Re: Naive question

Fcattus (
14 Dec 1996 08:12:01 GMT

The problem with "getting inside the head of an informant" for an emic
analysis is that it is virtually impossible! (Look at the difficulty even
in intense psychotherapy) And what is IN there may be confused, deluded,
etc. --which can be very interesting to know about but of limited
usefulness in predicting and explaining culture. An nifty article oft
reprinted is Marvin Harris's "Why a perfect understanding of the rules of
a culture will never allow one to behave like a native of that culture."
(SORRY--don't have the windy real title--but this is approximately right!)
His point is that mental rules are not what "real natives go by" even
though they may THINK they do.

So I'd say that the best use of an emic analysis would be to examine
cultural disonances, explain why lecturing people about their "values and
rules" is a poor substitute for dealing with material conditions....etc.
Example: measures of behavior of poor people don't support the popular
belief that they are poor because of faulty values.

--John R Cole