Neuroanthropology and the dialectical imperative

Juan F Dominguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, the ontology, epistemology and methodology of anthropology are questioned with the purpose of arguing for the possibility of a neuroanthropological approach capable of investigating the relationships between the neural, the experiential and the cultural. The author contends that the dichotomization of objects and subjects, objectivism and subjectivism, and explanation and understanding that characterizes anthropology is no longer viable and that a dialectical alternative is required that regards each member of these dyads as standing in a dependent relationship to one another. It is shown that this dialectical view ultimately calls for the investigation of the neural and mental dimensions of human activity as they are embedded in their cultural matrix. The discussion is substantiated by reference to debates around how to bridge the gap between the mental and the neural. The author draws on his experience in anthropology and imaging neuroscience to assess the process of knowledge generation in both fields with a view to showing that science and humanism are interdependent. Following from this, neuroanthropology, and anthropology more broadly, are characterized as having to oscillate between scientific humanism and humanistic scientism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5 - 27
Number of pages23
JournalAnthropological Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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