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Abstract The empathic work of understanding is often written about as if it depended solely on the emotional, imaginative, or mind reading capabilities of the empathizer. But if it is embedded in an intersubjective encounter that necessitates ongoing dialog for its accuracy, then it implicates the imaginative and emotional capacities of the person to be understood as well. I argue that we should be investigating more actively the ways in which people in different times and places promote or discourage understanding of themselves. [empathy, anthropology, imagination, Toraja, work of empathy]