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The Anthropology of Intentions
Language in a World of Others


  • Date Published: January 2015
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107652033

£ 24.99

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About the Authors
  • How and to what extent do people take into account the intentions of others? Alessandro Duranti sets out to answer this question, showing that the role of intentions in human interaction is variable across cultures and contexts. Through careful analysis of data collected over three decades in US and Pacific societies, Duranti demonstrates that, in some communities, social actors avoid intentional discourse, focusing on the consequences of actions rather than on their alleged original goals. In other cases, he argues, people do speculate about their own intentions or guess the intentions of others, including in some societies where it was previously assumed they avoid doing so. To account for such variation, Duranti proposes an 'intentional continuum', a concept that draws from phenomenology and the detailed analysis of face-to-face interaction. A combination of new essays and classic re-evaluations, the book draws together findings from anthropology, linguistics and philosophy to offer a penetrating account of the role of intentions in defining human action.

    • Authoritative - written by one of the most influential linguistic anthropologists of our time
    • Proposes a new account of the role of intentions in the definition of human action and proposes the notion of 'intentional continuum' in opposition to dichotomies like 'intentional' vs 'unintentional' or 'individual' vs 'collective'
    • Uses ethnography and detailed analysis of recorded interaction to provide a method for the reconstruction of local theories of meaning through the analysis of communication
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This work defines a beautiful adagio of a research career in anthropology, elegiac in [its] contemporary rarity, where a problem addressed through observing Samoan fonos more than three decades ago finds a resolution not in proof or logic, but aesthetics.' George E. Marcus, University of California, Irvine

    'Duranti is one of the pioneers of the now booming cross-cultural study of intentionality and its role in local understandings of language and mind. Combining key insights of linguistic anthropology with original arguments drawn from phenomenological philosophy, his book takes the debate on these topics to a new level. It is destined to provide the foundation of work in this field from now on.' Joel Robbins, Sigrid Rausing Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

    '… this book offers valid critique and excellent points, picks up on a number of interesting ideas, and opens up important questions from cognition to the ways speakers and hearers co-create meaning to the signs available in different situations. It offers a wellrounded discussion of intentions from many perspectives and the focus on language allows for some very specific and detailed considerations.' Marianna Keisalo, Suomen Antropologi

    'This work by Alessandro Duranti, one of the leading authorities in the field of linguistic anthropology, examines the concept of intentionality, a most complicated problem of pragmatics. The monograph reviewed is the result of the author's lifetime reflections on the topic. Reconsidering his old field materials (mostly collected on Samoa more than 30 years ago) and adding new ones from recent projects, the author revises his previous position which presupposed that there are cultures in which intentionality cannot be treated as a meaningful notion at all. In this monograph, Duranti puts forward a new approach, positing that intentionality occupies a place of its own in any culture's conversational interactions. Merging conclusions based on empirical data and Husserl's phenomenological approach, the author, in the final chapter, integrates intentionality, intersubjectivity, and agency, introducing a new theoretical concept shaped as 'an intentional continuum'.' Evgeny Golovko, translated from АНТРОПОЛОГИЧЕСКИЙ ФОРУМ

    'Duranti's The Anthropology of Intentions is a wonderful read that explores the problem of intention both theoretically and empirically and why it matters. The book blends empirical research with theoretical scholarship in a way that is accessible to readers.' Lee Trepanier, VoegelinView

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107652033
    • length: 237 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 151 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.45kg
    • contains: 18 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Rethinking anti-intentionalism
    2. Intentions in speaking and acting: the Standard Theory and its foes
    3. The avoidance of intentional discourse: a Samoan case study
    4. The invention of promising in the Samoan translation of the Bible
    5. Intentionality and truth, revisited
    6. Speaker intentions and the role of the audience in a political campaign in the US
    7. A dialogue on intentions
    8. Opacity of other minds: local theories revisited
    9. Intentions and their modifications: a lesson from Husserl
    10. A sense of the other: from intentionality to intersubjectivity
    11. The intentional continuum.

  • Author

    Alessandro Duranti, University of California, Los Angeles
    Alessandro Duranti is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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