My consuming interest is in the relevance of the writings of Charles S. Peirce and Martin Heidegger for anthropological theory and practice. European modernity begins and is sustained, I hold, by the--unwarranted? --questions raised by Descartes and the --inadequate?--answers provided by him and most major thinkers in the western intellectual tradition who followed him. And anthropology is a capricious child of such a modernity because of its encounter with systems of thought and action that interrogate this modernity on the one hand and its filial loyalty to its own disciplinary heritage on the other. Peirce and Heidegger, as two of the most powerful critics of Cartesianism, show us ways of connecting non-western (ethnographic) critiques to western modernism’s (philosophical) critiques deriving from these two thinkers. Against this broad problematique, I do research and write on semeiotic, violence, refugees and plantation labor. My geographic areas of research are South India and Sri Lanka.
Fluid Signs: Being a Person the Tamil Way.Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.
Culture/Contexture: Essays in Anthropology and Literary Study, Co-edited with Geoffrey Peck. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
Mistrusting Refugees, Co-edited with John Knudsen. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1996
Charred Lullabies: Chapters in an Anthropography of Violence. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.