Re: Provocation

Pauline Shafer (pali@U.WASHINGTON.EDU)
Sat, 19 Aug 1995 09:32:29 -0700

Hey, how about this one:

The Ethnographer: I don't want to change anything about the people or
culture I'm learning about. I just want to be able to describe as
realistically as possible as my perspective allows, what is unique and
what isn't about the culture, and how that is so. Maybe in doing so, a
little something will be added to the body of understanding of humans.

Too naive? Well, I'm just starting grad school this fall, so I have an

On Thu, 17 Aug 1995, John Mcreery wrote:

> Dear Friends,
> You may remember my asking for people who might be
> interested in reading my "mess" (an early draft of a paper I'm
> working on). The response has been wonderful. The paper has
> to do with the experience of being a _gaijin_ (outside person,
> aka alien) in Japan. In revising I found the focus I want, which
> has raised a very interesting question that I'd like to continue
> working on.
> What are we to make of an anthropologist's discovery that he or
> she doesn't want to _be_ one of the people with whom he or
> she has been working? I imagine several possibilities:
> The Scientist: Committed to maintaining a cooly objective stance
> toward the subjects of her research and keeping theory cleanly
> separate from values, she sees no problem to worry about.
> People, lab rats, paramecia, electrons--makes no difference. Even
> raising the issue is to compromise the objectivity science
> requires.
> The Reformer: No problem here either. The people I'm working
> with are so messed up. The whole point of the exercise is to turn
> them into something different, more like me.
> The Culturally Sensitive Activist: Yes, we must be helping these
> people get a fairer shake in the world. That means changing
> their material relation to the world while acting to make sure
> they have the power to maintain their traditional way of life.
> Their thing is their thing. We each do our own thing.
> Going Native: Actually, I do want to _be_ one of these
> wonderful people. Problem is they won't recognize that I could
> be....
> What other possibilities are there?
> The language is light. The question is serious.
> Looking forward to hearing from you.
> John McCreeryv