British anthropologist Tim Ingold, founder and former head of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, is one of the best-known anthropologists of our day. He is known as an idiosyncratic, unconventional researcher who believes that “anthropology is philosophy with people in”.
In your more than forty years in the field of anthropology, have you managed to find out who you are? What does it mean to be human and alive?
It’s difficult to think back that far, but these are questions that have grown on me. At the same time, if I think back on why I’m looking at these questions now and why I’m thinking about them in the way I am, then many of the reasons lie in things that I learned a long time ago.
For example, because I’m a social anthropologist, when I finished my degree and had to do research for my doctorate, I chose to do my fieldwork in Lapland. At that time I was only twenty-three or twenty-four years old, and I just did what I had been trained to do – finding out all about kinship, the household, how people managed their reindeer herds and so on. It was all very ethnographic and very detailed. I was just dealing with these very ordinary, everyday questions; I wasn’t thinking about any grand philosophical ideas at all. But just by spending sixteen months with the Sámi people in Lapland in my early twenties, I was still learning about what kind of a person I was and soaking up a lot of ways of being, attitudes towards the environment and so on.
Anthropology, art and the mycelial person - Una Meistere