Building on recent efforts in this direction, this essay provides arguments in support of the concept of responsivity, developed by the philosopher Bernhard Waldenfels, and its importance in anthropological theorizing. Responsivity is a way of thinking about relations between self and Other, structure and agency, universality and particularity that escapes the dichotomy which usually characterizes such conceptual pairings. By defining 'responding' as a relationship to the Other as other, and by defining 'the Other' as what we respond to, Waldenfels' concept enables anthropologists to theoretically overcome the contradiction between radical and empirical alterity. This potential is illustrated in a discussion of the responsive aspects of other approaches to empirical otherness: the sociology of the stranger, psychoanalysis and semiotics. Through comparisons that stress points of contact and compatibility, the notion of responsivity is thrown into sharper relief. At the same time, familiar anthropological approaches to alterity are re-presented in a changed light.

Additional Metadata
Keywords alterity, otherness, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, semiotics, sociology of the stranger, Waldenfels
Persistent URL
Journal Anthropological Theory
Leistle, B. (2016). Responsivity and (some) other approaches to alterity. Anthropological Theory (Vol. 16, pp. 48–74). doi:10.1177/1463499616628761