Professor Martin Holbraad — Three Ontological Turnings

Thursday Jan 28 (5pm Seminar Room)

Three Ontological Turnings

Professor Martin Holbraad

The purpose of this talk is to clarify some of the basic premises of the so-called ‘ontological turn’ in recent anthropological theory. Presenting briefly two examples of ethnographic analysis that demonstrate some of the basic characteristics of this approach, I suggest that the ontological turn must be understood as a strictly methodological proposal, and above all as a technique of anthropological description. Thus understood, the ontological turn involves deepening and radicalizing three features that have always been present in mainstream anthropological research, namely reflexivity, conceptualization and experimentation.


Martin Holbraad is Professor of Social Anthropology at UCL. His main field research is in Cuba, where he focuses on Afro-Cuban religions and revolutionary politics. He is the author of Truth in Motion: The Recursive Anthropology of Cuban Divination (Chicago, 2012), co-editor of Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically (Routledge, 2007) and Framing Cosmologies: The Anthropology of Worlds (Manchester, 2014), and co-author of The Ontological Turn: An Anthropological Exposition (Cambridge, 2016). At present he directs a 5-year ERC-funded research project on the anthropology of revolutionary politics.