Re: Back to history

Tibor Benke (benke@SFU.CA)
Thu, 14 Sep 1995 10:25:19 -0700

Yes! This is what anthropology should be!

Tibor Benke
Graduate Student (MA program)
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Simon Fraser University

Democritus was right: change is constant!
Democritus was wrong: change is variable!

On September 7 Sativa Quinn wrote:

>I've been doing some oral history rsch. in an NA community, and am about
>to take an Oral History class up at U. Alaska Fairbanks which should
>include several people w/ similar experience. This made the posts on who
>has a right to interpret history to whom extremely interesting to me, &
>alot of good issues were debated, but in this type of case, still more
>come up. I am looking at some events from the early 20th cent., using
>non-native sources from the period, since that's all there is,
>biographies of elders written about 10 yrs. ago, and my own interviews w/
>those people as well as some others to construct a version of what
>happened. I quote liberally, hoping to present more of a "mosaic" rather
>than a univocal version, but of course, I make editing choices with all
>of this material.
>I am not Native. I am the person doing this job for two reasons. A: My
>degree is required to make the product respectable, regardless of what
>impact it does or doesn't have on the quality of it. B: Yes, I do have
>something in the way of specialized experience at doing library research,
>writing well according to current hegemonic standards, and perhaps,
>conducting an open-ended interview which still drives towards the needed
>information, though I think this takes ALOT of practice & I've got a ways
>to go.
>To my mind, this ties in w/ questions about whether we are "scientists"
>too. What I am is a sort of translator for people who can't or won't
>understand one another directly. As such, I am in one of the many
>"helping" professions which will have succeeded fully only when it makes
>itself obsolete, in this case because the barriers to effective
>communication w/ sufficient respect for differences will have lowered to a
>point where "normal" people can do it. I see translation as an art,
>wordsmithing on a tightrope between over-exoticizing & over-trivializing,
>to somehow bring out the points that you, or some collaboration between
>you & some representatives of either the subject or the audience,
>consider to be important at this point in time. I do not pretend that my
>choice of topic or the details emphasized is unmotivated by present
>concerns. I do try to be thorough and fair in some sense, though. This
>probably requires elaboration but we can discuss it if anyone takes the bait.