Gabriel Coren

Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

“Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough”

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. “Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough.” In Philosophical Occasions, 1912–1951, edited by James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann, 118–55. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993.

Synopsis

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer’s Golden Bough is a set of aphoristic notes and marginalia scribbled in reaction to Sir James George Frazer’s armchair account of magical rites, ritual, and ceremony. Frazer’s The Golden Bough, first published in 1890, grew to thirteen volumes by 1936, four years prior to Frazer’s death at Cambridge; a 1922 abridgment compiled by Frazer’s spouse has circulated widely ever since. The bulk of Wittgenstein’s Remarks were composed during his initial encounter with Frazer’s text in 1931, the rest “not earlier than 1936 and probably after 1948,” according to one biographer. They were first published[1] after his death, also at Cambridge, in 1951. 

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Special Focus: Canguilhem’s Milieu Today

Canguilhem’s historical epistemology continues to inspire historians and anthropologists to attend to how current and former human practices of science shape our conceptualizations and engagement with natural and experimental environments, non-human beings, and human life. Now, with the publication of a translation of La connaissance de la vie ([1965] 2008), which contains many of Canguilhem’s key works, “The Living and Milieu” speaks with new urgency.[ In the spirit of the History of Anthropology Newsletter’s call for multidisciplinary exploration of novel topographies for the history of anthropology, this Special Focus Section gathers five insightful considerations of reversals and collapses in relations between organism and environment for the history of human and life sciences since their seminal characterization in “The Living and Its Milieu.

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Editors’ Introduction: As Adventurous as Life

Amidst ongoing shifts to our environments and biologies, the traditional anthropological and biological objects—human being and life, anthropos and bios—are today twined together in unprecedented ways. Witness the bourgeoning interest from bioscientists in cultural and human affairs, and the even longer standing interest from anthropologists in things biological, as former disciplinary norms are upended and new relations, forms, and understandings of life emerge.

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