I am writing this blog for me to reflect on an upcomming challenge in my life: Anthropological Fieldwork, and later retrace my path of knowledge. Hopefully the challenge will be met, and maybe, just maybe, this can be of some use to other students of anthropology or related -ologies.
This blog may also be of some interest as to the region of my fieldwork: The city of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, or the subject of my study: Narrative constructions of race in the black consciousness movement (o movimento negro) and what that path of life offers in opposition to other possibilities.
I've just scanned a few entries, but it seems that the blog is a quite detailed and interesting account of his fieldwork.
In his most recent blog post he tells us that he has "come a long way since my initial frustrations with lack of participation and canceling informants":
The last couple of weeks have been full of participation, the kind I prayed for in Denmark and thought impossible at first in Brazil. The kind of participation where you follow one activist around, from one social setting to the other and watch the changes that occur. Family, friends, parties, hobbies, introductions, trusted conversations and confidence - and all the other stuff.
This has been great and a important part of my study (and I predict, a big part of my final paper), but it cannot be the only part - it cannot stand alone. For this reason I have stepped up my interview activities to widen the study a bit.
Some days ago he wrote enthusiastically:
I praise my decision to do a urban fieldwork. At the moment I don't know how people can live in a longhouse in a small village on Java for three months without the possibility to withdraw once in a while.
Here, he reflects about having one's girlfriend in the field: Will she hold you back from full participation? Rather not, it seems:
[Trust] is an important word in Anthropology, especially as the trust people give our discipline rests on the trust we gain from our informants, which in turn rests on the trust we give them, although by no means in a deterministic relation.
When I think back, all the times I have mentioned that my girlfriend was coming to visit, there has been enthusiastic responses. People have liked to talk about it and have expressed (repeatedly) that they would like to meet her. The requests have been more insistent than I would expect from politeness or common curiosity. And maybe this is not so strange.
Anthropologists often are the stranger arriving from some unknown land. (...) The anthropologist is alone! He usually has no family in the field, making him 'matter out of place' in a kinship society with strong family solidarity and mutual help. I imagine that here as elsewhere there is a common sensical assumption that if you know someone's family you can trust them. It is quite common to threaten about 'telling' the family (mother, father, brother or sister). Being part of a known family makes you trustworthy and sharing that family with others is a show of trust.
Wow! Is this the Danish version of Savage Minds? Six anthropologists (partly students) from the Institute of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen have started the blog "Matter Out Of Place". Their first blog post deals with our favorite subject - Public Anthropology and the lack of sharing knowledge on the web.
Jane Mejdahl writes:
First of all anthropologists have to face the obvious and realize the potential in publishing thoughts online and sharing knowlegde. Secondly we have to overcome our fear of being trite and simplifying …
Surely some of us do our fieldwork in far away places without any access to the Internet, computers etc., let alone access to electricity, but a lot of anthropology’s tradtional fields of study are already embracing the possibillities provided by the digital era.
Take a look at indigineuos people’s use of online communication as a mean of resistance and raising awareness. And I bet that Margaret Mead’s lovesick youth in Samoa is busy creating connections and dating online as we speak. Some of us may study people from the other side of the digital divide, but that doesn’t mean that our texts, thoughts, analysis have to remain there. I know for a fact that most anthropologists know how to use a computer. We know how to study issues of social concern. Would it be to much to ask for some sort of combination of the two? Or are we forever stuck in the wilderness?
To promote discussion about recently published books in anthropology, the Open Access anthropology journal Anthropology Matters has added a new page to their website - a book reviews page. The first book review is by Andrew Irving, who has written about Arnd Schneider's and Christopher Wright's new book, Contemporary Art and Anthropology. Three older reviews can be read there as well.
OTHER BOOK REVIEW SITES:
No place to escape from anthropologists. Not even in your own garden! Jane Nadel-Klein is researching the modern-day garden and its rubber-clogged inhabitants, according to the Indiapolis Star. The anthropologist says, that "an examination of the garden-club lady can help our understanding of humankind" because "the more we know about the history of a human practice, the more we know what we share." >> more in the Indiapolis Star.
Jane Nadel-Klein. Fishing for Heritage: Modernity and Loss along the Scottish Coast (Book review, Australian Journal of Anthropology)
E-mail is so last millennium. Young people see it as a good way to reach an elder - a parent, teacher or a boss - or to receive an attached file. But email is increasingly losing favor to instant and text messaging, according to an ap-article:
Much like home postal boxes have become receptacles for junk mail, bills and the occasional greeting card, electronic mailboxes have become cluttered with spam. That makes them a pain to weed through, and the problem is only expected to worsen as some e-mail providers allow online marketers to bypass spam filters for a fee. Beyond that, e-mail has become most associated with school and work.
When immediacy is a factor - as it often is - most young people much prefer the telephone or instant messaging for everything from casual to heart-to-heart conversations, according to research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Boyd says, young people have developped skills for chatting with "a bazillion people at once". They understand how to negotiate the interruptions a lot better than adults.
Anne Kirah, design anthropologist at Microsoft, even thinks young people's brains work differently because they've grown up with IM, making them more adept at it.
Companies really need to respond to the way people work and communicate. The focus, she says, should be the outcome:
"Nine to 5 has been replaced with 'Give me a deadline and I will meet your deadline,'" Kirah says of young people's work habits. "They're saying 'I might work until 2 a.m. that night. But I will do it all on my terms.'"
(via Livejournal Anthropologist Community) What? Germanic Y-chromosomes? What's that? And "Germanic genes"? Are racial theories alive and kicking?
The BBC writes about an "abundance of Germanic genes in England today":
There are a very high number of Germanic male-line ancestors in England's current population. Genetic research has revealed the country's gene pool contains between 50 and 100% Germanic Y-chromosomes.
Or what are "native British genes"?
"We believe that they [Anglo Saxons] also prevented the native British genes getting into the Anglo-Saxon population by restricting intermarriage in a system of apartheid that left the country culturally and genetically Germanised."
We don't get any explanations on how these genes are defined. Race - as we know - "doesn't exist biologically, but it does exist socially," as anthropologist Alan Goodman once said. "Human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups" (AAA-Statement on Race). But reading the articles in the BBC and New Scientist, it seems that race has become a biological reality.
UPDATE (20.7.06): Comment by Alex Golub at Savage Minds:
There are things that I find curious about the article—the assumption that ‘marriage’ and ‘reproduction’ are the same thing and that ethnic identity is always corelated with a genetic marker for instance—but there doesn’t seem to be very much to be ‘racial’ to me.
In a portrait on the website of The National University of Australia, anthropologist Ian Keen, tells about his research among Aboriginees in Australia. Among other things, he wanted to find out why pre-colonial Aboriginal societies tended to be more egalitarian than some of their counterparts elsewhere in the world:
In a paper published in the journal Current Anthropology, Keen argues that for any society to develop lasting social hierarchies, it must have access to plentiful, localised resources that could be defended. In this event, some people can assume authority over others. On the northwest coast of North America, for example, recent hunter-gatherers enjoyed a stable climate and concentrated, defendable resources, especially plentiful salmon. As a consequence, these societies developed such enduring inequalities as inherited chiefly office and marked social classes, while some even kept slaves.
In contrast, Aboriginal societies did not develop such enduring inequalities. (...) Keen argues this relative egalitarianism was the result of constraints arising from variable food resources and an unstable climate, meaning there was limited scope for people to assume dominion over others by asserting exclusive access to territory and resources.
"It’s not exactly an environmental determinist argument, but it is suggesting that those conditions imposed restraints. I make the assumption that wherever they can, some humans will take the opportunities given to them to establish some kind of dominion over others. So my paper argues that even if people knew how to dominate one another, and wanted to do so, the opportunities were not there.
Brian Hayden, an archaeologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, is not convinced and criiticizes that Keen does not put enough weight on the ecological and economic aspects of complexity that develop among some hunter-gatherers in Australia.
Keen is the author of the book Aboriginal Economy and Society. The website of the book is quite informative. If you click on Supplementary Materials you'll find several cases studies and several pages about aboriginal technologies. In the paper Variation in Indigenous Economy and Society at the Threshold of Colonisation, Keen tells about more about his book:
Just how similar and how distinct were Aboriginal societies in different parts of the continent at the time of British colonisation of Australia? The book I am currently writing attempts to answer this and related questions by comparing the economy and society of seven very varied regions of the continent as they were at the threshold of colonisation.
Such a comparative study is long overdue. There have been no recent systematic comparisons of Aboriginal ways of life in different parts of Australia, comparable to, for example, Marshall Sahlins on Polynesia or Rubel and Rosman on New Guinea.
She's a young women from the Lake Lugu is the southwestern part of China and tells us in an article in The Standard (Hongkong):
"Mother thinks I'm being disrespectful to our heritage by having a steady boyfriend. She thinks I ought to follow the old ways, to take more than one lover. It's a big problem between us. Actually," she lowers her voice, "my boyfriend and I are thinking of leaving Lugu after the summer, and moving to Kunming [capital of Yunnan province]. We may get married."
Journalist Joshua Samuel Brown explains that Lake Lugu is the home of the Mosuo - a matriarchal and matrilineal society: Women make most major decisions, control household finances, and pass their surnames on to their children:
But what makes the Mosuo truly unique is one particularly juicy facet of their familial relationships, their practice of zuo hun, or "walking marriage." The Mosuo do not marry - rather, a woman chooses her lovers from among the men of the tribe, taking as many as she pleases over the course of her life. In Mosuo culture, having children with different men bears no social stigma. Children are raised more or less communally, and in most cases grow up in the mother's home, surrounded by any number of sisters, brothers and "uncles."
Chinese men threaten 'lake of free love' where women rule (Telegraph, 25.3.01)
The Chinese region with women in charge (BBC, 18.9.05)
Lu Yuan: Land Of The Walking Marriage - Mosuo people of China (Natural History, 11/2000)
ON MATRILINEAL SOCIETIES SEE ALSO:
Eggi's Village. Life Among the Minangkabau of Indonesia (another matrilineal society)