An exchange today with a practitioner of social anthro to
whom I'd fwd the puff for Polly.
>Thanks for the excerpt from 'Science'.
I knew you'd dislike it, but one tries to keep in touch with
the fast-decaying scene one used to inhabit.
> Veracity doesn't seem high on the
>agenda of the author
> of the piece:
>"She pioneered a new kind of collab-
>orative research, where you don't just use
>informants but you involve them in your
>research," says Brooks.
yes I wondered how anyone could insinuate priority on that;
you were doing it 3 decades ago
>My late supervisor, Professor Ralph Bulmer, was way ahead
>, see his
>collaboration with his Saem on 'Birds'(1977):
>"The work of Ralph Bulmer in New Guinea, culminating in his collaboration
>with Ian Saem Majnep in writing Birds of My Kalam Country (1977), set a new
>standard for ethnoornithological research, and this book has deservedly
>become a classic of modern ethnoornithology." (Wikipaedia)
>Perhaps colonial (Northern hemisphere) anthropology is slowly waking up to
>what anthropologists in the Southern hemisphere has lived with for years -
>when you are no longer separated from your informants by half a world, but
>they sometimes live next door (!) it stops being feasible to engage in
>'extractive' anthropology just to feed the academic agendas of the salaried.
that is the more fundamental point, perhaps; the other point,
that it stops being ethical to attempt the 'extractive', has been
more visible but in a sense is less powerful
>And when you start to have to take into account your research participants'
> - the article calls the "subjects" [who's the ruler?]
that quip is of dubious validity, as 'subject' in anthro
methodology usu means 'that which is observed', not 'subject' as I'm
proud to be of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II
> - feedback and concern
>about your use of the resources that they are sharing with you, the result
>probably looks (and can be sold as, new careers forged, etc.) "engaged".
>This is just in contrast to the business-as-usual ("un-engaged"?)
>anthropology that only engages with academic agendas and spoils, and largely
>ignores the contemporary agendas (getting new shoes...) of research
>participants in favour of recording remains of a fetishised past.
The case requires not that last characterisation, but you may
even be right there as you are above.
> "you involve them in your research" - how about you becoming involved in
I assume you offered to do so, and hoped to contribute in that way.
I still recall the sneer of the village headman in response
to your request to come & study their customs: "what's the matter,
don't you have any customs of your own?". That was illogical & rude,
but I took it to be some strong if vague expression of resentment at
the 'subject' role.
Your own version took Rafe Bulmer's methods considerably
further. The 'consolidated day' compiled from your 18 mo experience
among those 300 (plus the odd Toghsigi speaker from next valley)
provoked academic objection at the time, but if properly expounded
within a wider report worked out fine. I only wish you were still