General Anthropology Division
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
It may appear as an odd comparison to discuss biodynamic wine and Azande witchcraft in a single paper. However, both topics raise important issues regarding rationality in anthropology and beyond. Azande witchcraft, of course, was the main driver in the Anglo-American rationality debates that engaged philosophers, sociologists, and anthropologists during the 1970s and 1980s. Some regard Azande witchcraft as an odd set of customs, beliefs and practices that could not stand up to any critical and empirical verification while others, following Peter Winch, argued for their sensibility once the assumptions upon which the beliefs were founded were understood. The same set of issues of credibility and reason have engaged biodynamic wine that involves everything from aligning planting and harvesting with the stars to making a liquid application for the grapes that comes from the feces of pregnant cows. I argue that such counter intuitive and seemingly irrational beliefs are common to the societies that anthropologists study and that understanding such "unusual" beliefs and practices in terms of "how they come to language" offers a much more inclusive and broader rendering of meaning, climate, place and science in general. In short, the case of Azande witchcraft will be utilized to highlight the credulity and rationality of biodynamic wine.