Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why I Am Not a Cultural Anthropologist

From Kay Warren's Indigenous Movements and Their Critics: Pan-Maya Activism in Guatemala. From what I understand, a well-respected book.

"That night I got quite drunk as I wrote my field notes. I felt I had been absorbed by a variant of the transforming-selves notion of personhood in Maya culture- which holds that the self is not stable or fully knowable. It appeared that I had been apprehended in a way that offered little chance for escape. How could I prove I was just myself, that there was nothing menacing to unmask?"

Oh boy. While I fully support getting drunk during both the research and writing processes, the navel-gazing self-reflection could be avoided. Not to mention the jargon.

Sure, I'm a historian and we are conservative on these matters. But can't academics just do their research without constantly thinking about their subjective position within the topics they work on?