OpEd essay: Why we treat AI like a god” (July 27, 2023)
Webb Keane is the George Herbert Mead Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. He is affiliated with the Social-Cultural and the Linguistic subfields in the Anthropology Department, as well as the Interdisciplinary Program in Anthropology and History and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies.
His writings cover a range of topics in social and cultural theory and the ethnography and history of Southeast Asia. In particular, he is interested in religion and ethics; semiotics and language; material culture; gifts, commodities, and money; and media. His new book, coming out in 2024, is about the ethical dilemmas posed by interactions with non-humans and near-humans, including animals and AI.
His regular undergraduate course offerings include Language and Culture; Anthropology of Religion; Exchange, Commodities, and Money; and Southeast Asia. His regular graduate seminars are the core course on anthropological theory (part 2), Semiotic Anthropology, Ethnographies of Ethics and Morality, and Southeast Asia. New graduate seminar, winter 2024: “Ethnography beyond the human”
To schedule an appointment please use this link (All appointments are in person unless a remote session is requested)
FORTHCOMING in August 2024: Animals, Robots, Gods: Adventures in the Moral Imagination (Penguin/Allen Lane)
His most recent book, Ethical Life: Its Natural and Social Histories was published by Princeton University Press.
Here’s a review in the Times Literary Supplement
- You can read the Introduction here: Ethical Life: Introduction
- Review in Public Books
- Review in European Journal of Sociology
- Review in Marginalia, Los Angeles Review of Books
- Here’s a dialogue with Stephan Palmie about their recent articles in Comparative Studies in Society and History in Divinities and the mundane world, viewed through Indonesian Islam and Cuban oricha
His first book, Signs of Recognition: Powers and Hazards of Representation in an Indonesian Society is based on 2 years of fieldwork on the island of Sumba in Indonesia.
The second book Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter concerns the impact of Protestantism and the project of being modern from colonial mission to postcolonial church. Read a review of the book and some critical responses.
He participated in the collaborative venture Four Lectures on Ethics: Anthropological Perspectives which can be downloaded for free.