Inner Voices

“The capacity for a complex inner life—encompassing inner speech, imaginative reverie, and unarticulated moods—is an essential feature of living with illness and a principal means through which people interpret, understand, and manage their condition. Nevertheless, anthropology lacks a generally accepted theory or methodological framework for understanding how interiority relates to people’s public actions and expressions. Moreover, as conventional social–scientific methods are often too static to understand the fluidity of perception among people living with illness or bodily instability, I argue we need to develop new, practical approaches to knowing.”

Living with “illness” and “bodily instability” are the constitutive elements of the drive to establish a neuroanthropology and neurophenomenology of “complex inner experience”, as described above. But, “illness” and “instability”? These constitutive frameworks cast such internal complexities as signs and symptoms of mental “conditions” that require normalization and recovery. They are not regarded as norms of subjectivity but symptoms of its straying. Imaginative reverie and unarticulated moods are multi-dimensional and quite contradictory in phenomenal nature; they seem, to my knowledge, to necessarily not be deemed norms of subjective experience.

Our Inner Voices offers multiple dimensions of analysis and activism for this “issue” of inner speech. As this article details, anthropologist Andrew Irving captures the inner dialogues people carry on with themselves as they walk the streets of the city. His blogpost New York Stories: The Lives of Other Citizens elucidates this further.

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