On the two articles

Richard G. Calo (rgcalo@EDEN.RUTGERS.EDU)
Sun, 21 Apr 1996 22:54:15 EDT

On Sunday, April 21, Dwight Read wrote:

> The question I pose is: These two articles seem to be worlds apart. One is
> reporting research that says the kinds of changes we have experienced (day
> care, single parenting, both parents working) is not in and of itself a
> problem; the other implies that the problem lies in the failure of
parents to
> provide rules, guindance and enforcement of those rules and guides--which
> might be related to insufficient parenting. Does anthropology as a
> discipline have any kind of insight into what is going on?

I, for one, am convinced it does, or rather, I am convinced it can, or might
be able to. And here, what follows is a matter of absolute (well, nearly)
belief: I am convinced because, wrongly or rightly insofar as many of the
conclusions it arrives at, anthropology _does_ often make the attempt to
understand individuals and groups-- all and any groups and, therefore,
persons too-- from the inside, from the point of view of what something
might mean, or how it might matter for a group of people, all of whom are
living human beings and not simply the empirical aspect of some statistical
model or other. This attempt to understand what something might mean
for someone, I believe, is the first and most important step we can take,
since without it.... Well, without it, and if the attempt is never made, we
probably won't get to the point of insight, even if the insight is in the
end mistaken.

Anthropology has always attracted me because even as a social 'science'
it is concerned with subjective states-- not with the nature of subjective
states (although there's that too), since this seems to be more the province
of philosophy, but with using these states in its attempt to understand
something fundamental about human beings and being human. I read
something once (can't recall where) which I liked very much. It said, that
when you can tell a joke in a native group, and they laugh at it, then the
group and you are well on the way toward some degree of mutual
understanding. I can think of no 'softer' a methodology than that-- and
probably a no more accurate one where human beings are concerned.
I do wonder though, wouldn't this methodology already argue for a
degree of commonality, at some level, between different social groups?

Because, if it did, then these different groups might not be so far apart
after all, or not so far apart that a bridge could never be built. Thus, the
two articles Dwight Read mentions might, as he writes, only "seem" to be
worlds apart. Behind their apparent difference, there could appear an
explanation-- an insight-- as to what is going on. I believe anthropology,
with its methodology and range of interests, could build such a bridge.


Mr. Aurin, I also believe that producing such an explanation, having such
an insight, building such a bridge, would be a very creative enterprise. On
Friday, April 19, you concluded a really fine post (I still need to think
about all that's in it) with the words:

> And is it really
> terribly problematic to think of ethnography as a creative process? I think
> it is more problematic to think that it is not.

I couldn't be more in agreement.

Richard G. Calo