The turn to ontology, often associated with the recent works of Philippe Descola, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, and Bruno Latour, but evident in many other places as well, is, in Elizabeth Povinelli's formulation, “symptomatic” and “diagnostic” of something. It is, I here argue, a response to the sense that sociocultural anthropology, founded in the footsteps of a broad humanist “linguistic” turn, a field that takes social construction as the special kind of human reality that frames its inquiries, is not fully capable of grappling with the kinds of problems that are confronting us in the so-called Anthropocene—an epoch in which human and nonhuman kinds and futures have become so increasingly entangled that ethical and political problems can no longer be treated as exclusively human problems. Attending to these issues requires new conceptual tools, something that a nonreductionistic, ethnographically inspired, ontological anthropology may be in a privileged position to provide.


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