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Are we all natural dualists? A cognitive developmental approach. The Malinowski Memorial Lecture, 2000

Astuti, Rita ORCID: 0000-0002-8399-0753 (2001) Are we all natural dualists? A cognitive developmental approach. The Malinowski Memorial Lecture, 2000. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 7 (3). pp. 429-447. ISSN 1359-0987

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Identification Number: 10.1111/1467-9655.00071


The article takes to task the well-established anthropological claim that non- western peoples are free from the traps of dualistic thinking. Although Vezo informants in Madagascar produce statements that could be used to support such a claim, experimental procedures that target their inferential reasoning reveal that they systematically differentiate between mind and body, between the biological processes that determine the organism and the social processes that shape personhood. This suggests that there is a significant discrepancy between people’s explicit linguistic statements and their implicit theoretical knowledge. Moreover, developmental data show that such implicit theoretical presuppositions are essential to the production and transmission of cultural knowledge. Thus, Vezo children, who do not as yet differentiate between the biological mechanism of birth and the social mechanism of nurture, are still unable to grasp a salient aspect of Vezo culture, namely the causally integrated set of ideas that guide the way adults classify the social world. These findings have significant theoretical and methodological implications for the constitution of anthropological knowledge.

Item Type: Article
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Additional Information: This is an electronic version of an Article published in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 7 (3) pp. 429-447 © 2001 Blackwell Publishing. LSE has developed LSE Research Online so that users may access research output of the School. Copyright © and Moral Rights for the papers on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. Users may download and/or print one copy of any article(s) in LSE Research Online to facilitate their private study or for non-commercial research. You may not engage in further distribution of the material or use it for any profit-making activities or any commercial gain. You may freely distribute the URL ( of the LSE Research Online website.
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2007
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2024 16:45

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