Great debates, work & research

hjmartin (hatch@RICHMOND.INFI.NET)
Fri, 9 Feb 1996 15:31:50 -0500

John McCreery wrote:
Increasingly I suspect
>that the future of intellectual life is here on the net
>and in adjunct-style arrangements that allow those of
>us who live outside the ivory tower to bring our
>thoughts and experience to the great debates that
>now o'erleap its walls.

John's point is well-made and well-taken, at least by me. I will add a
practical thought about research/ethnographic analysis. (You know, one of
the activities that forms our opinions about the great debates.

Anthropologists who work in academia are the only ones who have a realistic
expectation, _as a group_, of doing ethnographic research that is in-depth,
lengthy and free of interference from their supervisors. This kind of
research is what we think of when contemplating ethnographic projects of
one kind or another and, it is important to note, is usually built into the
academic job description. This kind of research is also what usually
qualifies people to contribute to the great debates on the basis of current
(as well as accumulated) knowledge.

Anthropologists who work outside of the academic setting owe their employers
a fair (or better) effort in return for their salaries. It should be
obvious that this means full-time work and part-time research. Two other
thoughts drift to the surface at this point. First, after-hours research
from home (I mean fieldwork opportunities) is necessarily a highly
circumscribed activity without access to resources (places, people and $).
Second, I have great difficulty convincing myself that the quality of such
work will be as high as tha quality of work done by the full-timers.

It is not easy to stay attuned to the debates when outside of the prime
arena. I find that it is especially difficult to continually re-train the
ear to understand the nuances, the jucy bits with most of the flavor. So,
being able to contribute, to have a positive influence and possibly to help
others form lucid thoughts is less easy.


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