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Keywords:

  • [ontology;
  • body;
  • history]

ABSTRACT  In this article, we return to a fundamental anthropological question: How can we understand apparently incommensurate perspectives on the human body? While applauding recent moves to place local people's perspectives on an ontological rather than epistemological footing, we suggest that both of these approaches fail to explain how different ontological perspectives can ever communicate with one another and how historical change takes place. To understand this, we offer a different model of multiple ontologies that also makes room for physical materials; we explore this through the ontologies of Native America and Western Europe from medieval times to the present day.