Re: Bestseller

Michael Cahill (MCBlueline@AOL.COM)
Fri, 4 Oct 1996 15:22:11 -0400


Thanks for the heads up on Aunger. Turns out I have that issue of _CA_ but
never got around to reading that article.

<< WT: Textualists say that traditional ethnographic credibility has rested
mastery of rhetorical devices in reporting, lending an unsubstantiated
credibility to the conclusions. Also, anthropologists can screen
information subconsciously. Their solution has been to present data in the
form that it was elicited so that the reader can interpret, but this offers
problems. Extreme textualists say scientific approach to ethnography is
impossible because of these interpersonal effects of human studies, but
Aunger disagrees (as do some of the commentators).>>

And I guess Aunger's melding of the more scientific comparative event history
method with the softer relexive analytical approach represents an effort to
overcome the science/art split within the ethnographic enterprise. It's
interesting to me that while the fusing is done so methodically (so
scientifically?), the final product can't seem to shake art's lead: "the main
drawback is that the comparative event history approach examines data
suggested by the reflexive analytical results, which is a
less-than-perfect-melding, he feels. " Ironic, no?

Aunger's piece recalls Rappaport's distinction, outlined in _Pigs for the
Ancestors_, between a "cognized environment" and an "analytic environment"
(or some such, I don't have the book in front of me) -- the former being the
environment seen from the community's viewpoint and the latter the
environment seen from the ecologist's perspective. If I remember correctly,
Rappaport tries to trace events in and develop arguments about both worlds,
and he outlines cycles for both that intersect at points. The end result, he
says -- dynamic balance both in the ecosystem and in the social life of the
community. The two environments are different but not at odds, I guess.

I think science/art split is something we all struggle with, or have at one
point or another. I would think that Aunger's article would be especially
relevent to a discussion of research design issues. I'd be curious to know
if anyone has tried to put these ideas into a research protocol.

Mike Cahill