16/06 Tim Ingold Touchlines: on seeing and reading as ways of telling

Tim Ingold
Touchlines: on seeing and reading as ways of telling

16/06 – 6pm

The hub-and-spokes model of place (left) compared with the place as a knot of entangled lifelines (right). In the diagram on the left, the circle represents a place, the dots are its living occupants and the straight lines indicate the connectors of a transport network. In the diagram on the right, the lines are living inhabitants, and the knot in the middle is a place. 

Touchlines: on seeing and reading as ways of telling

Of both images and texts, it has often been claimed that they cannot, simultaneously, be seen and read. This tension between seeing and reading, I argue, results from the twin assumptions (a) that vision entails a retrojection, from world to mind, of what has already been projected from mind to world, and (b) that reading entails a disarticulation and re-articulation of graphic elements that have first been articulated on the page. With both drawing and handwriting, however, the line is not an articulated sequence of discrete elements but the more or less enduring trace of a manual gesture. To both see and read this trace is to join with it, in its inflections and modulations. Seeing, then, is no more a back-projection than is reading a re-articulation. Both seeing and reading are rather ways of telling, by hand and eye.

Tim Ingold is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen where he founded a new Department of Anthropology in 2002.  He has carried out ethnographic fieldwork in Lapland, and has written on environment, technology and social organisation in the circumpolar North, on evolutionary theory, human-animal relations, language and tool use, environmental perception and skilled practice. A few of his books are Perception of the Environment, Lines: A Brief History, Being Alive, and Making. His current project, Knowing from the Inside: Anthropology, Art, Architecture and Design, seeks to reconfigure the relation between the practice of academic inquiry in the human sciences and the knowledge to which it gives rise.