Ways of Knowing: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Dene Tha

By Jean-Guy A. Goulet | Go to book overview

10. An Experiential Approach to Knowledge

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I tell you this, so that you may know a little bit.

-- Dene Tha speaker

Ethnographers usually land in strange places, that is, places that are strange to them but, of course, not strange to the people who belong there and live there. For many ethnographers, the ideal was and still is to live without other non-natives, right among others, and there "to grasp the native's point of view, his relation to life, to realize his vision of his world" ( Malinowski 1961, 6, 25; emphasis in original). In this context anthropologists endeavor to meet all the challenges of fieldwork: never to go native, never to become one of them, lest the resulting ethnography become a naive espousal of another people's world view and ethos and thus lose all objective or scientific value; to learn, within a year, or two at the most, enough of the local language to conduct themselves in the native tongue in everyday situations and to work in close association with local interpreters on more specialized topics; to gather through participation and observation data on local social institutions, knowledge, and world view; and finally, to communicate to fellow anthropologists and to a wider public their understanding of and the significance of the data or information so gathered. In the words of Geertz ( 1973, 30), the result of fieldwork should be "an interpretation of the way a people live which is neither imprisoned within their mental horizon, an ethnography of witchcraft written by a witch, nor systematically deaf to the distinct tonalities of their existence, the ethnography of witchcraft written by a geometer."1

In the end, every ethnography claims to represent a distinct way of living in the world at a particular historical moment in the life of a people. Any claim to knowledge, that of the other or that of the anthropologist, is based on an epistemology, however implicit. It is, therefore, to epistemological issues that I now turn to show how Dene Tha views on epistemology are germane to wider anthropological discussions concerning relationships between the investigator and the investigated.

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Ways of Knowing: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Dene Tha
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • 1. Stories from the Field 1
  • 2. True Knowledge and True Responsibility 27
  • 3. Powerful Beings and Being Powerful 60
  • 4. Powers to Heal, Powers to Respect 88
  • 5. Visions of Conflict, Conflicts of Vision 109
  • 6. Journeys of the Soul 142
  • 7. Searching for a Womb 167
  • 8. When the Drum and the Rosary Meet 193
  • 9. Dancing Your Way to Heaven 223
  • 10. An Experiential Approach to Knowledge 246
  • Notes 261
  • References 287
  • Index 329
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