Re: Peasant ethnographies

Wed, 16 Feb 1994 18:03:30 EST5EDT

Jim Stuart included Michael Kearney's _the Winds of Ixtepeji_ on his
list of recommended ethnographies. I TA'd a general anthropology
survey course using that ethnography last year, and have some
reservations about it. Disclaimer: I know very little about peasant
ethnography, so this is not the view of an expert.
I found the view of Ixtepeji life that the students left the
course with was one of unremitting gloom and doom. This showed up in
the final exam essays and in remarks made by the students in
discussion groups. The students perceived the Ixtepenos as drunken,
suspicious insular fools, inhabitants of the backwaters of humanity.
The book reinforced some stereotypes that the students already had of
Mexicans in general, perhaps inadvertantly on Kearney's part. In the
course, we tried to introduce students to viewing other cultures
without strong prejudices, but the imagery of Kearney's book was a
bit overwhelming for them. I would only use this book if you are
able to present positive aspects of Ixtepeji life or assign
ethnographies that may contradict Kearney's views.
* *
* Regina Harrison `A thing can be true and *
* Dept. of Anthropology still be desparate *
* McGill University folly, Hazel.' *
* Montreal, Quebec, Canada --Fiver *
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