Re: Biting on McCreery's comment

erik kassebaum (erikkass@FAT.COARA.OR.JP)
Sat, 20 May 1995 17:02:26 +0900

Dear Professor Thornton,

I respectfully disagree with your beliefs regarding co-operative
ethnographic research. Have you ever been in the field with your spouse,
one of your children, or a student? Did any of these people ever help you
to see or understand something new? Anthropologists are not lone wolfs -
we are social beings.

The team approach is a much more effective way to synthesize a more
authentic ethnography of a complex group. Rather than limiting the
ethnography to the thoughts, observations and opinions of one - a team
approach allows multiple and even conflicting voices to be heard. With
ethnographies written by an individual the tendency is to create a product
that is uniform and monaural.

You mentioned the dearth of team authorship with respect to
literature - well what about music? Music of all sorts is written and
performed as a co-operative effort. Let's not forget folklore and
folktales and the importance of multiple authors. The legacy of Gutenburg
and the printed page is a difficult one to escape. Ethnographic teams add
extra dimensions to their products. Ethnographic teams can so to speak,
write in "stereo" or even "surround sound" whilst soloists can't. Well if
you are a P.C. / P.M. type you try to simulate these other dimensions - but
the affect is annoying at best.

I too (I believe Jim McCreery lives in Tokyo) live in Japan and
understand the usefullness of working as a part of a team rather than as an
individual. When I teach it is usually as a part of a bi-cultural team.
Though I have taught solo before - I prefer the team approach.

I think a lot of the postmodern drivel and politically correctness
that has found its way into Anthropology and has polluted the field could
have been prevented had more empahsis been put on the teaching of
co-operative ethnographic research techniques. (Sorry about the minor PM
rant) It's time for the field to move into the 90's - the need for
romantic lone wolfs ended a long time ago.


Erik Kassebaum

Shiiba Village Board of Education
106-36 Ooaza Shimofukura
Japan 883-16

TEL 0(982) 67-3062 home (English/Japanese)
TEL 0(982) 67-3111 work (Japanese)
FAX 0(982) 67-2910 work

For calls from outside of Japan drop the "0" and add "81" (Japan's country
code) to your dialing sequence. example: 81-982-67-3111


I have yet to find a proper "omamori" for telecommunications. As "Public
Access" to the Internet has only been available in Japan for about 2 years
it's still a bit early. Appropriate "Spirits" and "Charms" probably won't
be created till folks in "Inaka" have cheap and reliable access to the WWW.
When such happens you'll start to see some neat "CONTENT" coming out of
Japan. So, if mail is refused by "" please use
either of my alternative addresses. Crossing your fingers and checking for
"foxes" is also a good idea.

Alternative Addresses