Essays on the limits of relational thinking

Edited by Thomas Yarrow, Matei Candea, Catherine Trundle and Jo Cook



  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3386-1
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £26.00
  • Published Date: January 2019
  • BIC Category: Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Humanities / Social & political philosophy, Anthropology, Social theory, Social & cultural anthropology, PHILOSOPHY / Social, POLITICAL SCIENCE / General


This interdisciplinary volume questions one of the most fundamental tenets of social theory by focusing on detachment, an important but neglected aspect of social life. Going against the grain of recent theoretical celebrations of engagement, this book challenges us to re-think the relational basis of social theory. In so, doing it brings to light the productive aspects of disconnection, distance and detachment. Rather than treating detachment simply as the moral inversion of compassion and engagement, the volume brings together empirical studies and theoretical comments by leading anthropologists, sociologists and science studies scholars. Taken together, these illustrate the range of contexts within which distance and disconnection can offer meaningful frameworks for action. Positioned at the cutting edge of social theory, this landmark volume will be of great interest to students and academics across the social sciences and humanities.


'By now detachment has been thoroughly dethroned as a general ideal for modern subjects. This makes it possible for the authors assembled in this compelling volume to present subtle, detailed explorations of practices of detachment in different contexts -from pig farming in Britain to monastery life in Tibet. Like attaching, detaching, too, emerges as an art that is situationally worthwhile, necessary, or unavoidable. Start reading and - can I say this? - you will be hooked.'

Annemarie Mol, Professor of Anthropology of the Body at the University of Amsterdam.

'This book quite brilliantly exposes the imperative of connection that drives so much of contemporary theory. Taking their distance from this imperative, the contributors develop a sophisticated and insightful proposal for the potentiality of detachment or disconnection as an ethical and epistemic practice. The proposal is at once measured and provocative; social scientists of all kinds will be stirred by Detachment.'
Alain Pottage, Professor of Law, London School of Economics

'The value of these essays lies in their empirical detail - reminding us that our discursive habit of hypostatizing key terms seldom illuminates, but tends to blind us to the dynamic processes and ever-changing experiences of social existence, which define, after all, the original raisons d'^etre of anthropological inquiry.'
Michael D. Jackson Harvard Divinity School, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute


Introduction: Matei Candea, Jo Cook, Catherine Trundle and Thomas Yarrow
Part I: Professionalism and expertise
1. Some merits and difficulties of detachment - Maryon MacDonald
2. Virtuous detachments in engineering practice - on the ethics of (not) making a difference - Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox
3. Artisanal affection: detachment in human-animal relations within intensive pig production in Britain - Kim Crowder
4. Comment - Veena Das
Part II: Ritual and religion
5. Engaged disbelief: problematics of detachment in Christianity and in the anthropology of Christianity - Joel Robbins
6. Detachment and ethical regard - James Laidlaw
7. Detachment, difference and separation: Levi-Strauss at the wedding feast - Caroline Humphrey
8. Comment - Michael Carrithers
Part III: Detaching and situating knowledge
9. The capacity for re-description: environments for hyphens - Alberto Corsín Jiménez
10. Test sites: attachments and detachments in community-based ecotourism - Casper Bruun Jensen and Brit Ross Winthereik
11. Learning to experience the truth: the role of detachment in mindfulness-based therapy in Thailand - Joanna Cook
12. Ignorance and the ethics of detachment among Mongolian Tibetan Buddhists in Inner Mongolia, China - Jonathan Mair
13. Comment - Marilyn Strathern


Matei Candea is Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge; Jo Cook is Lecturer in Anthropology at University College London; Catherine Trundle is Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington; Tom Yarrow is Senior Lecturer in Anthropology at Durham University


Edited by Thomas Yarrow, Matei Candea, Catherine Trundle, Jo Cook

Paperback £26.00 / $38.95

Hardcover £90.00 / $140.00

Or buy from your preferred bookseller:

Amazon Waterstones Blackwells

Click here for North and South America

Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout