This paper brings together ways of understanding key theoretical concepts shared across three disciplines: the anthropology of religion (particularly phenomenological anthropology), intersubjective psychoanalysis, and Husserl’s phenomenology in order to propose a methodology for the social scientific study of categorically informed phenomena like religion and nation. These concepts: the subject, intersubjectivity, empathy, and lifeworld are methodological touchstones which move us beyond the “death of the subject” heralded by poststructuralist emphases on governmentality and a metaphysics of absence. Rather, they posit the real presence of living subjects whose patterned behavior and production in a shared yet profoundly multiple world is the result of complex intersubjective attunements and re-/mis-attunements. A methodology of empathic contextual hermeneutics attentive to these conceptual heuristics gives us a procedure by which to understand the emergent nature of social change as it unites problematically separated domains of structure and agency, exteriority and interiority, systems and individuals.
Natalie Smolenski is Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Currently, she is a Józef Tischner Junior Visiting Fellow at the IWM.
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