Magic, self and (world) society: groundwork for an existential and cosmopolitan anthropology

Huon Wardle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human beings can be found everywhere (Piette) and the true subject of anthropology is anyone (Rapport). What do we need to do to our epistemology and practice to reframe anthropology in existential and cosmopolitan terms? This paper explores processes of cosmology- and society-making through an existential and cosmopolitan epistemology and axiology. We can reenlist classic anthropological discussions on magic to understand how subjects generate a Society into which they insert themselves as creative agents. Magical practice shows how Society is uniquely biographical and personal, and that subjectivity is an irreducible and ‘in-additive’ source of social and cosmological structure. Cosmopolitan anthropology describes, then, encounters of ‘non-interchangeable’ (Kneubuhler) biographical selves meeting in and constructing world-space; different selves on diverse cosmopolitanizing trajectories engage in divergent biographical worldmaking practices. In this light, cosmopolitan anthropology takes the form of analytic biography, tracing and retracing these unfoldings of self-orienting structure. Two radically distinct examples of subject-oriented cosmology-making are enlisted: Rastafari I-Yaric and Arrernte tjurunga knowledge
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalAnthropological Forum
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date2 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2023


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