Self, Other, and Counting Coup

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Fri, 3 Nov 1995 08:34:45 +0900

>> I am an undergraduate in ethnomusicology at Virginia Tech and
have been "lurking" for a while on this list, but Edwina Taborsky's
mention of a dialogic interaction between Self and Other has, I think,
given me a place where I can jump in. I am not familiar with many of the
currents of contemporary anthro. theory but i was just wondering if
anyone has ever extended, in a systematic way, this theme of a dialogic
interaction to anthropological theory. I ask because I have recently been
dealing with Martin Buber and his biographer/friend/student Maurice
Friedman and how their work on dialogic approaches can be applied to
literary criticism. My specific interests have been using this approach to
illuminate literature of the absurd and postcolonial African and
Carribbean literature. It seems to me the same problems that this
reworking of literary critique tries to address are some of the common
problems of anthropology (power differences, goal-orientation, the
"Consuming Self")

If anyone knows about a theorist who has incorporated this concept of
dialogue into anthropology, please let me know. (Mineke Schipper is also
someone who I have run across that begins to deal with this issue, but I
haven't seen where she develops it.)<<

Welcome, Chris. It's good to hear from you. The last time I read Buber
was more than two decades ago and then only "I and Thou." Could you
tell us a bit more about how "work on dialogic approaches can be applied
to literary criticism"? Sounds interesting.

P.S. to Mike Salovesh and Carter Pate. I'd like to make a similar request to
you. I was reading Mead, Cooley, Simmel (and we really should add
Alfred Schutz and his disciples Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann)
about the same time I was reading Buber. You may take it for granted that
I take for granted the proposition that the "Self" as we know it is socially
constructed, i.e., assembled in social interaction from the materials biology
and experience hand us. What I don't remember, and perhaps I should, is
specific material dealing with the range of possible relations between Self
and Other. (Except, perhaps, for Schutz' classification of consociates,
contemporaries, predecessors and successors, lately revived by Ulf
Hannerz. But "no," what I'm interested in is the emotional stance of the
Self vis-a-vis the Other, and Schutz' scheme suggests only that the Self
will be more involved with its consociates, whom it interacts with every
day, than with the contemporaries with whom it does not share space and
with whom interaction is limited.)

Ah, yes, the request? Let me frame it as a question. Why is it that academic
culture allows us to count coups by name-dropping without indicating the
relevance of the names we drop? Or, at best, sliding by with a slogan, e.g.,
"the mirror-Self," which sounds, without explication, like a rather ugly
psychosis in which the Self sees nothing but its own projections in

John McCreery