Mirrored Images: American Anthropology and American Culture, 1960-1980

By Susan R. Trencher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Confrontation, Power, and Domination

In fieldworker ethnographies, the content of experience was the conduit through which the cultural self would be revealed. The significance of the fieldwork encounter was less in its singularity than in its interpretation in these works as formed and informed by previous encounters between western anthropologists and non-western cultures. Through this lens, confrontation was articulated as the significant mode of interaction between individuals, mirroring that of encounters between cultures cum nation states in which the West held sway. Specifically, fieldworker--Other interactions were taken for granted as informed by, heir to, and expressions of structural, asymmetrical, historical, and contemporary encounters between cultures, played out through relationships of power and domination.


GO WEST, YOUNG MAN

An anthropological project that stifles the dialectic of Self and Other and refuses to set that dialectic in its particular context leads it seems in the best of cases to personal despair. But there are historical consequences too and they may be pernicious: such a project however modest it may seem when set beside the movement of armies, the missionary enterprise, or the growth of centralized technologies and the dominance of the nation-state, contributes by sheltering the Self and the Self's origins, to disarming and rendering harmless the Other. ( Dwyer 1982:33)

In fieldworker ethnographies, even the "personal despair" of ethnographic confrontations was linked to more global (although unspecified) encounters between larger political entities. Power and domination as a di-

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