political ethnoids

Fri, 14 Jan 1994 21:43:43 EST

Robert and others,
I think it is also a little presumptuous to assume that our informants want our
political involvement. It smacks a bit of brave, white savior coming in to
teach the poor natives what they should know. I can't help but also think
about how an anthropologist can always leave the field and any difficult
situations our best political intentions might have been executed from.

Also I think that the majority of us become involved in politics (community
politics) from the minute we enter a research site if not before. I imagine
others on the list have found themselves caught between factions in a community
without ever trying. Who we pick to work with in any setting can be a fairly
political decision. I know when I was in the field I was caught between
factions during a dispute between two men. I didn't plan it, I didn't want it
to happen. It was interesting (mostly after it was over and I spoke to
participants on either side again), but while it went on, I found it sometimes
uncomfortable and annoying. Suddenly a portion of my informant base wouldn't
talk to me, and those that would said fairly harsh things (this was useful
information, and maybe I wouldn't have found it otherwise, but it wasn't fun at
the moment). So, anyway, I imagine the author of this ethnographic
methods book meant politics at a more "organized" or national level. But for
what it's worth, my two cents.

Jeff Cohen
Indiana University