Re: Serious thoughts about objectivity

Wade Tarzia (tarzia@UCONNVM.UCONN.EDU)
Wed, 9 Oct 1996 09:48:09 -0400

>Or should Wade be less concerned about these questions and more with others
>-- for example, "why is there an apparent contradiction between what my eyes
>are seeing and what my ears are hearing?" (Mike Cahill)

--- I would add, that perhaps this question MUST be asked as long as both
situations are clearly presented -- the observer's and the informant's
thoughts. But perhaps I'm just being a parrot for Aunger? (And I agree
with Mike's earlier assessment -- his language is so reticulated and
jargonish that I found his ideas fascinating but viewed through a muddy
screen -- I hate bad anthropological writing worse than bad engineering
writing (which I edit all day long) because anthros ought to know better!).

Experience-wise, (little of it, but here it is), I can tell the anecdote of
the time I was collecting folklore in Ireland, and a helpful farmer was
giving me directions. I had my Ordinance Survey map out, and he took it
and puzzled over it until he pronounced, "This is all wrong." I had lived
with these maps for several weeks and trusted them, and I was beginning to
become a little agitated that the man was going to disagree with a very
accurate map. Now, were I studying folk-classifications or folk-views of
geography, I would have had to say, "Well, this man had an alternative way
of mapping his community. The symbols on the map did not correspond to the
symbols of his cognitive map, which may have included a system of relations
of kinfolk, nonkin, oral place-lore, etc., linked spatially in his mind
differently than the 2D marks on paper." I could also have approached this
as saying, "He didn't know how to read a map," imposing my
certain-kind-of-educated outsider's view over his long-held method of
cognitively mapping his community. I would have lost information. But if
I had questioned this knee-jerk assumption, as Mike asks that we question
differences between observations, then at least I have the option of (1)
exploring the possibility of folk-cogntive-mapping, or (2) testing the
notion, "he didn't know how to read a map" which might be true, after all.