After reading Mario Blaser’s intriguing article, The Threat of the Yrmo: The Political Ontology of a Sustainable Hunting Program (2009), I started to see where gaps could lie in the ontological perspective. Although he suggests a “political ontology,” his most compelling and evocative thesis lies in the claim that the Yshiro Indigenous communities of Northern Paraguay abide by an entirely ‘different world’ when they conceive of appropriate conservation behaviors. Thus, their idea that the environment is sustained through maintaining a sense of reciprocity between community members is of a ‘different world’ than that of the National Parks Direction, whose concept of conservation ties to contemporary scientific principles. He draws in de Castro’s idea of uncontrolled equivocation, “a type of communicative disjuncture where the interlocutors are not talking about the same thing, and do not know this” (2004).
But is this always the case? On the basis of much literature I have read on commercial fishing, ethnoecological knowledge is not always tied to the ‘indigenous’ groups that many anthropologists focus upon. Rather, these contrasting ecological models could also be hybridized from the scientific theoretic perspective and local ideology, as is the case with much commercial fishing in the contemporary era. Commercial fishing itself is largely grounded in sharing and cooperation, two institutions that are essential to the functioning of this work practice. Therefore, isn’t there some way to merge scientific theoretic perspectives and the so-called ‘local’ outlook? I have always been sympathetic to the ideas of folk biologies, psychologies, psychics, etc. that all underpin various anthropological investigations, but I also see a very clear affinity between the ‘cultural’ explanations for such phenomena and the scientific.
In fact, I am still convinced that the scientific is equally cultural. Many of the guiding principles of science in the modern era are also imbued by Western moral and philosophical beliefs, so how could this be used as an objective pillar for assessment of a separate ‘cultural’ model? In the end, what does ontological anthropology accomplish but expanding the divergences between us and ‘the other’? Can our worldviews be as different as the ontologists suggest?