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

By Susan R. Trencher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Come the Resolution

As graduate students we are told that "anthropology equals experience"; you are not an anthropologist until you have the experience of doing it. But when I return from the field, the opposite immediately applies: anthropology is not the experiences which made you an initiate, but only the data you have brought back. ( Rabinow 1977:4) 1

I use the phrase "sense of self" here to denote loosely, a reflexive awareness of a centered unity and continuity, an identity, that oscillates between reification and resistance to reification. ( Crapanzano 1977:41)


YOU SAY YOU WANT A RESOLUTION

In the field, the ethnographer struggled to keep himself as a "centered unity" while he was experientially at risk. As Rabinow ( 1977:154) described it: "My gestures were wrong, my language was off, my questions were strange, and interpersonal malaise was all too frequently the dominant mood, even after many months when some of the grossest difficulties had been bridged by repetition and habit. . . . The inadequacy of one's comprehension is incessantly brought to the surface and publicly displayed." The anthropologist took the risk of becoming a "total persona" rather than a person. He was expected to "completely subordinate one's own code of ethics, conduct and world view, to suspend disbelief as another colleague was proud of putting it" ( Rabinow 1977:46). In fieldworker ethnographies, the comprehension of the "requirement" of the "nonperson" failed to separate the interpretation of experience from the experience itself. Once the

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