Professor Robert Thornton (031RTHOR@MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA)
Sun, 21 May 1995 07:52:04 -0400

Thanks John McCreery for your comments. Can you give me more info on
the book you cite (Eighth day of Creation)?
One little point. Malinowski was not single, in fact, when he went
to the field. He was accompanied by his close male friend Witkacy,
who was to have worked as team-mate and soul-mate with him. Witkacy
was a significant Polish avant-garde novelist, photographer, painter.
He and Malinowksi quarreled, however, about their loyalties to Poland
and to the idea of nationalism when war broke out. Witkacy returned
to Europe to fight; Malinowski remained in the Trobriands, eventually
as a nominal'prisoner' as an enemy alien. So, even Malinowski did
not intend, in the first place, to do his field work alone! It just
worked out that way. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that either he
or Witkacy could have collaborated on any product-- and I think this
is really the point. While one can share the experiences of
fieldwork, one can not make much headway in a group or committee on
sorting it out and writing the final product. That is an individual
product. Anyone who has ever worked with even a co-editor will know
how difficult it can be, and in that case, neither of you is
responsible for most of the actual text! I can not imagine trying to
wirte something in a team or in a pair. The fact that it almost
never happens, makes the idea that it should happen look more like a
communalist ideology. In fact, writing is a lonely enterprise. It
has always been acknowledge as such by any serious writer. Writing
is also the real mode of 'discovery' of what one has actually learned
from one's experiences, whether these are pair-wise, solitary, or
part of a team. It is nice to believe that this loneliness can
somehow be transcended or abolished. Unfortunately, this is not
possible, I believe.
Writing, for me, is rather like reaching into a dark hole in which
you can see nothing and can only feel as if your hand is partly
anaesthetised. It is throuhg the writing itself that one manages to
pull out more or less interesting bits from this 'hole' that is the
mind and the record of experience. I do not know what I 'know' until
I write it, dream it, or speak it. Perhaps I am peculiar, but htat
is where my writing comes from. Apart from that, the actual concrete
counting, or mapping, or gathering of 'hard data' is more or less
routine. I do not regard that as discovery, however-- or only in the
trival sense.

=====Professor Robert Thornton, Department of Social Anthropology====
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South Africa
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