John Mcreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Fri, 18 Aug 1995 11:22:29 +0900
In response to my "Provocation," Diane Bennett writes,
"It seems to me that there is a whole range of possibilities
missing: those whose primary goal is to learn in ways other
than from the objective distance which you call The Scientist.
Many whose primary goal is more open learning will also have
some element of wanting to offer alternatives or assistance, but
without taking up the hard stances you label Reformer and
Activist. And they may well hope to be accepted in some
integral way without attempting Going Native."
In principle I agree completely. But the ideal types are useful:
(1) for their shock value, as a way of arousing interest, and (2)
as a way of clearing the air and getting oriented to a problem.
Yes, we all need to be more subtle and nuanced; the problem for
me at least is my unfortunate tendency to mistake muddle for
"I'm not going to try to make up labels for these; can't think of
any that really work. One that fits somewhere in here is the
oft-mentioned intro concept of the ethnographer being child-like
in learning, although this picks a metaphor styled on inside
position. Some others might range around "
I've thought about this one and decided that for me it doesn't
work at all. The child is unencumbered with the kinds of
projects and intellectual baggage the ethnographer carries into
the field. The child, if it grows up there, can become an "insider"
in a way that the ethnographer never will. The child's
knowledge will be largely (though, of course, not completely)
unconscious. The ethnographer may learn a lot subliminally,
but the point is writing ethnography--a highly conscious
Bennett suggests some other types:
"Lover of Knowledge (gee, isn't there some word for that?),
Inquisitive Friend, Interpreter, Nosey Parker. I know. None
are very satisfactory. The range needs to reflect the traditional
not-really-insider role and the current approaches with heavy
doses of scepticism about objective truths."
Lover of knowledge? The old-fashioned Greek is "Philosopher." I
like that one myself. Like Socrates, philosophers are often
exceedingly annoying people (and may suffer the consequences).
The Inquisitive Friend? That's interesting. I wonder,
though....One aspect of being a friend is knowing how far its
appropriate to probe and when it's better to leave a question
unasked. Philosophers and Nosey Parkers are likely to ask
"And I think that these "ideal" types are never going to be very
satisfactory, because most of us combine a variety of roles and
positions, context-sensitive, ambiguous, changing through time.
And I think that is a good thing."
Ah, yes. See above. The issue is how we go about it. And without
some detail, this kind of statement, while true enough, leaves
my intellectual appetite with an empty feeling.
At this point I would not like to be what Kathi Kitner-Salazar
called "The Resigned" who, "sees things as they are (whatever
that may be) and flatly describes them, e.g., sees the building of
a new gigantic tourist resort that will probably be an ecological
disaster, not to mention the eventual social costs, but doesn't
even think of fighting it because they know (or think they know)
that the fight can't be won?"
I want to thank Bennett for a very thoughtful and provocative
reply. The question is, Can the half-way-in, half-way-out,
ambiguous trickster anthropologist find solid ground for either
knowing or fighting?