Re: Serious thoughts about objectivity

Michael Cahill (MCBlueline@AOL.COM)
Tue, 8 Oct 1996 16:10:11 -0400

In a message dated 96-10-08 15:29:59 EDT, tarzia@UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU (Wade
Tarzia) writes:

<< So the informant says, (if asked) "Why, no, I'm not involved in this issue
with that group, I just went over there to talk and arrange some little
things." Meanwhile the ethnographer says to herself, "Hmmn, he sure looked
like a ritual go-between to me, because I've observed other actors
fulfilling the same role in similar situations. So I'll just call him a
ritual go-between in this very real role no matter what he calls himself or
how he explicates his acts." >>

This conjures in my mind the third leg of the triangle: the distinction
between "events observed" and "events interpreted." Clearly, the
interpretation referred to above may determine whether the event has occurred
or not. This gets back to Andrew Petto's point:

<<Even when we (for example, we classically trained, 4-fielders) KNOW how
culture constructs knowledge even to the point of affecting the "objective"
observations, we often overlook the subtle ways in which our best efforts fit
what we count as observations into our...reality. <snip>

This is the classical "signal-to-noise" problem. We don't know what is
signal and
what is noise until we put it into a context.>>

In Wade's example, how difficult to know. Do you "privilege" the informant's
statement or the apparent shape (or outcome) of the act. (And where did this
"shape" come from if not from the statements or acts of prior informants?)

Mike Cahill