ROBERT J. SMITH
the Chorus: Appropriating
Someone Else's Fieldnotes
Most anthropologists have enough trouble analyzing their own fieldnotes without taking on the extraordinarily complex task of dealing with someone else's. When they do so, it is usually because they plan to conduct research in a place where another anthropologist has already collected data. The would-be secondary user almost inevitably works alone, for in the most common case the writer of the notes has died, and there is no one to answer questions prompted by the discovery of ambiguities, lack of clarity, seeming contradictions, and simple illegibility likely to characterize such personal materials.
My motives for undertaking the enterprise I describe below had nothing to do with plans to conduct research in the place where the fieldwork was carried out. I did not even know of the existence of the materials until a few weeks before they passed into my hands. Furthermore, when I did at last begin the task of dealing with the remarkable journal that formed part of the collection, I enjoyed a distinct advantage: the woman who wrote it is very much alive and became an active participant in our joint effort to rescue it from oblivion. 1____________________