"The Self" and "The Other" in Disciplinary Anthropology


  • Paul-François Tremlett Study of Religions Department, School of Oriental and African Studies




In this paper I argue that fieldwork constitutes a ‘limit-experience’ where self and other encounter and confront one another. I suggest this confrontation provides an opening for what Foucault described as knowing “how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently, instead of legitimating what is already known” (1992). It begins by outlining Foucault’s notion of ‘pastoral power’, and argues that anthropology is an explicitly pastoral discipline, whose pastoral function emerges by interrogating the opposition of ‘Self’ to ‘Other’. Drawing on early and contemporary anthropological writings, I show how the discipline constructs a knowing Self which is opposed to an Other that is actively denied selfhood whilst being simultaneously constructed as a site of instruction. I conclude by exploring how anthropology might forge a radical break with pastoral power by recasting our understanding of fieldwork and recognising that it is primarily a site for a de-centering encounter between self and other selves.

Author Biography

Paul-François Tremlett, Study of Religions Department, School of Oriental and African Studies

Paul-François Tremlett conducted fieldwork in the Philippines from September 1999 to October 2000, researching rural religious beliefs and practices. He can be contacted at Paulftremlett(AT)yahoo.com.