Re: ANTHRO-L Digest - 17 May 1995 to 18 May 1995

Mike Salovesh (t20mxs1@CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Fri, 19 May 1995 13:37:48 -0500

On Thursday, May 18th, John McReery said, in part:
> One thing sticks out to the social anthropologist turned advertising man.
> The great work in biology has almost all been done by people working in
> pairs that are themselves associated with particular groups of researchers.
> This situation is not unlike the advertising world where copywriter-
> art director pairs also work as part of larger teams. Then, I think about
> anthropology and our focus on the individual researcher whose fieldwork
> is, so the legend suggets, a lonely rite of passage not unlike a
> Plains Indian vision quest. What are the results for the "knowledge" our
> work produces? Anyone want to bite on this? <g>
> John McCreery

Well, John, I'll take a little nibble, anyhow. Lots of us have had it
both ways: "a lonely rite of passage" while working in pairs. My wife,
Peggy, came along on my first two long field trips--and I've always
thought of those as when WE were doing fieldwork. It was only after the
second trip that Peg went back to school to study anthropology. (A
foulup in degree requirements meant that she could only take the first,
or super-hell, year of grad work--the undergrad college wouldn't release
her for grad study, required her to take more years of work to complete
her BA than anthro would have required for an MA, so her year's grad work
in anthro used up all the elective slots she could find in her undergrad
degree program. That was enough to make her a damned good
anthropologist, but she still has no degrees.)

There are enough examples of husband/wife teams in the field to convince
me that the lone anthropologist in the field may well be a minority model
nowadays. That even goes back some decades: consider Frank and Francesca
Cancian, or (don't flame me for what's happening to AA!) the Tedlocks, or
the Bohannons, or Bob and Yolanda Murphy--or, for that matter, Reo Fortune
and Margaret Mead or Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead.

Before somebody jumps on me for a sexist attitude, let me add that of the
couples I've known to have done fieldwork together (whether or not one of
them was along "just as a spouse", without anthro training, at the start)
gender is the least likely factor in explaining the eventual impact of
one or the other person. I think, for example, of Phyllis and Ed Jay
going off to India--by now, Phyllis has been a force to contend with in
primate studies for many years, while Ed is almost as obscure as I am.
Again, although he did lots better in academic appointments than she did,
I'll take June Nash's fieldwork over Manning Nash's fieldwork anytime,
and I'd far rather read her work than his. (I just noticed that both
couples I've just cited have long since gotten divorced. I don't know
what that means.)

Maybe what I'm saying is that, man or woman, the best kind of field
equipment you can have is a spouse who will go to the field with you.

And that is no contradiction at all with what John said.

-- mike salovesh <>