Re: Active Ethnography

douglass st.christian..... (stchri@MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA)
Sat, 15 Jan 1994 09:13:19 -0500

Oh, if only it were so simple.

However, I do agree with Graber's suggestion that involvement in politics
is from impulses other than science. But is it, by the same token,
something other than anthropology.

I was, by my presence in the village and family I lived with in Samoa,
ineluctably involved in the politics of both the village and the larger
political divisions among families. I had to learn to act accordingly,
learn to advocate on behalf of my family in appropriate ways and at
appropriate times, learn which alliances and agreements were acceptable
and which were not. I was obligated to be an activist within my own
family and between families. I was expected to have an opinion on the
building of the the Yakuza parts plant and on its effects on the wage
economies of the villages I worked in and I was expected, in my dealings
with government officials, to make those opinions known on behalf of my
family and village and district. I was obligated to not reveal
information about my family to representatives of other families, even to
deceive government officials about activities in my home village and
within my adoptive family.

To evade these responsibilities would probably have been impossible, at
least they would have been insulting to my family. It would also have
been epistemologically dishonest [ that e-word...assuming that i
controlled, defined, delimited the kind and effect of the knowledge i
acquired,experienced etc is dishonest].

Graber sets up a rather simplistic is either activism or
science...which assumes the researcher can be a-political, an assumption
i would question.

Which is not to say that political agenda brought into the field do not
pose a serious problem [ doing population surveys in Irian Jaya so the
government knows where to drop the bombs.] However, and always, the issue
of acitivism is not as cut, dried and shellaced as either/or.


dougl st.christian

***Remember, postmodernism is not a theory, it's an attitude***