugal na encruzilhada das rotas euro-americanas de intercâmbio
intelectual e das rotas do Atlântico Sul reafirma-se recorrentemente como
marca central da forma como as ciências sociais portuguesas intervêm no debate
Pina-Cabral, J. (2013). ’The Mediterranean: A Wall’: Comment on Lidia Sciama’s paper ‘The Mediterranean: Topos or Mirage?’. Journal of Mediterranean Studies 22:223-ff.If even ‘amoral familism’ has been revisited, why not the ‘Mediterranean syndrome of honour and shame’? It is surely a matter of interest that topics of anthropological debate have a way of returning after having lain dormant for a long time. Sometimes we are fortunate, and this is the result of new data having emerged or of new theories having been developed; some other
times, unfortunately, it is nothing more than people’s preference for simple, shortcut solutions when faced with complex problems. We must be grateful to Lidia Sciama, therefore, for calling our attention to the fact that the issue of the ‘Mediterranean culture area’ is not dead, as many of us had hoped it would be.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2013). The two faces of mutuality: contemporary themes in anthropology. Anthropological Quarterly 86:257.The theme of mutuality has lately emerged in anthropology by the hand of
two of our most influential contemporary thinkers. Yet they explore it in
apparently unrelated guises: by the hand of Johannes Fabian, mutuality
emerges as a methodological preoccupation in discussions about fieldwork
ethics referring to the way in which anthropologist and informant are
engaged in processes of co-responsibility (2001, 2007); by the hand of
Marshall Sahlins, mutuality is a constitutive principle in personal ontogeny
that allows for a theoretical re-founding of kinship studies (2011).
João, P. (2013). “De parentes, vizinhos e amigos: uma conversa com João de Pina-Cabral”. Temáticas: revista dos pós-graduandos em ciências sociais 42:201-228.This is an interview (in Portuguese) about the concepts of casa (house), household and maison, as they had their impact in social anthropology and social history over the past thirty years.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2012). “The functional fallacy: on the supposed dangers of name repetition”. History and Anthropology [Online] 23:17-36. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02757206.2012.649273.Whenever the theme of personal naming comes up, both in academic debate and in public
opinion, we encounter a tendency to take for granted that there is some sort of collective
interest in the clear and unambiguous individuation of persons through their names.
“Society” or “culture”, it is presumed, would not function as well if that failed, so homonymy
is automatically taken to be dysfunctional. This kind of explanation carries a deep
sense of validity in common sense attitudes and it clearly imposes itself upon all who have
discussed this issue over the past few decades, both in history and anthropology. In this
essay, I argue that, on the one hand, there are fallacious implications to this explanatory
proclivity, to which I call the functional fallacy, and, on the other hand, that it finds its
power of evidence in the implicit expectations that characterize late modern thinking concerning
what is a person and how persons are constituted. I identify three dispositions that
need to be overcome: sociocentrism, individualism and the paradigm of the soul.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2011). Afterword: What is an institution? Social Anthropology (Journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists) [Online] 19:477-494. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8676.2011.00173.x.What is an institution?We successively examine definitions provided by Durkheim, Mauss, Parsons, Goffman
and Berger, and Luckman. Whilst anthropologists acknowledge that the stuff of human institutions is ‘the
combination ofmodes of actionwithmodes of thinking’, somehow they have seen the epitome of that embodied
in the compulsory organisations of modern, state-run,Western society. The paper argues for the abandonment
of representational solutions, which operate with a Cartesian view of mind; sociocentric solutions, which
view groupness as unitary and teleological; and individualist solutions that fail to see people as constituted
in ontogeny through intersubjective attunement. Human sociality and human understanding must not be
separated from the world, but persons do not pre-exist intersubjective attunement and this operates through a
process of triangulation between self, other and world where all elements are intrinsically involved.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2010). The truth of personal names. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute [Online] 16:297-312. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9655.2010.01626.x.Portuguese-speakers, when asked about their personal names, often respond with a notion of the
‘truth of’ their names. Basing itself on ethnographic data collected by the author in Macao (southern
China), Bahia (Brazil), and Portugal, the article interprets this notion of truth as a form of ontological
weighing that postulates the unitariness of the person by reference to a subjection to a bureaucratic
order and to a cultural and linguistic universe associated to it.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2010). The dynamism of plurals: an essay on equivocal compatibility. Social Anthropology (Journal of the European Association of Social Anthropologists) [Online] 18:176-190. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8676.2010.00100.x.In ethnographic accounts equivocation is often read as error. To the contrary, in this paper I give an example of
a situation of equivocal compatibility from fieldwork among Eurasians in Macao (southern China) during the
early 1990s. In the course of intersubjective interaction, a creative process occurs of successive transformation
of the pertinent angles of identification and differentiation. The use of the first person plural is a constant mode
of producing and altering identification and differentiation in such away that what is singular and what is plural
is constantly being re-assessed. This dynamism of plurals both elicits response from the persons involved in
the interaction and marks the world that surrounds them. The aim of the paper is to explore how belief relates
with identity in a dynamic way that is mutually constitutive.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2010). Xará: Namesakes in Southern Mozambique and Bahia (Brazil). Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology [Online] 75:323-345. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00141844.2010.516837.In Maputo (Southern Mozambique) and Bahia (Brazil), the most commonly
used word to refer to namesakes is xara´ – a word of Amerindian origin. Although the
institutions in question diverge considerably in each of these contexts, the two usages
come together in that the sharing of a personal name establishes an alliance not only
between the two persons involved but also among their relations. In this way, it is
argued that the namesake institution is both supervening upon filiation and is a way
of closing the local universe of relatedness upon itself. By superimposing a set of crossing
ties, the namesake institution consolidates the entities at play and their relations.
Nevertheless, much like filiation, upon which it is dependent, the namesake relation is
one of co-responsibility and fusion between the partners, not of reciprocal responsibility.
The latter is the product of the triangulation that such relations of alliance produce.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2009). The all-or-nothing syndrome and the human condition. Social Analysis [Online] 53:163-176. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/sa.2009.530210.Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, anthropologists failed to elaborate on theoretical concepts such as the ‘human condition’. In face of the fact that they did not abandon their scientific calling or the label ‘anthropology’, this must surely be taken as surprising. The article argues that this silence is possible due to an ideational performance here called the ‘all-or-nothing syndrome’. This depends on a skeptical fallacy: the condition of those who, because they cannot have it all, despair of having what is there to be had. The article also explores the Davidsonian notions of ‘indeterminacy’ and ‘underdetermination’ as possible paths out of this quandary. It suggests an approach to ethnographic knowledge based on the principles that underscore the mechanisms of control that engineers call ‘fuzzy logic’.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2008). “Sem palavras: Etnografia, hegemonia e quantificação”. Mana 14:61-85.This article is a discussion of the theoretical implications of the observation that the ethnographic encounter is pervaded by events that remain 'unsaid', that is, a long and diversified series of ethnographic occurrences that do not depend on discursive communication between the ethnographer and the people studied. The essay focuses on the long history of quantification in ethnographic practice by reference to Bourdieu's notion of strategy. Finally, by taking recourse to the work of Donald Davidson, the essay attempts to overcome the sociocentric dispositions that continue to be buried within normal modes of anthropological practice.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2007). A pessoa e o dilema brasileiro: uma perspectiva anticesurista. Novos Estudos CEBRAP [Online] 78:95-112. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0101-33002007000200010.The article is a critique of the notion of individual, applying it to the history of Brazil and to the long term processes of modernist utopian social construction that characterise that country.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2007). O Diabo e o Dilema Brasileiro: uma perspectiva anti-cesurista, II. Revista de Antropologia 2009:477-525.This essay focuses on the figure of the Devil in its Brazilian aspect and what it can tell us about Brazilian sociality and, in particular, its notions of personhood. The essay builds on an earlier attempt at deciphering what has come to known as "the Brazilian Dilemma".
João, P. (2005). “Identités imbriquées: divagations sur l’identité, l’émotion et la moralité”. Recherches en Anthropologie au Portugal 10, Itinéraire d’un Anthropologue: João de Pina Cabral:37-56.This is a text (in French) on the concept of identity and its use in social anthropology, with particular reference to matters of emotion and morality.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2005). “La soglia degli affetti: considerazioni sull’attribuzione del nome e la costruzione sociale della persona”. Antropología 5 (6), 2005, Roma (Meltemi),:151-172.This is an article (in Italian) about name attribution and the social construction of persons in Bahia (NE Brazil)
Pina-Cabral, J. (2017). World: An anthropological examination. [Online]. USA: Hau Books/University of Chicago Press. Available at: http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/W/bo25470772.html.What do we mean when we refer to world? How does the world relate to the human person? Are the two interdependent and, if so, in what way? What does world mean for an ethnographer or an anthropologist? Much has been said of worlds and worldviews, but do we really know what we mean by these words? Asking these questions and many more, this book explores the conditions of possibility of the ethnographic gesture, and how these shed light on the relationship between humans and the world in the midst of which they find themselves.
As Pina-Cabral shows, recent decades have seen important shifts in the way we relate human thought to human embodiment—the relation between how we think and what we are. The book proposes a novel approach to the human condition: an anthropological outlook that is centered around the notions of personhood and sociality. It explores these and other central concepts of anthropological theory in the light of rich confrontations with ethnographic and historical material, thus contributing towards the ongoing task of overcoming the theoretical constraints that have hampered anthropological thinking over the past century.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2013). Gente Livre: Consideração e Pessoa no Baixo Sul da Bahia. Ed. Terceiro Nome.This ethnographic essay focuses on the lifestyles of the inhabitants of the coastal mangroves of southern Bahia (NE Brazil). The narrative is structured by the anthropological analysis of the processes that constitute the person. Its point of departure is the concept of "consideration", the principle that attributes reality to interpersonal relations (be they familial, domestic, friendship, patronage, etc.). Two related themes receive extensive treatment: the modes of conjugality and the modes of control of the land. The reader's attention will be called both to the shape of the life histories of the men and women that the authors befriended in southern Bahia and to the way these can contribute towards deepening contemporary debates in anthropological theory about relatedness, namely in the form of a critique of the sociocentric and intellectualist dispositions of the discipline.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2018). Anthropology, Social and Cultural. in: Callan, H. ed. The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. United States: Wiley. Available at: https://www.wiley.com/en-gb/The+International+Encyclopedia+of+Anthropology,+12+Volume+Set-p-9780470657225.The roots of anthropology, as the scientific examination of the human condition, are truly ancient, but its emergence as a separate discipline is associated with the globalization that accompanied the modern era. This entry begins by outlining the roots of modern anthropology and then moves to the end of the nineteenth century, when Darwinian influence led to the growth of academic anthropology. After that, it focuses on the development of ethnographic methodology as the distinctive form of empirical engagement in the discipline. Subsequently, the entry outlines the theoretical development of social and cultural anthropology during the twentieth century and the way in which this came to a moment of decisive crisis in the early 1970s. Finally, it argues that anthropology came to find a renewed identity in the dawning of the twenty-first century, after returning to a concern with action and away from the concern with text that had accompanied the passing of the postcolonial period.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2017). Portugal and the Dynamics of Smallness. in: Hannerz, U. and Gingrich, A. eds. Small Countries: Structures and Sensibilities. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 161-174.The problem of smallness is no longer one that countries like Portugal have to face alone, but one that faces the whole world. The world today is small in the sense that there are no empty spaces out there anymore; we have reached the limits of the model of
growth that drove modernity. That model was imperial and wasteful of resources, and it has increasingly turned against itself. The smallness of Portugal, both in political and economic terms, is no longer alone a Portuguese problem, but one of global dimensions: in environmental, legal, financial and social terms.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2015). Names and Naming. in: Wright, J. D. ed. International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Elsevier, pp. 183-187. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-097086-8.12213-5.From an anthropological, comparative point of view it can be securely stated that the analytic category ‘personal name’ describes a centrally important aspect of all of the different styles of human existence that anthropologists and historians have recorded over the years. Whilst specific processes of personal naming vary widely from context to context and across time, the near omnipresence of modes of naming personal singularity cannot be doubted. Human ways of life are both social and personal, and naming is one of the central aspects through which the two imply each other.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2015). On the Resilience of Superstition. in: Religion and Science as Forms of Life: Anthropological Insights into Reason and Unreason. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books, pp. 173-187.The concept of “belief” has always been taken seriously by anthropologists and philosophers; nevertheless, it has led to a long series of perplexities. To the contrary, the concept of “superstition” has simply been discarded as ethnocentric. The first has been pushed aside for its logical uncertainty; the second for its ethical uncertainty. Yet, the two concepts seem to be surprisingly resilient in face of the continued exercise of anthropological questioning. Furthermore, their capacity for survival appears to be connected precisely to that which connects them: superstition is unfounded belief but the issue of the foundation of belief is at the centre of the anthropological and philosophical perplexities that have haunted the concept of belief. In this paper I examine two examples – one of them a short story by Joseph Conrad – in order to show that today we can look differently at what superstition may be.
João, P. (2015). “Lusotopy as Ecumene”. in: Anthropology Now and Next: Essays in Honor of Ulf Hannerz. Berghahn Books.This is an article about the concept of "ecumene" and how it can be used to describe the experience of people who are related to the long history of Portuguese expansion in numerous and diverse places around the globe. It deals with globalisation and argues against methodological nationalism in the study of postcoloniality.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2014). Lusotopy as Ecumene. in: Hylland Eriksen, T., Garsten, C. and Randeria, S. eds. Anthropology Now and Next: Essays in Honor of Ulf Hannerz. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books, pp. 241-263.In order to avoid the sociocentric proclivity to identify language with culture and nation, thus echoing the language of empire, this paper follows the suggestions of Kroeber, Hannerz, and Mintz in taking recourse to the concept of ecumene. It aims to show that the concept can be applied profitably to the spaces and moments that integrate the vastly differentiated worldwide network of relations resulting from the historical expansion of the Portuguese. To that extent, Lusotopy is a space of human cohabitation structured by amity.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2012). Les noms de famille lusophones: une lecture anthropologique. in: Bizzochi, R., Addobbatti, A. and Grégoire, S. eds. Cum nomine patris: I cognomi italiani nell’ambito dell’antropologia dell’Europa Mediterranea,. Pub. Universitá di Pisa.This essay (in French) is an historical study of the Iberian personal naming system, granting particular attention to material collected in Brazil and Portugal.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2012). Um livro de boa fé: A contraditoriedade do presente na obra de Henri-Alexandre Junod (1898-1927). in: África em Movimento. ABA Pubs, pp. 271-296.Henri-Alexandre Junod is the epical ancestor of southern African ethnography and, via Radcliffe-Brown's use of it, his work has constituted a central referent of all theoretical debates in twentieth century anthropology. Junod also published a novel, Zidji (1910), to which he attributed considerable importance as an historical document. This novel, however, has passed completely outside the radar of all historians of anthropology. In this essay, the novel is studied in the light of the notion that, for Junod's generation of ethnographers, there was an essential contradictoriness of the present moment.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2012). Les noms de famille lusophones: une lecture anthropologique. in: Cum nomine patris: I cognomi italiani nell’ambito dell’antropologia dell’Europa Mediterranea. Pub. Université di Pisa, pp. 155-168.The system of composition of family names that is used today in Portugal, Brazil and the other Lusophone countries around the world finds its origins in Portugal at the end of the Middle Ages but was deeply altered when the bourgeois culture became hegemonic at the end of the nineteenth century. In this essay, I carry out an analysis of the nature of this onomastic system and of its implications for the constitution of the persons whose lives are so deeply marked by the use of these names.
João, P. (2012). “Um livro de boa fé: A contraditoriedade do presente na obra de Henri-Alexandre Junod (1898-1927)”. in: África em Movimento. ABA Publications, Brasilia.This is an essay (in Portuguese) about the history of ethnography in southern Africa. In particular, it deals with a book of fiction that the great ethnographer Henri-Alexandre Juno wrote in 1911 about African confrontation with modernity.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2012). A Catedral das Palhotas: religião e política no Moçambique tardo-colonial. in: Os Outros da Colonização: Ensaios sobre o colonialismo tardio em Moçambique. Lisbon: Imprensa de Ciências.In the late 1960s, the well-known southern African architect and artist Amancio D'Alpoim "Pancho" Guedes designed a cathedral for the Anglican Diocese of Lebombo, Mozambique, inspiring himself in autochthonous architectural techniques. The cathedral was never built, as it was an utopian gesture, but it went on to have a long and distinguished life as a prototype, both for teaching purposes in Johannesburg and as a statement concerning the relationship between art and architecture in post-colonial southern Africa. Pancho's writings of the 1960s concerning the divided nature of the African cities and the profoundly deleterious implications that ensued from it remain alive in today's politically troubled Mozambique and South Africa. This paper is an attempt to show how contemporary those old debates about the nature of the built environment continue to be today.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2012). Charles Boxer and the Race Equivoque. in: Racism and Ethnic Relations in the Portuguese-Speaking World. London: OUP, pp. 99-112. Available at: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780197265246.do.Charles Boxer’s short book Race Relations in the Portuguese Colonial Empire 1415–1825 was published half a century ago and has continued to be read to this day. In fact, it constitutes a singular piece of analytical debate in the work of a writer who saw himself chiefly as a descriptive historian, bibliophile and archivist and who studiously avoided political posturing. The 1963 essay, however, was conceived from the start in a polemical mode, Boxer was perfectly conscious of the impact it would have as he produced it. The present essay is an assessment of the work in the light of the recent debates about racial differentiation and its implications in diverse historical and cultural contexts. The essay argues for the need to triangulate the traditional comparison between Brazil and the United States with the South African experience.
Pina-Cabral, J. (2010). The door in the middle: six conditions for anthropology. in: Culture Wars: Context, Models and Anthropologists’ Accounts. New York: Berghahn, pp. 152-169.Some of the best minds in anthropological theory over the past decades have been
warning us that modernist anthropological theory has come to a serious impasse. Modern
anthropological theory comprises the conceptual frameworks that emerged in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, reaching its peak in the 1930s and 1940s, and then
entered into a process of critical self-questioning around and after the 1960s. Fifty years after
the optimistic formulations of Parsons, Kroeber, Fortes and Gluckman, the central concepts that
laid the ground for the development of our discipline are viewed with suspicion by most
anthropologists today. In this paper, I argue that we can neither deny the value of the critique
nor resign ourselves to the air of gloom that results from it. I suggest some ways out of the