Volume 114, Issue 4 p. 668-679

Multiple Ontologies and the Problem of the Body in History

Oliver J. T. Harris

Oliver J. T. Harris

Lecturer in Archaeology, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH, U.K.; [email protected]

Search for more papers by this author
John Robb

John Robb

Reader in European Prehistory, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ, U.K.; [email protected]

Search for more papers by this author
First published: 29 November 2012
Citations: 70

Abstract

ABSTRACT In this article, we return to a fundamental anthropological question: How can we understand apparently incommensurate perspectives on the human body? While applauding recent moves to place local people's perspectives on an ontological rather than epistemological footing, we suggest that both of these approaches fail to explain how different ontological perspectives can ever communicate with one another and how historical change takes place. To understand this, we offer a different model of multiple ontologies that also makes room for physical materials; we explore this through the ontologies of Native America and Western Europe from medieval times to the present day.