To the extent that neuroanthropology draws its main concepts and questions from cultural anthropology, it emphasizes fieldwork as its empirical basis and is as a consequence less inclined to use neuroimaging, which requires an experimental setting. That is why most neuroanthropological studies limit themselves to citing brain research and juxtaposing it to other kinds of materials, drawn directly from the study of cultural settings and situations [...].
In contrast to neuroanthropology, cultural neuroscience uses neuroimaging so systematically that it is often described as “cultural neuroimaging.” This is not to say that neuroanthropology would benefit from turning to neuroimaging but that imaging methods have so far been the chief way of going empirically beyond merely juxtaposing the neurobiological and the cultural. The question is whether they satisfy the stated purpose of illuminating culture.
A question that could be raised at this point is: why is there a need for neuroanthropology when cultural neuroscience is already addressing issues of concern for neuroanthropology? My colleagues and I have dealt with this question in some detail (Domínguez et al. 2009a, 2009b). Here I will highlight the fact that cultural neuroscience operates exclusively in terms of explanation and shares the shortcomings of purely objectivistic disciplines. Neuroanthropology is necessary because, by integrating understanding and explanation (as well as research methods from anthropology and neuroscience; chiefly, but not only, participant observation and brain imaging), it will be in a better position to move back and forth between the neural, the phenomenal and the cultural domains.
Inspired by the homonymous book by Fernando Vidal and Francisco Ortega, this timespace presents the authors' genealogy of the cerebral subject and the influence of the neurological discourse in human sciences, mental health and culture.