Re: oops - typing before thinking

John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 17 Jul 1996 09:09:53 +0900

Holly Swyers writes,

>At what point can we as
>anthropologists feel comfortable making assertions about some culture or

The smartass in me wants to say, "After about a year of fieldwork. Any more
and we start to realize the complexities of the places we've been." On a
more serious note, I draw your attention again to Levi-Strauss' image of
the nebula of knowledge. If we are clear about our observations, what we've
been told about them, and the inferences we are adding, and don't naively
go around mistaking hypotheses for TRUTH, we can, I feel, talk fairly

What is the nature of an informant? Do all cultures have a
>"silent majority"?

An informant is a colleague, client, sometimes a friend; always a
particular human being who has something to say that we find worth
listening to. Informants may be authorities with a privileged grasp of the
cultures they inhabit; then again, they may not.


<I would venture that every
>piece of conversation on this list is so far removed from the daily
>business of living for many people that they would (correctly, perhaps?)
>view it as a horrible waste of time.
On the other hand it may be surprisingly relevant. To marketers, lawyers,
critics, authors, filmmakers--to all of us modern sophists who make our
livings in the marketplace of ideas--it can all be grist to the mill.

"I once asked Carl Ally (founder of Ally & Gargano, one of the more
innovative advertising agencies on Madison Avenue) what 'makes the creative
person tick.' Ally responded, 'The creative person wants to be a
know-it-all. He wants to know about all kinds of things: ancient history,
nineteenth century mathematics, current manufacturing techniques, flower
arranging, and hog futures. Because he never knows when these ideas might
come together to form a new idea. It may happen six minutes later or six
months or six years down the road. But he has faith that it will happen."

Roger von Oech, 1983, _A Whack on the Side of the Head: How to Unlock Your
Mind for Innovation_, p. 6

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo