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WRITING CULTURE AND WRITING FIELDWORK:

The Proliferation of Experimental and Experiential Ethnographies

by

 

Karla Poewe

Copyright 1996

[This article first appeared in Ethnos, 1996:3-4, pp. 177-206,

to find out more about Ethnos visit its Web Site at :

http://www.accountingtalk.com/routledge/journal/ethnos.html]

 

Abstract

In this paper it is argued that the proliferation of ethnographic genres is the result of deliberate textual inventions by postmodernists, on the one hand, and a natural consequence of the method of participant-observation by ethnographers of experience, on the other. This implies that experimental and experiential ethnographies are distinct approaches to doing and writing fieldwork and culture. Consequently, experiential ethnographies have to be reclaimed from the textualist lock-in to which some experimental ethnographers have led the discipline. Distinguishing between the two types of ethnographies invites us also to puzzle about the role of rhetoric, empathy, and the dangers and uses of experimental and experiential ethnographies.

 

Prologue

In 1986 Clifford, Fischer, and Marcus published two books that were instrumental in shaping a new culture of anthropology [cf. Clifford and Marcus 1986; Marcus and Fischer 1986]. For Clifford [1986:2], the cultural marker of a new anthropology was a photo of Malinowski in which he “recorded himself writing at a table.” For Marcus and Fischer [1986:1-3] it was two publications. One was by Said [1979] who criticized western representations of Orientalism. The other was by Freeman [1983] who criticized Margaret Mead’s poor research in Samoa. The consequences of Freeman’s revelations shook public trust in the adequacy of using anthropological knowledge as a form of home critique. Rather than address methods, Marcus and Fischer addressed representation.

 

Ignoring the historical fact that Malinowski, at the time that the photo was taken, contemplated becoming a selling writer because “there was no career as an ethnologist” [Kramer 1986:10, citing Thornton 1985:7-14], Clifford read the photo’s appearance in a 1983 Stocking publication as “a sign of our times not his (Malinowski’s)” [Clifford 1986:2]. To Clifford, Fischer, and Marcus the photo and books signalled “a crisis of representation” which expressed a general “state of profound transition” within the West [Marcus and Fischer 1986:8, 9]. This intuitive, sign-based, assessment required a radical response from the discipline, away from the focus on participant-observation and interpretation of cultures to text making and rhetoric [Clifford 1986:2]. If participant-observation, the collection of data generally, and the process of “writing up” were regarded as central to what anthropologists did in the past, writing was to be central in the future.

 

According to Clifford [1986:2], an old “ideology” had “crumbled,” a new one was born. This new ideology of the discipline, argued Clifford, sits on the following new assumptions: culture as a composition of “seriously contested codes and representations”; poetics and politics as inseparable; science as part of a historical and linguistic process; written cultural descriptions as “properly experimental and ethical”; authorial authority as a thing of the past; writing as invention of cultures [ibid].

 

Just as Afrikaner culture was constructed from Afrikaans the language, Afrikaans literature, a prescribed ethics, and a political will [Poewe 1996],[1] so the new culture of anthropology was constructed from postmodernist language, experimental literature, a politically committed and morally engaged ethics [Marcus and Fischer 1986:46, 167; Scheper-Hughes 1995:410],[2] and the dogma that politics is pervasive and inseparable from writing. This seemingly well meaning new culture shares some of the discomfiting demands made by both Afrikaner nationalism and German national socialism, among them, individual subordination to the will of a self defined new culture or state [Stapel 1933; Poewe 1996a]. Thus, in the new anthropological program, the individual anthropologist is to subordinate his or her authorial talent to the cooperative evolution of the text [Tyler 1986:125].

 

Like political radicals or anarchists who have a ready label for all they oppose, so too postmodernists label everything they oppose “ideology” and “privileged” [Clifford 1986:2; Tyler 1986:126]. Thus privileged ideological categories include: monologue, “observer-observed,” monophonic performance, “positivist rhetoric of political liberalism,” power, and author [Tyler 1986:128]. They must be done away with. Their substitutions include categories like: “mutual dialogical production of discourse, of a story of sorts” [p.126], “cooperative story making,” “ethical discourse,” even the Biblical model [p.127], and a specified ideological attitude toward the ethnographic other [p.127]. Rather than being built from the rubble of South African townships [Scheper-Hughes 1995:417], postmodern ethnography is built from the “rubble” of the “deconstruction” of Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Jacques Derrida [Tyler 1986:131]: from the ravings, in other words, of Western Querköpfe (people who deliberately cultivate wrong-headed ideas). Nowhere is mention made of whether or not the fabulous world of experimentalism and postmodernism has anything whatsoever to do with the people we research. Like God in the beginning, the postmodernist “creates” the world with categories from his newly invented culture of anthropology. To question these categories is to be a “stooge” of hegemonic capitalism, as South African comrades loved to call anyone who disagreed with their politics.

 

Let us end this section by returning to Clifford’s photo of Malinowski writing [1986:2]. While Margaret Mead in the film, New Guinea Journals, is prominently shown writing, in the photo Malinowski is not. The photo in question appears on the cover of Stocking’s [1992] collection of essays entitled, The Ethnographer’s Magic. It shows a dark profile of Malinowski presumably writing at his table. He is in shadow because the camera is focussed on Trobrianders who appear in full light. The attention is, after all and against Clifford’s reading, on the people whom Malinowski intends to understand. By contrast, the photo of Stephen Tyler on the cover of the Clifford and Marcus book [1986] is almost the inverse. The focus of the camera and the light is on Tyler and his paraphernalia in the foreground. Tyler has his back to the people among whom he conducts his research. Like a horse wearing blinders, Tyler wears glasses with a cloth hanging over one arm of the frame, as if to prevent distraction or shying. He sits writing with his head bent over a clipboard while a man and child some distance behind him look on bored. It is a perfect image of postmodern or experimental ethnography: the anthropologist, his strong ego in tact, sits dis-located on location, in the protective cocoon of a postmodernist program. As Probyn [1993:68] remarks about Clifford:

in shifting the whole ethnographic activity to the level of writing ... he displaced attention away from local fieldwork practices. In other words, he has turned the normal order of things upside down ... the text takes prominence.

 

Ethnographic Genre Proliferation

Experimentalists have generated,[3] or appropriated as “experimental,” numerous ethnographies which they classified into several ethnographic genres. From my perspective their activities pose two problems. The first problem is that of blurring experimental and experiential ethnographies. The second problem follows from the first. We want to know whether the motivation for the proliferation of ethnographic genres is the same for experimental and experiential ethnographies. To gain insight into these problems of blurring and proliferation, we must de-blur three groups of ethnographic writing: ethnographic fiction, experimental ethnographies, and experiential ethnographies. In this paper, we want to focus only on experimental and experiential ethnographies. Ethnographic fiction or narrative anthropology is based on specific techniques that achieve blurring between fact and fiction. The goal of  achieving just the right amount of blurring to arrange ethnographic facts into a story without denying the story’s factual foundation, create such subtle problems for social science as to warrant writing a separate paper [Bohannan 1995:147-158; Richardson 1996:623; Bruner 1986, 1993; Jackson 1986; Reck 1984].

 

1. The problem of blurring experiential and experimental ethnographies

In a stimulating article, Olivier de Sardan [1992], criticizes the “ethno-ego-centrism” of some postmodern anthropologists. In the process, he raises a problem centred on blurring experimental and experiential ethnographies. The blurring results from the fact that postmodern ethnographers who concentrate primarily on text do at times make the claim that their personal involvement and their subjectivity as narrator bring “to light hidden facts which would not be revealed by a classical anthropological approach” [Olivier de Sardan 1992:6]. At the same time, given their rhetoric, it is not clear whether this rhetoric corresponds to an actual illuminating experience or whether it is artifice and mystification. Therefore, our first point of distinction between experiential and experimental ethnographies is this: to experiential ethnographers the self and especially experiences in the field are “epistemologically productive” [Kulick 1995:20]; to experimental ethnographers the self and especially rhetoric are textually productive.

 

To the experiential ethnographer facts, data, and real experiences are central because one’s contact with their reality raises vital epistemological questions about how we know what we know. As Hastrup [1987:294] says, “The reality of anthropology is not text-bound but life-bound.” By contrast, to the experimental ethnographer “facts and data are merely products of ethnographic construction” so that there is nothing to prevent the ethnographer from “attributing one’s own aesthetic preoccupations to people of other cultures” [Olivier de Sardan 1992:7, 10]. Rather than the self being epistemologically productive, it functions  as a device for realism [p.10]. Thus, Marcus and Fischer are not concerned with questions about the epistemological productiveness of experience. Nor do they subject the question of whether or not cultural difference exists or is significant to empirical and experiential research. Instead, they argue that one radical trend in their ‘new anthropology’ is taken up with “ethnographies of experience” which are concerned “with how cultural difference is to be represented in ethnography” [1986:43, my emphasis]. Cultural difference is not only assumed, it and its representation are, in their lingo, ‘privileged.’

 

Enough is said to show that experiential ethnographies are distinct from  experimental ones and should be removed from the textualist lock-in [Bohannan 1995]. Indeed, as Clifford [1986:20] makes clear, the experiential approach of Cesara [1982], among others, was deliberately excluded from the “advanced seminar” on which the edited volume of Clifford and Marcus [1986] was based. In short, experiential ethnographies are part of a very different anthropological concern, attitude, and approach [Abrahams 1986]. But about this, more will be said later. Let us turn now to the problem of motivation.

 

2. The problem of motivation and discursivity

Is textual invention the only thing that motivates ethnographers to generate ever more genres and, if so, what are the dangers and uses of these genres for the discipline? Are we in the presence of a new brand of scholarship that freely mixes personal experiences and research expertise, as Scott Heller [1992: A7-A9] suggests? Are experiments in ethnographic writing a response to increased pressure from the non-Western world or from feminists to understand and learn from another's perspective, as Marcus and Fischer imply [1986]? Is there, as Rao [1988] suggests, a shift away from a science of propositions and true description of a domain to a practical science of advocacy concerned to tell not only how things like sorcery, for example, are done, but advocating its doing? Is it possible that in addition to doing fieldwork and writing ethnographies, (or even in lieu of these activities as Geertz [1988:24] suggests), anthropologists will have to remind students of, or teach them, literary styling and rhetoric, or schemes and tropes?

 

However one answers these questions, one thing is certain. Anthropologists no longer write only classical, general, or specialized ethnographies as they were first developed by the British School of Social Anthropology and carried forward by students of Boas [Gatewood 1984:8]. Barbara Tedlock pointed out, for example, that the nineteen seventies saw a “shift in emphasis from participant observation to the observation of participation” [1991:78]. It brought with it new kinds of ethnographies, that were broadly experiential in nature [p. 79]. Having observed a “blurring of genres” in various disciplines and having tired of “author-saturated” accounts, Geertz argued that we should shift “part of our attention from the fascinations of field work” to the fascinations of  “authoring” discursive fashions as was done by the “founders-of-discursivity” [Geertz 1988: 6, 21, 24, 20].

 

Marcus and Fischer [1986] seem to have gone a step further. While their postmodernism is not as anarchistic nor as glib about the discourse of the ethnographic ‘other’ as is that of Tyler [1986], they “want to elevate the ethnographer and his subjects into a realm of pure discursivity” [Probyn 1993:72, my emphasis]. Consequently, they do not so much observe changes in the way anthropology is done [1986:45-76], as they specify the kind of anthropology and ethnographies that are wanted. The anthropology that is wanted is a politically and historically sensitive anthropology that takes  account of a changing world order as it is perceived by those who belong to the inner circle of postmodernists [1986:vii]. This anthropology of cultural critique would challenge established theories and research programs, question established ways of representing the world [p. 9], and in the process invent more genres.

 

But what has changed in the world order and what kind of  anthropology would capture this change? To the last half of the question, Marcus and Fischer answer an anthropology that pays less attention to social action and more attention to the categories, metaphors, and rhetoric embodied in the accounts informants give of their culture. In other words, rather than researching the “theaters of language” that founders-of-discursivity built, as Geertz suggests [1988:21], we are to research conversations, idioms, and tropes of other peoples.

 

Marcus and Fischer’s answer to the first part of the question is not easily discerned.  What is changing is not the world per se as communicated to the public by politically indifferent or distanced scientists preoccupied with observing and measuring change. Rather, what is changing are discursive fashions and perspectives. Contrary to British social anthropology which placed its emphasis on observation and the sense of seeing, a politically sensitive anthropology places its emphasis on discourse and, in the research phase at least, on the sense of hearing or on other senses that act as correctives “to the metaphor of sight as the sense of reason” [Tyler 1996:617]. The invention of politically and historically sensitive sound-and-smell genres of anthropology are a fascinating consequence [Feld 1982; Classen, Howes, and Synnott 1994]. Taken to their logical extreme, however, even these politically and historically sensitive ethnographies require, before anything else, that we heed symbols of denigration and hierarchy. Because postmodernists maintain a political affinity for the Frankfurt version of Marxism, their sense of history is significantly biassed or provincial rather than sensitive in the broad and basic sense of the term [cf. Tyler 1996; Bohannan 1995:181-185].

 

Furthermore, alternative senses-ethnographies may sit on poor research. For example, in a recent publication, Classen [1993] who was with the Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University, at the time of writing, made the following statement: “The Hausa of Nigeria divide the senses into two, with one term for sight and one for all the other senses” [p.2]. Having never encountered such a phenomenon among Africans I researched, I checked her footnote expecting to find details about her fieldwork or other fieldwork on which this statement was based. Alas, none existed. The footnote refers to another general introductory book about “the diverse sensory systems of different societies” [p.139]. Method is also not of concern in the Classen volume reviewed by Tyler [1996]. The description of smells by the anthropologist, for example that of Radcliffe-Brown [cited in Classen, Howes, Synnott 1994:95-97], is not clearly distinguished from that of the people being researched. Nor are the concepts used to “constitute the olfactory landscape,” for example, “‘smellscape,’” [p.97] those of the Andamanese. Footnotes refer one to other Western scholars who did the classifying. And while ethnographic ‘others’ are said to divide their world according to smell, observational materials about how these people pick up scent, what postures they take up during it, are entirely lacking. Indeed, the issue is not quality research, the issue is to right a wrong: “Our singling out of scent for attention serves to redress this long-standing imbalance” [p. 9].

 

I have two further problems with the text making approach. First, being sensitive, in the sense of partial to symbols of denigration, frequently means reading denigration into things where it does not exist or does not necessarily exist [Olivier de Sardan 1992]. More discomfiting, sensitivity of this political sort would mean that we must subject ourselves to the political judgements of  ethnographic “others” and committed colleagues, rather than to the canons of science [see D’Andrade 1995 versus Scheper-Hughes 1995]. But political judgement is based on commitment to an ideology,[4] a cause, or as in South Africa today, “service to the state” and its politically prescribed goal of inventing a “new South Africa” [Bekker 1995:7]. In South Africa as among some American anthropologists, politically sensitive anthropology has led to “moral totalitarianism” which is, furthermore, “presented as an academic virtue” [Bekker 1995:7; Scheper-Hughes 1995]. Given my research of Afrikaner and German nationalism, on one hand, and of national socialism in Germany of the nineteen twenties and thirties, on the other, I can only say that scholars of this ilk are limiting research to “ideological lock-ins” [Bohannan 1995:181]. The favourite cause of the political left at the turn of the century was the small Afrikaner nation that fought to survive imperialism [Hobhouse 1901, 1984]. The only problem is that the same small Afrikaner nation instituted legal apartheid that robbed millions of people of their basic human rights [Poewe 1993, 1994, 1996a and b].

 

Ideally, experimental ethnographies concentrate on experimentation with style and rhetoric in order to transform into words data from all senses and faculties. And, indeed, Marcus and Fischer [1986] describe three major types of experimental ethnographies: psychodynamic ethnographies with their emphases on emotion and feeling [p.48-49]; realist ethnographies with their emphases on sight, sound and analytical reason [p.54-63]; and modernist texts with their emphases on word-based realities [p.67-73]. It would appear that the last mentioned texts most closely approximate the discursive fashion of postmodernism and are subject to the dangers of deception that Olivier de Sardan analysed in his article on Occultism and the Ethnographic `I' [1992:10]. Since Marcus and Fischer argue, however, that all senses are mediated by indigenous discourse and commentaries, all ethnographies must become centred on problems of discourse [Olivier de Sardan 1992:7].

 

The Problem of Deception

Olivier de Sardan raises the problem that has haunted rhetoric through the ages. Does rhetoric encourage deception or does it increase the possibility of giving a faithful rendering of what is experienced and said?

 

Part of the problem of deception is linked to the insistence that ethnographic writing is dependent on cultural differences [Marcus and Cushmann 1982]. At best, experimentalists argue, as stated above, that the feelings and experiences of the native are mediated by indigenous discourse and commentaries so that the ethnographer must capture these through innovative writing strategies. Research is therefore twice removed from action and experiences, first, by the indigenous discourse and, second, by the researcher’s discursive rendering of the indigenous discourse. My research experience of African and New Independent Churches in South Africa leads me to question aspects of this approach.  I wonder, for example, whether the idea of mediating indigenous discourse is not too convenient. It could, for example, protect experimental ethnographers from the charge that their discourse could have been written without their doing fieldwork, a possibility first raised by the work of Castaneda [Fikes 1993]. After all, it was thought that Castaneda described the most authentic mediating discourse to date when, in fact, his work was a hoax [Castaneda 1969, 1971; Fikes 1993].

 

Furthermore, research of African Independent Churches made me question whether all feelings and experiences are mediated by an indigenous culture. One might argue, for example,  that there is such a thing as "pre-categorical" or "acategorical" feeling and experiencing when people use, for example, the receptive rather than the analytical imagination [Green 1989; Poewe 1989, 1994]. Especially in the religious sphere, receptive imagination refers to sudden insights, revelations, visions, dreams, and voices which may confound existing indigenous categories or encourage adepts to borrow categories from a foreign discourse. The imagination is receptive in the sense that individuals in African Independent Churches, for example, described themselves as "receiving" visions from “ancestors,” “the spirit,” or the “Holy Spirit” [interview with Londa Shembe, Ekuphakameni 1987]. Analysis of numerous interviews with black, white, “coloured,” and Indian South African believers led me to conclude that ancestors, on one hand, and the Spirit [umoya], on the other,  are part of a reality that is tacitly known but only partially revealed [Polanyi 1964; Poewe 1994]. It is revealed in the above mentioned ways or in mundane events that were seen by interviewed believers as signs of something bigger. One could say, therefore, that African or white charismatic Christian thought is based on a realist ontology but a revelationist epistemology. As for the mediating discourse, it is indigenous or Biblical depending where on the spectrum of South African religiosity an individual is found. Of course, I realize that one might call all discourse of those we interview indigenous. But doing so, would be artificial and mystifying. It would omit the plain fact that much communication is direct, simple, and unmediated by cultural differences.

 

The question is, are works like that of Stoller and Olkes, one of several discussed by Olivier de Sardan, true to the above mentioned epistemological-cum-ontological assumptions on which African religious practices and beliefs seem to rest? It would appear that Olivier de Sardan's assessment is correct; they are not. First, the epistemology-cum-ontology of experimental ethnographers tends to be radical relativist, not revelationist and realist. Consequently, reality is what the ethnographer says it is; namely, a seemingly faithful rendering of the mediating indigenous discourse in terms of, however, a discourse based on the anthropologist's epistemology-cum-ontology. In other words, “realities” are discourse or word based; they can be anything a persuasive ethnographer says they are. Like Foucault [1972], this sort of work has not only taken leave of observation, it has also taken leave of the human being so that the human being is but an effect of specific language or discourse systems.

 

Second, if the epistemology of African religious practitioners and of African charismatic Christians is revelationist, as I found it to be, it is not metaphor that transforms their belief into “knowing,” but metonym. Yet a discussion of rhetoric in general, and of metonym in particular, is virtually ignored in these works.[5] Important exceptions to this claim are  Ohnuki-Tierney [1991:175-178], Durham and Fernandez [1991:192],  Friedrich [1989:306-307], and Jackson [1989]. Ohnuki-Tierney discusses the uncomfortable shift in meaning when a metaphor may “bring to the fore an inherent metonymic relationship” [Ohnuki-Tierney 1991:176]. Friedrich [1989:306] and Jackson [1989:138] discuss the power of  synecdoche which may be used to substitute as easily a whole for a part (as when Goldhagen [1996] accuses “the Germans” for  a crime committed by some “Germans”), as a part for a whole (as when Kakar [1982:156] interprets coitus as the ultimate state of “enlightenment”). Ohnuki-Tierney’s focus is on the Janus-like ambiguity of symbols, including synecdoche. Thus “the Germans” may also refer to a small elite which, however, comes to be taken for the whole population with the subtle implication that “minorities” are excluded [Ohnuki-Tierney 1991:179]. Likewise, “enlightenment” may refer to the illusion that the “simple pleasure of intercourse” is more than what it is literally, namely, coitus [Kakar 1982:156]. While Ohnuki-Tierney and Jackson discuss these tropes in relationship to analogy, allegory, contiguity, and ambiguity, they seem to miss the characteristic of metonymy that was most important to the charismatics I interviewed, the characteristic that made their faith real. I mean, of course, causality: their assumption of an active link between an event and the reality that caused it. An assumption which the researcher is obligated to respect [Probyn 1993:77]. Instead of continuing to play with symbolically based meanings of metaphor, metonym, and synecdoche, let us look at the existential reality of metonym.

 

Metonym and the Receptive Imagination

Metonym is a figure of speech (a way of saying something) which allows one to interpret an event or a happening as a sign that the whole, of which this event is a part, also caused it. It should be kept in mind that my empirically grounded definition is somewhat different from the textual one, which simply says that metonym “designates one thing by an object closely associated with it (e.g., the “King” is called the “crown,” Horner 1988:447). On one hand, my use of metonym is based on observed practices of, and interviews with, black and white charismatic Christians of African Independent Churches and New Independent Churches; on the other, it is based on a theory of rhetoric. This theory argues that rhetoric is most effective when it imitates life, nature, or when figures “demonstrate feeling” and are “signs of a state of mind in the speaker,” not necessarily in the listening anthropologist [Vickers 1989:304, 303]. As Cicero purportedly said: “For nature has assigned to every emotion a particular look and tone of voice and bearing of its own” (quoted in Vickers [1989:66]).

 

It is this theory of rhetoric that persuaded me to give figures another look in the context of my research of charismatic Christians. For example, charismatics are prayed over and fall down which is referred to as “resting in the spirit”; this happening is experienced and interpreted by  black, white, “coloured,” and Indian believers as a sign that the Holy Spirit, who caused their falling, is working in their spirit and life. To their mind, this small event is therefore a part of and caused by a much larger whole, namely God’s presence. Researchers usually miss the causal aspect. It is because of this oversight that I emphasized the importance of metonym [Poewe 1989, 1994], even though charismatics and Africans belonging to Independent Churches otherwise symbolize like any other human being with all the ambiguity of meaning highlighted by Ohnuki-Tierney [1991].

 

What charismatic Christians told me in numerous interviews were things that happened to them, and that they experienced as coming from the Holy Spirit. Analysing these interviews persuaded me that the outstanding (but not sole) characteristic of this form of religiosity was what I called a metonymic pattern of thought [Poewe 1989; 1994]. By metonymic pattern of thought is meant the habit of seeing a simple happening as an aspect of  a whole that caused it, even when the whole itself is but tacitly known. A similar thing is argued by Hastrup 1987:294-5], except that she calls the  larger whole “world” and refers to what I call happenings as “events.” Furthermore, following Ardener [1982:6], but in disagreement with my findings, Hastrup too denies causality. To quote:

We should be careful here not to imagine arrows of causation from symbols or categories to the material situation, including actual behaviour. Rather than causing each other, the material and the categorical realities form a simultaneity [Ardener 1982:6].

 

But the point is, interviewed charismatic Christians did imagine causation, except not from “symbols and categories” but from what they tacitly knew to be reality. The power of this kind of literalness was brought home to me by science students in Atlanta, Georgia, who were also charismatic Christians. Distinguishing “knowing” biology, algebra, or geometry from “knowing” chemistry, they said about the latter [Poewe 1994:246]:

With chemistry “you have to learn the way things happen. And you can only make things happen when you discover something in the formula that makes it happen.” In chemistry, and matters related to chemistry, “things aren’t just the way you observe them. What you do and what happens are separate. The teacher tells you, ‘if you do this something will happen,’ and you learn to expect it and believe it will happen.

 

What surprised these students was that even doing science involved faith, that if the teacher were taken literally, something would happen that was abstract. In this sense metonymic thought is revelation and metonym a vehicle that makes known personally and experientially a reality that is otherwise invisible and independent [Poewe 1994:235].[6] Provided other researchers understand what I mean by metonym, my conclusion is testable, even falsifiable. Above all, there is nothing spectacular nor mystifying here. Human beings of any make up are simply using a faculty that is clearly available to anyone anywhere who wants to access it.

 

Given the above, and the fact that African ontology tends to be realist, by which is meant that Africans (certainly those who were interviewed) assumed, as many of us do, that there is one reality out there which is independent of them (although it may affect them), then it cannot be said that African belief systems support the postmodern belief in "multiple realities" [Stoller 1989:118, quoted in Olivier de Sardan 1992:21]. While knowledge may be said to be personal for both experimental ethnographers and African religious practitioners, it is so in very different senses. For a postmodernist, knowledge is personal because it is interpreted by him or her from within the position of postmodernity which “is ... a culture of imitations and simulation where copies predominate over originals and images over substance” [Tyler 1996:619 agreeing with Classen, Howes, and Synnott 1994:619]. Here the link to originals and substance is lost and “multiple realities” are multiple copies and images. Thus, in the example of a smell evoking “things that are not there” [ibid], a postmodernist puts the emphasis on an “absence,” a seemingly disconnected image. By contrast, charismatics put the emphasis on the experience, not only because the experience is real, but also because the evoked images reveal something that was real or will be real: something rooted in personal history, past experience, memory, things, actions, or perceptions of past and future time. In short, to the African believer knowledge is personal because it is revealed in very specific personal experiences [Hastrup 1987].

 

Recent anthropological literature does not only research the use of  the receptive imagination by the ethnographic other; it can  also be said to sanction its use by anthropologists. It goes with the assumption of Kakar [1982:10, 24], for example, that common understandings or psychological universals are “masked by superficial idiomatic differences.” In other words, if the ethnographic other experiences something, so can, indeed should, the anthropologist. This reciprocality of experiencing is described eloquently by Jill Dubisch [1995]. The context is an unexpected visit by Marcos, a man whom she had not previously met in a private setting or persona. Rather than assuming the role of researcher, Dubisch decided to let this meeting be simply one between herself and a friend. The dropping of her mask turned into a revelatory experience. In her words:

To an outside observer, nothing happened in this brief visit. But for Marcos and myself, something had changed, for I had let myself be myself in a way which acknowledged our sameness and at least a small degree of attraction between a male and female friend. What was important was that by letting myself reveal what I experienced as my ‘authentic’ self to a degree I had not before, and by acknowledging, however subtly, that we were a man and a woman in a sexual way, I was treating Marcos more an equal, more as I would treat a man in my own society than I ever had before [1995:47].

 

Most striking is Dubisch’s final conclusion:

To the degree that the female anthropologist takes account of her own sexuality in the field, she may create or enable contexts in which a more ‘authentic’ self can be revealed, and thus perhaps a more authentic ‘other’ as well [1995:48, my emphasis; cf Cesara 1982:60, 224; Newton 1993:8].

 

It is Don Kulick [1995:1-28], however, who makes most explicit the epistemological importance of reciprocal experiencing. He does so in the context of an edited volume where “anthropologists discuss desire, erotic relations, and sexual encounters” [p.1]. Writes Kulick “erotic subjectivity in the field is a potentially useful source of insight” [p.5]. And discussing the Cesara book, a personal account about the effect of doing research on the researcher, Kulick correctly concludes that “sexual relationships were illuminating ... [because they] compelled reflections on the nature of fieldwork, relationships, and knowledge” [p.15].

 

It is precisely about matters of experience, and not only tabooed ones like sexuality, that experimental ethnographers are ambivalent. Let us look again at Stoller’s and Olkes’s [1989] work dealing with sorcery. It is an important work, because we are left guessing whether its rich use of rhetoric has its source in experience or authorial artifice. Stoller and Olkes [1989] use such rhetorical devices as sign [for example, p. 23-24], suggestion [p. 32, 36, 38, 55, 57], literalness [p.32], and leading questions which they ask and answer themselves [anthypophora, p. 37, 52-53]. Olivier de Sardan [1992:8-9] mentions others. It is fair, therefore, to ask whether Stoller's and Olkes’s use of tropes and schemes is a consequence of their determination to evoke as faithfully as possible the reality of Songhay sorcery which they and the Songhay experienced personally, or whether it is calculated to create belief in one of "multiple realities"? In fairness to Stoller [1989:xi], he does say in the Prologue that the book “is an account of my experiences in the Songhay world.”[7] But who is the “my,” Stoller or Olkes? And while narrative strategy is mentioned, it is not explained of what exactly it consists. Furthermore, Stoller talks about “my experiences” in one paragraph, only to belie them in another. Thus they or he or she write, “In Sorcery’s Shadow is a memoir fashioned from the textures and voices of ethnographic situations” [p.xii]. It leaves one with the interesting question of whether the book is about sorcery or whether sorcery is practised on the reader? Criticizing Tyler [1986:128], Östberg reached a similar conclusion: “If ethnographic particularism had put anthropologists at risk of becoming what Geertz [1984:275] called “merchants of astonishment,” they now seem to have turned into magicians” [1995:15].

 

To be more explicit, is Stoller locking the reader into a discourse thus persuading him or her that this discourse is one of many distinct realities? Or is he trying to render an experience-near description? If it is the former, it is as Olivier de Sardan says, deception and the deception is broken when readers become aware of the rhetorical techniques or “charms” used to channel their perception. If it is the latter, there is more to be explored.

 

Unfortunately, Stoller's work does not point to an unambiguous answer of this question. By contrast, the work of Jackson [1986; 1989] does. Barawa [1986] is a clear example of an experimental (mixed genre) ethnographic novel, written in the third person, in which rhetoric is a deliberate methodological device used to create the reality which Jackson wants to create. But his claim, that writing Barawa was a "totally authentic" task [1986:3], is not self-evident.[8] More so than first person narratives, third person narratives in which the anthropologist makes himself the main character come across as contrived precisely because they are a purposefully constructed discourse [Wolcott 1995: 206-7]. A fascinating exception are Hastrup’s [1992] reflections about the play Talabot which was based on her biography. Her account of its production and effect starts in the third person but then shifts to the first person in order to enhance reflexivity. It is the occasion of useful insights into vulnerability, being “fieldworked upon,” concealment and revelation [1992:336, 337]. As Cesara who in “writing  herself” chose no hiding place as the subtitle of her book, so Hastrup in a section on “Writing Myself” comments:

I felt naked when I entered the room and sat down in the circle of heteroglot actors. Normally, I could hide behind a paper or a prepared speech, but at this occasion I just had to be myself and to give the group a part in my life. There was no hiding place ... [1992:331].

 

If Jackson’s Barawa is a questionable success, he does succeed with his method of  “radical empiricism” [1989: 4-5]. This method requires that we treat both their and our experiences as primary data in order “to grasp the ways in which ideas and words are wedded to the world in which we live” [p. 5]. What is interesting about this approach is that it links the rhetoric used in the construction of an ethnography to the fieldwork that preceded it.

 

It is not only an ethnographer's rhetorical skills that mediate feelings and experiences of the ethnographic other to us. Sometimes people use foreign cultural symbols to capture a deconstruction brought about by the use of the receptive imagination. Thus in my research of  African charismatics in South Africa [1994], the concepts umoya or spirit and ancestors are given new meaning and the power to generate new experiences, precisely because they are mediated by foreign discourse.[9] For example, founders of African Independent Churches who invented new liturgies and styles of worship through their visions and dreams, (universal experiences expressed in a culturally specific discourse) claim that they are like those of the Old Testament (a foreign discourse). For similar concerns see Barnes [1989], Hackett [1989], and Hexham [1994].

 

At this point it is important to look more closely at the difference between experimental ethnographers and experiential writers. We can do this by asking the following question. Is the blurring and proliferation of ethnographic genres solely a consequence of deliberate experimentation with literary styles and discursive fashions, or is it also a consequence of heeding field experiences?

 

Participant-Observation and the Proliferation of Genres

In 1982 I published Reflections of a Woman Anthropologist: no hiding place under the pseudonym Cesara.  The aim of this book was to show both, “the effects that a foreign culture might have on the researcher” [p.48] and, more generally, how doing research affects the researcher [p.vii]. I was working with the oxymoron of “being fieldworked upon” while doing fieldwork. It was done by highlighting several things: (1) experiences that were epistemologically productive, as Kulick [1995] observed; (2) understanding without undermining nor excluding science [Cesara 1982:216-221]; and (3) discussing writing strategies that were integral to existentialism [Cesara 1982:33, 49; Gill and Sherman 1973:10, 16]. For that matter, experimentation with writing was also part of German Romanticism going back to the seventeenth century [Kleßmann 1979; Poewe 1996c]. Furthermore, it was hotly debated among German missionaries to South Africa in the nineteen twenties [Poewe 1996c]. Finally, like Probyn [1993] and Kulick and Willson [1995], I highlighted the importance of considering the partiality of knowledge, not in the sense of being ideologically locked-in, but in the sense of being open to the disclosures, insights, and creativity that participation and diverse experiences would bring. This partiality was shown in the following: the metonymic and existential sense of part-whole relationships [Cesara 1982:10; Hastrup 1992:332-333]; the temporality and intensity of fieldwork [p.21]; and my position in history and vis-a-vis gender [p.3-9]. The history of my origins and its interplay with my anthropological interests was the most important theme of the book.[10] Consequently, before returning to the relationship between Cesara and genre proliferation, it is important to elaborate briefly on the partiality of knowledge and historicity.

 

From the first page of the Introduction to the Cesara book, and for several pages thereafter and throughout the book, I describe carefully the sense of my ‘self’ before I entered the field. It was a self that would be changed by field experiences, but by no means destroyed, defined, nor limited by them. The self that I was and am has a long history of which I am not only acutely aware but which I deliberately research along with my other work [Poewe 1988, 1996a, b]. It is from this history that I speak to and about the world I research; and it is to this history that my research speaks. I was no more defined by the field than was Rabinow whose field experience Probyn [1993:76-78] discusses eloquently and in some detail. For me, the field was set not only against the America that I left in the seventies, but importantly against  Germany toward the end of the Second World War in which I first saw the light of day. Throughout the Cesara book I use this relationship between my historical self and field experiences, in order to throw light on those anthropological methods, assumptions, and theories that were for too long hidden in shadow. I wanted to show that it might be worthwhile to write, not only classical ethnographies that contribute to the accumulation of knowledge about the world’s people, but also fieldwork memoirs or autobiographies that contribute to the knowledge of the history of the discipline and its practitioners. Furthermore, it was clear to me that the method of  participant-observation was an open invitation to write alternative ethnographies. One could say, participation compels participants to create new genres. Let me elaborate.

 

According to Rao, actualization of practical science consists of doing (controlling the action process as is done during empirical research) and happening (suffering or experiencing it) [1988:347]. The division into doing and happening is important because it reminds us that a specific kind of ethnography is not merely the outcome of a deliberate choice of writing style. It is also the result of a deliberate choice of style of fieldwork. More so than the collection of data, paying attention to happenings may lead to new disclosures, revelations, and insights about the people, discipline, and researcher. That was the main insight that I intended to convey in the Cesara book [1982] and that Hastrup [1987, 1992a, b] and Kulick [1995] have conveyed more effectively since.

 

Extrapolating from Rao, actualization is important here for two reasons. [1] It gives substance to our doing because it makes gestalting possible. Which is to say, we are structuring stories about the ethnographic self, other, or both from remembered happenings [Bohannan 1995]. [2] It requires thinking about doing in order to attend to the happening aspects of actions in the process of doing them. Which is to say, we are exercising the metonymic faculties of thought [Poewe 1989].

 

Metonymic faculties are exercised when we take an experienced happening to be part of a whole that is tacitly known, and puzzle about how things, events, and people are reduced to parts and what this implies [Polanyi 1964, Hastrup 1987]. The dialectic is not complete, however, until we also see the part as a sign illuminating the whole. From this angle, "thick description" of a happening may help elucidate the cultural whole or lead to a breakthrough of a major cultural theme.

 

Fieldwork assumes a metonymic structure, when it is experienced by the anthropologist as the actualization of the cultural schema or “the world” of the other in the anthropologist's life and world view through a series of happenings [Hastrup 1987:294].[11] Alternatively, anthropologists' empirically collected data and their exploration of remembered happenings allow the researcher (whose epistemology or identity has become ambiguous in the field) to use the imagination to create a gestalt or story [Hastrup 1987:297]. The story is illuminated by major, often newly discovered themes about the researched people, the ethnographer, and human beings generally.

 

According to Kant, it is a function of the imagination, without which we should have no knowledge, to complete the necessarily fragmentary data of the senses, just as it combines our remembered experiences into a single connected whole. Not unexpectedly, the researcher's life, world view, and theoretics can undergo significant change, which is a story as important for the history of the discipline, as is the story about the researched people important for the accumulation of ethnographic knowledge. Again, to show this was the purpose of the Cesara book [Kulick 1995:14-15]. What might be called the “self-revelatory” aspect of that book was simply the means, or vehicle, to express epistemological changes (see Tedlock vis-a-vis other such writing, 1991:79).

 

It is not surprising, therefore, that the very nature of intense fieldwork lends itself quite naturally to the creation of several different kinds of experiential ethnographies or genres even before the anthropologist deliberately experiments with styles of writing. The heuristic table below depicts the different ethnographic genres that are possible by simply working out the permutations of participant-observation or kinds of data with ethnographic foci. Participant-observation allows us to record empirical data (doing), experiential data (heeding happenings), or both. Ethnographic focus means that we can focus solely on the ethnographic other, on the ethnographic self, or on both [Tedlock 1991: 79, 82]. Ethnographic self can refer to the ethnic group of the researcher or to the person of the researcher. Before we begin to write, sometimes prodded by a strong preference, we make a deliberate decision on which of these permutations to focus the book. The result will be different genres as indicated in each box of the table.[12] Naturally, the permutation chosen will also affect our style of writing.

TABLE

 

FOCUS

 

 DATA            

 

ethnographic other

 

ethnographic self

 

ethnogr. self & other

 

empirical data

(doing)

 

classical ethnography

general ethnography

 

native ethnography

auto-ethnography

 

comparative ethnography

 

experienced data

(heeding happenings)

 

interpretive ethnography

 

fieldwork memoir, diary

 

reciprocal illumination

 

both

(doing & happening)

 

ethnographic case study       

 

ethnographic autobiography

 

accommodative ethnography

 

According to the permutations shown in the above table, writing classical (or general) ethnographies, which were a specific invention of the British School of Social Anthropology [Langham 1981], was but one possibility among many. It was the specific predilection of that school of thought to place emphasis on observation and to produce works that were written in a clear and appropriate style for what was then considered to be science. Ornament by which is meant the “study of the figures of speech, language devices such as metaphor, that enhance or change meaning” [1988:12], were generally discouraged except where they were part of the experiential data of the ‘other’.

 

None of the other permutations were attached to, or sanctioned by, schools of thought, although one could associate some permutations with specific approaches, for example, ethnographic case studies with Oscar Lewis’s culture of poverty approach. The permutations in the last two boxes of the Table are associated with an old tradition. Thus the superb book, Healers in the Night [1985], by the Jesuit priest and scholar Eric de Rosny, is based on reciprocal illumination (above the last box in the Table).[13] Reciprocal illumination is associated with the Jesuit scholar Joseph François Lafitau (1670-1740). The accommodation method (last box), an extreme form of participant-observation, was developed by P. Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), a Jesuit and eminent missionary scientist to China [Mühlmann 1968 (1984):44, 45; Poewe 1994:7-12]. Coming out of a long and solid tradition of scholarship, these methods and the ethnographies based on them are fresh and innovative. Other examples of works falling into each permutation exist, but are differentially tolerated. For the sake of brevity I shall leave the task of finding examples or rethinking the labels to the reader.

 

It is important to remember, however, that alternative anthropological writing always existed, but fell into other existing literary categories like: poetry (Sapir, Benedict [Handler 1986]), narrative and journalism (Herskovits 1934), novels (Laura Bohannon [Bowen 1964]), letters (Mead 1977), and diaries (Malinowski 1967). For excellent overviews of the history of alternative writing done by anthropologists in the past see Tedlock [1991], Reck [1984], Gatewood [1984], Schmidt [1984], Handler [1984], Swidorski [1984], Bruner [1995]. Gateway’s paper discusses different ethnographic genres in terms of four “constraints on the form and content of the final product” [1984:5]: [1] “what natives do and what they think”; [2] “Ethnographer’s own values, motives, life ambitions, theoretical prejudices, and so on”; [3] “the author’s estimation of the intended audience”; and [4] “the currently preferred literary form” [p. 5]. The first and second constraints are close to what I mean by focus on the ethnographic other and self, respectively. We differ in that I make explicit what he leaves implicit, namely, the kinds of data (empirical, experiential, or both) that ethnographers choose to use in their specific ethnography. By contrast, what I leave implicit, he makes explicit, namely concern for audience and anthropological fashions.

 

In sum, probing what happens (inside and outside of the self) while doing something is very much a matter of reading signs and signals, of engaging the symbolic faculties of metonymy in the context of the cultural schema of the other. As I point out elsewhere, it is what happens when we formulate hypotheses or hunches [1994]. Thus an ethnographer who participates in an event heeds what is happening (to self and other) while s/he is participating [Hastrup 1987:292-294].  Given the foreign cultural schema, what is happening during an event is the result of the effect of that culture on the researcher and the researched. To my mind, this effect has to do simultaneously with metonym and empathy. Ethnographers who surrender themselves to the happenings, therefore, really experience the workings of that culture in their lives [Cesara 1982]. It opens in them an area of sensory perception that was hitherto unused. Should one be surprised that they might want to step away from a school of thought and explore this new area of perception in another style of writing?

 

Empathy and Memory

The story of ethnography is like the story of Adam and Eve. We bit into the textual apple of the tree of the knowledge of experience and rhetoric, and now there is no going back. Nevertheless, the causal and experiential aspects of metonym are often missed [Durham and Fernandez 1991:192], while empathy, in some ways associated with metonym, is almost completely misunderstood. Thus in North America, experimental ethnographers tend to focus almost entirely on metaphor and reflexivity.

 

If metonym has to do with the actualization of a schema through happenings so that the happenings are signs of, and/or are triggered by the schema, then empathy is the faculty that allows us to experience the happening. Broadly speaking, empathy is the ability to share in another's emotions and feelings. It is not, however, as it tends to be defined in Webster's dictionary, a matter of projecting one's own personality into the personality of another in order to understand him or her better.[14] More frequently, the reverse is the case. Empathy has to do with the projection, in the sense of impact, of the other's personality and culture on one's own. The other's personality and culture create a happening in the open-minded or receptive researcher that requires thoughtful exploration [Hastrup 1987:293]. The result may be an increased illumination of both the other's and one's own personality and culture. Clearly, if an ethnographer wants to give expression to this increased illumination, the ethnographer is compelled to write a different kind of work from the kind that Evans-Pritchard made famous without, however, denying the important and essential, if separate role played by the latter.

 

The meaning of empathy is in fact more complex than that given above. It is also more than the expectation that the anthropologist be "an unmitigated nice guy" with "extraordinary sensibility, an almost preternatural capacity to think, feel and perceive like a native," as Geertz would have it [1983:56]. And while I would contend that fieldwork is a journey of discovery, it is not quite the quest story as satirized and dismissed by Geertz [1988:44-45]. Let us look at empathy more closely.

 

According to T. Lipps [1851 - 1914], empathy is based on the assumption of a common humanity. This assumption is quite the opposite of that of reflexivity which depends on cultural differences and distance (even when none exist or are of minor importance) and is concerned with intersubjective meaning.

 

Empathetic researchers can experience themselves, in some manner, in the other's experiences and vice versa. As I converse or interact with the other, the other and/or I will recognize things in accord with our respective inclinations and needs.

 

It is not the case, as is often assumed, that experiencing oneself in the other's experiences and vice versa makes for identity. Nor is it the case that the experience is necessarily positive to be empathetic. Lipps distinguished between positive empathy or pleasure and negative empathy or pain. Positive empathy refers to agreement between the stimulus derived from interaction with the other and one's inner activity. Negative empathy occurs when the suggestions implied in the interaction conflict with one's inner self. "Inner activity" or "inner self" refer to the complex activity which involves thought, feeling, intuition, sensation, imagination, and suspected or unsuspected attitudes. In other words we use all human faculties to make sense of other (and self) and then translate these into written, oral, or visual media--if that is what we want to do.

 

Lipps [1902, in Zweig 1967: 485-486] distinguishes at least three kinds of empathy each of which can be experienced negatively or positively.[15] [1] Empirical empathy occurs when sounds of natural objects remind us of, for example, "howling" or "groaning." They can result in such metaphorical descriptions as "howling storm," "groaning trees," which call forth similar feelings in the experiencing self and other. Note the involvement of memory in matters of empathy.[16] One person, however, may experience "groaning trees" positively, the other negatively. The reminder becomes more powerful, that is metonymic, when it is experienced as, for example, the "groaning of all creation" or "the groaning" of the spirit, as charismatic Christians in Africa and elsewhere might say.

 

[2] Mood empathy occurs, for example, when colour, music, art, conversation, and so on, call forth similar feelings or moods in the researcher and researched. Thus I experienced Herero tunes as haunting, melancholy, and on the whole sad, which is what the Herero showed and said they felt [Poewe 1985]. It increased my understanding of their culture, centered as it was on defeat and death, although it also distanced me personally from them.

 

[3] Empathy for the sensible (in the sense of perceptible)  appearance of living beings occurs when we take other people's gestures, tones of voice, and other characteristics as symptomatic of their inner life [Malinowski 1967]. We can talk about "appearance empathy" when we recognize, as in a flash, by a gesture, or something external, the other's inner life; when we know that it could be, but need not be, part of our inner life. For example, this kind of empathy led to a real breakthrough in my understanding of the Herero. It struck me that their dress made a statement simultaneously about their superiority, sense of failure, and self-protection. This was confirmed by subsequent research and discussions with Herero women.[17]

 

Before concluding this section, let us look at some examples of negative empathy from the anthropological literature. Let us start with Malinowski's Diary. Malinowski was attracted to native women. The diary contains several sensually evocative descriptions of their bodies in walk and gesture. “I liked naked human bodies in motion, and at moments, they also excited me. But I effectively resisted...” [Malinowski 1967:281; Kohl 1986:50-1; 1987]. Yet, as Stocking [1986:26] and Kohl [1986:46] point out, it is precisely this sensual arousal that separated Malinowski from the Trobrianders. At the most empathetic point, Malinowski was aware of the gulf between him and the human beings around him. Furthermore, he saw this precisely because he knew himself to share in a common humanity.

 

The awareness of the gulf between self and other, at moments of intimacy, is what negative empathy is all about. It has much to do with surrender to the human condition and with making oneself  vulnerable even at the risk of pain [Wolff 1964; Richardson personal communication]. An example of negative empathy that was, however, transformed into positive empathy and led to a theoretical breakthrough will illustrate the point. The case is that of the South African Nico Smith, an Afrikaner dominee, who like an anthropologist moved into the black township of Mamelodi "to experience the other side of South African life" [personal interview, Mamelodi, summer 1989]. He had an extraordinary empathy with blacks. Yet he suffered severe depression, a form of negative empathy, not only because the needs of blacks in townships were overwhelming, but because he learned that: "young blacks are becoming more brutal," that the "majority of black children are embittered," that they "do not value their own lives and therefore do not hesitate to take the life of another" [de Saintonge 1989:178; personal interview, summer 1989]. "They did not mind committing suicide, nor did they mind killing each other," said Nico Smith during the interview.

 

What is curious about the Nico Smith story is that his negative empathy which resulted in severe depression came in time to be transformed into positive empathy. He achieved this by coming to terms with what he formerly regarded to be a painful and unacceptable reality, namely, that South Africa would not escape some sort of drastic violence.

 

Following his surrender to this threatening reality, he turned to action. It involved both doing something new and rethinking his theology. He remembered German Christians who in early 1930 foresaw that Germany was headed for a catastrophe. They began then to build up a new system of values and relationships. When, in 1945, Germany was in ruins, its people demoralized, its industries and cities destroyed, these Christians played a vital role in the rebuilding of their country. They had already discovered an alternative way as, by the way, has Nico Smith [personal interview, summer 1989; de Saintonge 1989:218].

 

The unexpected feeling of separation from those to whom we are physically attracted, the deep sense of depression called forth in us by those we love and to whom we are committed, the highlighting of difference despite “mutual erotic attraction” between “an anthropologist and a person in the field” [Kulick 1995:19], epitomize negative empathy. Far from forcing ethnographers to pretend to something we are not, negative empathy may make us more human. Reflecting on her experience of “falling in love with an-Other lesbian” in the field, Blackwood writes:

The ethnographic experience is about experiencing oneself with others, of knowing we are all different, yet recognizing the bonds among us rather than reifying the difference to make Others exotic or inferior [1995:72].

 

Lipps talks about other forms of empathy. Suffice it to say here that empathy has to do with those moments of clear perception of the other which powerfully stimulate our imagination. Consequently, we experience the other as part of something greater or of something in us, our past, our theoretical assumptions, our approach to research, or in the other’s past, the other’s way of life, that we could not see or face before. And this challenge is, as Kulick [1995:20] emphasizes, epistemologically productive. It encourages us as social scientists to formulate hypotheses, or hunches, that are thereafter subjected to falsification.

 

Writing Fieldwork: Metonymic Structure Clarified

Ethnography has its source in systematically researched, as well as experienced life. Choices about style of writing come later. Postmodernism, political correctness, and research in politically sensitive parts of the world highlight the problem of remaking experience into text. For example, a rapidly changing and politically volatile South Africa, before 1991, presented us with a situation where thought--of whatever discipline--quickly turned into sterile and stereotypic rhetoric. Metaphors died quick deaths. Words became mere badges for where the speaker stood on the political spectrum. Human beings, especially blacks and whites, were frequently quite alienated from one another. In such a situation it is words that violate, and experiences, being with the other, that heal. In short, it shows just how important it is to experience another side of life and to convey this experience to others, especially when it contradicts the quotidian flow of events and rhetoric.

 

Participant-observation and fieldwork make for an anthropology of experience [Turner and Bruner 1986]. It does not do away with sound research methods and falsification nor does it deprecate diverse schools of thought. It does, however, insist upon thoughtful exploration of ordinary and extraordinary experiences that occur in or are related to the field. Experiential situations, especially when they disturb because they have to do with something to which we have been, or prefer to be blind, lead to conceptual or theoretical breakthroughs (Cesara 1982; Tedlock 1990; Kulick and Willson 1995). They are also instrumental, as said, in reshaping or transforming our world view.

 

In some sense, therefore, fieldwork may involve surrender to the ethnographic other for the sake of illumination, if not identification. It prompts us to use the metonymic faculty and the realistic receptive imagination. It is with the use of metonyms that we transform mundane experiences into insights and ethnographic narratives. Consequently, the ethnographic other becomes a language of signs and signals about that which "is essential" in them and "in ourselves" [Malinowski 1967:119; also quoted in Stocking 1986:26-27].

 

This kind of anthropology is experiential because it is based on a relationship between ethnographer and ethnographic other so that the former experiences the latter through signs made manifest, or events brought about, by that which animates the ethnographic other. It inspires anthropologists, like other scientists, to use both the analytical and receptive imagination. By analytical imagination is meant the critical questioning of images taken from experiences of the world, psyche, and people [Degenaar personal interview, summer 1989]. By receptive imagination is meant the snap elucidation of images through visions, dreams, or discernment of hunches and hypotheses [Tedlock 1991]. This kind of imagination is not only used by the ethnographic other, but also by us. As Susanne Langer [1948] pointed out, it is used at times of shifting and uncertain social and intellectual circumstances: the kind of circumstances encountered in the field.

 

Given the important emphasis on the use of imagination, though it is very much subject to analytical reason, it follows that experiential anthropology is both deconstructive and reconstructive. It is deconstructive in the sense that it is an attack on logocentrism and ethnography for opting only for reason when the human being is clearly constituted of sensation, emotion, intuition, intellect and imagination. It is reconstructive because it leads to conceptual breakthroughs that are then tested against empirical data collected by established methods or that inspire future research.

 

In the Cesara book, I used the letters to my mother to “plough up” logocentrism in order to show the soil of  “nourishing” emotion and intuition beneath:

I watched the smoke of our cigarettes dance on our bodies ...

(And) he told of his childhood. How his father would take him to the Industrial Belt and how he would roam the streets and rummage through refuse cans of Europeans ... He told me about his peculiar European friend who ... sat for the longest time watching the sunset. How peculiar, he said, to watch the sun for hours [1982:55].

 

And so I comment:

To lay hold of a culture through one’s love of one individual may be an illusion, but there can be no doubt that love became a fundamental relation of my thoughts and perceptions to both, the world of the Lenda and myself [p.60].

 

This sequence of event and insight is then followed by a phenomenological explanation of “moods or states of mind of ... the researcher and those being researched.” It is the phenomenological explanation that highlights the revelatory and epistemological qualities of experienced events and emotions [p.66]. But events do not only lead to insights about the epistemological importance of phenomena like love or dread. Events, sometimes small and seemingly insignificant, also activate memories that throw us back upon our history. For example:

... He had malaria and felt weak and sick. Beads of perspiration trickled down his face. And as I looked at him I felt some recognition. It stirred my memory and took me into my past for I saw in him the image of my father.

... He returned from the war ... He was simply there one day. His head was shaved, his face looked wan, and he was weak and ailing. And as he greeted my mother, cold sweat ran down his face [Cesara 1982:80].

 

There is not enough time nor space to develop further this sequence of event to emotion, insight, memory, history, or dream. Suffice it to say this. Some may condemn the simple act of being human in the field.[18] But no one can take away that moment, nor that experience, nor that insight,  nor finally the knowledge of the past that I and others have gained from it. The knowledge that made us fully alive and led to further research.

 

The experiential field worker is at home with change. It is not only that it might attract field workers with ambivalent identities to research peoples with ambivalent identities [Agar 1980]. Making identities, cultures, and languages ambivalent is precisely what this form of anthropology is all about. It makes ambivalent because these field workers allow themselves to experience the breakdown of their  assumptions and the questioning of their identities in the field [DeVita 1992; Blackwood 1995; Cesara 1982; Malinowski 1967]. We do not need to be forced onto the psychiatric couch because of  it [Wengle 1988]. More importantly, as Malinowski [1967] reveals and as Jackson [1989:2] argues, immersion in the field creates ambivalence because experience and concept are not necessarily identical. Above all, concepts cannot be tied to ideological and political categories.

 

Past and Gone

The major premise of eighteenth and nineteenth century positive philosophy (and science) held that human kind progressed to ever greater intellectual and moral development. It was based, as most premises are, on common place perceptions and observations of the times. It will be remembered that Victorian England was a time of rapid technological and social change, so much so that change was experienced as transformation. As Stocking [1987:203] points out, the sense of radical transformation lent itself easily to reasoning from opposites. The world was perceived as divided into now and then, civilization and savagery, prosperity and slum, monogamy and promiscuity, rationality and instinct. And the two were thought to be fundamentally different, at opposite ends of an evolutionary scale [Stocking 1987:208-210].

 

Linked to the premise of progress and development from savagery to civilization was the "scientific" method of observation, comparison and generalization. But if one observed in terms of, and compared and generalized from the premise of progress to ever greater intellectual and moral development, the ethnographic other would always be more or less intelligent or morally developed than the ethnographic self. The implied judgment on our part [Fabian 1983], and increased consciousness of ethnic worth and ethnic distinctiveness on their part [Said 1978], led not so much to improvement of research methods and understanding, as to corrections through language use and rhetoric. Far from easing tensions among ethnic groups, one wonders whether our century will not become known as the “age of the intellectual organization of ethnic hatreds.”

 

At any rate, the last decades of the twentieth century remind me of Julien Benda’s [1928:27] characterization of the nineteenth century. He called it the "age of the intellectual organization of political hatreds." He wrote.

Anti-Semitism, Pangermanism, French Monarchism, Socialism are not only political manifestations; they defend a particular form of morality, of intelligence, of sensibility, of literature, of philosophy and of artistic conceptions ... every one to-day claims that his movement is in line with "the development of evolution" and "the Profound unrolling of history" [1928:27-8].

 

Furthermore, argued Benda [1928:99], "the cult for the particular and the scorn for the universal is a reversal of values quite generally characteristic of the teaching of the modern (intellectual)." Modern intellectuals, he lamented, exhort "the peoples to feel conscious of themselves in what makes them the most distinct from others" [p.83]. It would result, he predicted quite accurately, in race, ethnic, and national wars.

 

If systematic research is so easily held capture by ideologies and paradigms, how else but by experience, intense even painful experience, can we break through the straightjacket to contemplate anew the human condition? And what else but an intense experience will motivate us to write against the times?

 

Conclusion

Experiential and experimental ethnographies may overlap, but at the core they are fundamentally different. For the production of knowledge and for epistemological reflection, experiential ethnographers depend on how the “self” of the anthropologist interacts with experiences, people, and the flow of events in the field. This multi-level reciprocal dynamic between anthropologist and the field is the source of the proliferation of experiential ethnographies and genres. By contrast, for their text-making, experimental ethnographers depend on rhetoric and on using “the self” as a device for realism or as a “source for narrative strength” [Stoller and Olkes 1989:xi]. Deliberate invention of textual strategies is the source of the proliferation of experimental ethnographies. Marcus and Fischer [1986] and Clifford and Marcus [1986] encouraged this experimentation with the creation of a new anthropological culture and program. But while some experimental ethnographies are successful, the experimental program is a “cultural trap.”

 

Restriction of writing style is most effective when it is imposed by a school of thought based on a clear sense of goals, methods, and resources. But the anthropologist has invested too much of  his or her intellectual power in the field, to give up on the full exploration of its potential for discovery of knowledge and styles of conveying it. Look at what we still do not have. Solid comparative works based on  as firm a knowledge of one’s own history and tradition, as on that of  the other [de Rosny 1985]. Consequently, critiques of things Western are hardly credible, except, that is, to those who share the same ideological persuasion as postmodernists. We have not yet learned the simple lesson, that criticism is more effective when it is implicit and mutual, as in the method of reciprocal illumination, than when it is explicit and directed to those who are, or that which is, safe to criticize. Serious memoirs, biographies [Clifford 1982], histories [Stocking 1987; Langham 1981], and historical novels by anthropologists are rare. Those that exist are focussed almost entirely on British and American anthropology. Furthermore, the time has come to stop treating societies and countries, South Africa for example, as special cases when they have been part of global processes all along [Furlong 1991; Featherstone 1991; Östberg 1995:17; Poewe 1996c]. Participant-observation, “actual physical presence in their world” [Hastrup and Hervik 1994:3], immersion in archival material written in other languages, these methods of presence will continue to be central to the “anthropological project of comprehending the world” [ibid:3].

 

So long as we are a social science, our primary concern must be to maintain a clear link between the reality we research and what we write. To eliminate this link means eliminating anthropology.

 

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NOTES

[1].I base my comparative remarks and analogies on research conducted in southern Africa, the southeastern US, western Canada, parts of Germany and Britain. In South Africa itself, I did fieldwork and life history interviews among charismatic Christians of all shades of skin colour and among selected popular writers who were Afrikaans and English speaking. As well, I conducted archival research in the Berliner Missionswerk from January 2 to April 29, 1995. Based on usually ignored German documents, this has led to an intense examination of  the affinities and links between Afrikaner and German nationalisms between 1870 and 1948 [Poewe 1996a, 1996b]. Fieldwork was conducted off and on from 1972 to 1991. In South Africa, specifically in 1986, 1987, 1989, fieldwork was done for four months each year. My approach to research became historical and global as a result of my reflection on my first long fieldwork in Zambia [see Cesara 1982].

2.I put Marcus and Fischer [1986], Tyler [1986], and Scheper-Hughes in the same camp vis-a-vis political commitment and ethics even though Scheper-Hughes abhors “cultural relativism” [1995:414]. Consequently, she questions “two sacred cows”:

the proud, even haughty distance from political engagement and its accompanying, indeed, its justifying ethic of moral and cultural relativism. The latter has returned with a vengeance in the still fashionable rhetoric of postmodernism [p.414].

To me the dogma of the inseparability of poetics and politics, that is political commitment to the experimental program, and political engagement, that is political commitment to one political faction in a political situation replete with other political factions, are in principle one and the same. See for example Nomavenda Mathiane’s [1989] very different view to that of Scheper-Hughes. Mathiane is a black woman who lived permanently in a black township and witnessed all kinds of political horrors, including the necklace. Scheper-Hughes does belong, however, in the experiential camp vis-a-vis her emphasis on an “anthropology of the really real” [1995:417].

3.Numerous alternative terms are used for experimental ethnographers. They include: experimentalists, ‘new ethnographers,’ textualists, postmodernists, and deconstructionists [Probyn 1993:72; Olivier de Sardan 1992:7]. Tyler [1986] also uses the term anarchists.

4.According to Bohannan [1995:181, 185], “An ideology is a set of doctrines, assertions, and intentions that undergird a social, religious, or political position.” To quote further: “Ideologies differ from science (including social science) in that their propositions are not presented as theory to be criticized, tested, and improved, but rather as premises to be accepted on faith” [p.185]. It is a superb criticism of Clifford [1986:2] without referring to him.

5. I use metonym the way Leach [1976] defined it, but modify it in accordance with my field observations. According to Leach, metonymy includes sign, natural index, and signal. In the first, A stands for B as part for a whole; in the second, A indicates B; in the third, A triggers B so that the relationship between A and B is mechanical and automatic. What makes the metonymic operation powerful is the fact that, in practice, we do not carefully distinguish among sign, index, and signal, so that A stands for and indicates B, while B is seen to trigger A. In a happening, the happening [A] usually stands for and indicates the schema being actualized [B], while the schema [B] is seen to trigger the happening [A]. For charismatic and African Christians, this schema is centered on the activities of the Holy Spirit so that events [A] are interpreted as evidence of the Holy Spirit [B] working in the life of a person. For experiential anthropologists, the schema [B] being actualized in happenings [A] is that of the culture or “world” of the people under study.

 

6.The aim is to move beyond the view that metonym, a trope, is but “an assertion of an association based on contiguity of relation” [Fernandez 1986:173]. The contiguity is causal. James Fernandez also recognizes the presence of metonymy in revitalization [p.172]. Metonym is a turn of thought that is used to express a relationship between an aspect of experienced reality and the larger reality, visible or invisible, of which the experience is a manifestation. This position which was brought home to me by scientists who were charismatic Christians [1994], is very different from the postmodernity posture that celebrates copies and images predominating over, and usually cut from, originals and substance.

7.The book is co-authored by Paul Stoller and Cheryl Olkes. I am assuming that the “I” of the Prologue refers to Stoller. It is just an additional ambiguity of their method.

8. In Barawa [1986] Jackson uses hypotyposis, vivid description appealing to the sense of sight, to great effect [p.11-12, 29]. While I am not going to define each term here Jackson uses epizeuxis, anaphora, gradatio [see p.19]; ploche, epistrophe and epanalepsis [see p.22], among many others. Indeed, in my classes I found that students tend not to understand Jackson's books, especially, Barawa until the world of rhetoric is opened to them. In Barawa Jackson is the main character.

9.My research of charismatic Christians was based on a global cultural perspective. See also Hexham and Poewe [1997]. Consequently, I interviewed charismatic Christians from various sub-communities in South Africa, as well as in the southeastern US, in western Canada, and in Britain and Germany. In this paper, and for purposes of simplicity, I refer primarily to black, white, “coloured,” and Indian South Africans who belonged to two kinds of churches: African Independent Churches, founded by black South Africans, and New Independent Churches, founded by people of all skin colours, but especially by white South Africans. The founding of African Independent Churches goes back to the nineteenth century. New Independent Churches began to be founded from the nineteen seventies onward. Again, because I took a global perspective I interviewed charismatic Christians who lived in mud huts as well as scientists who were charismatic Christians. My generalizations come from this spectrum of interviews [see Poewe 1994].

[1]0.The inclusion of sexual intimacy and gender in the book seems to have eclipsed what I considered to be most important, namely, how my past history played into every significant experience and insight. Unfortunately, in my exuberance about new insights gained from immersion in fieldwork, I showed my provincialism in matters that were not a direct part of my fieldwork experiences and about which I should have remained silent. As Newton [1993] reminds her readers, she took me to task for that.

 

[1]1. It is important to understand that not all anthropologists give themselves over to experiencing the cultural schema of the other. Clearly, some anthropologists go to the field to test hypotheses, and so forth, that derive from the scientific schema of their discipline. Most of us do both.

[1]2.The kinds of ethnographies named in each box are mere suggestions. The reader might come up with better ones. This indeterminacy should be seen as part of the positive asset of participant-observation. It is a method that leaves us entirely open to discovery. If we heed doings and happenings in the culture outside, there is always the possibility that “the beautiful premises that are part of the culture within [our] heads” will be questioned and/or give way to new insights [Bohannan 1995:185].

[1]3.Reciprocal illumination is associated with the work of Joseph François Lafitau (1670-1740) who illuminated the customs and institutions of native Americans in terms of those of ancient Greece, at the same time that he illuminated the customs and institutions of ancient Greece in terms of those of native Americans [Mühlmann 1984:4]. Looking at contemporary material, Tedlock’s “Self/Other dialogue” may be an example of reciprocal illumination [1991: 82].

[1]4. Some anthropological texts have already eliminated the concept empathy from their glossary and replaced it by intersubjective meaning and reflexivity. See Schultz and Lavenda [1987:46] where they say, "Recognizing the humanity of one's informants has nothing to do with trying to empathize [sic] with and reproduce their inner psychological states. It is concerned with intersubjective meanings..." Yet, empathy has nothing to do with reproducing someone's psychological state. As well notice their limitation of understanding to "informants" and of "reflexivity" to "thinking about thinking." As if that is all there was to fieldwork and the human being. My fieldwork was certainly never limited to "informants." Why else should I have made such efforts to learn their language and to use quantitative as well as qualitative methods of researching society. Furthermore, we shall see that empathy implies reflection upon the experiences and thoughts of self and other. As for reflexivity, the conjoining of self and other through intersubjective meaning, its limitations are obvious in, for example, South Africa where black and white Christians believe themselves to have arrived at common intersubjective meaning only to discover that there is no agreement between them in action or experience to which the common meaning seemingly referred. [Poewe 1993].

[1]5. While I give examples of different kinds of empathy following Lipps, I differ from him in that I move away from the idea that empathy means projection of our feelings into the other. Zweig [1967] continues the use of "projection."

 

[1]6. See Cesara [1982] (pseudonym for Poewe). Field experiences and empathy called forth significant memories. Working through these had a great impact on my anthropological world view and theoretics. The potential importance of erotic subjectivity and reflexivity for our epistemology, methods, and theories is most competently discussed in a book edited by Kulick and Willson [1995].

 

[1]7. "This dress identifies us immediately. We, the long-dresses, don't get paid well. We don't get good jobs. Men treat us worse."

Astonished I said, "then you are identifying yourselves as a certain type."

"Yes. The dress identifies us as washers and ironers for whites ...There are other jobs. But we don't know them. Therefore we wear this dress. In this way ... Others won't approach us ..."

"Look," said one Herero woman. "Our tradition too goes with wearing this dress. Tradition folds us in, makes us cower, cringe, grovel." They used the word okuriyanga which is reflexive and points simultaneously to an exterior condition and a psychological state.

"Likewise," she continued, "the dress folds us in and narrows our behaviour ... It goes with our life."  And then they talked about how they use the dress to hold one another back.

The important point is that this conversation would not have occurred had their dress not called forth in me a feeling of empathy. It came as a hunch that the dress underlined the above inner life. The Herero-Victorian dress signalled to me, as said, their sense of tortured superiority, incapacity, self-imprisonment, and distinctiveness. It made a powerful statement about a major conflict in Herero character.

18.Some in our profession pretend that a private life in the field is professionally unethical. The fact is, all of us, at home or abroad, have a private life in addition to our work related life. Indeed, many make no distinction. Furthermore, insights gained from people with whom we live our private lives often spill over into work related things and not infrequently this is explicitly acknowledged. No one would be narrow minded enough to call this unethical. Where is the mutually inspiring public-private life in the field different from the public-private dynamic at home? It troubles those who categorically, not experientially, assert that those we study are objects and inferior. Probyn [1993], Hastrup [1992], among many others, including Cesara [1982], have shown otherwise. Like Romantics, postmodernists have quite literally “enthroned the national (or ethnic) community and its utterly individual, national (or ethnic) spirit” [Dooyeweerd 1979:179]. This despite the fact that “under nazism we have experienced what it means when civil-legal freedom and equality are abolished and when a man’s legal status depends upon the community of ‘blood and soil’” [ibid:186]. A full life lived under the dictum of universal human rights does not interfere with respecting the professional ethics of the discipline. In the business of respecting the human rights of people anywhere, we might even include those of the anthropologist. We are not a priesthood! I say this despite the fact that Newton [1993] reprimanded me for my ethical provincialism in the matter of homosexuality.



[1].I base my comparative remarks and analogies on research conducted in southern Africa, the southeastern US, western Canada, parts of Germany and Britain. In South Africa itself, I did fieldwork and life history interviews among charismatic Christians of all shades of skin colour and among selected popular writers who were Afrikaans and English speaking. As well, I conducted archival research in the Berliner Missionswerk from January 2 to April 29, 1995. Based on usually ignored German documents, this has led to an intense examination of  the affinities and links between Afrikaner and German nationalisms between 1870 and 1948 [Poewe 1996a, 1996b]. Fieldwork was conducted off and on from 1972 to 1991. In South Africa, specifically in 1986, 1987, 1989, fieldwork was done for four months each year. My approach to research became historical and global as a result of my reflection on my first long fieldwork in Zambia [see Cesara 1982].

[2].I put Marcus and Fischer [1986], Tyler [1986], and Scheper-Hughes in the same camp vis-a-vis political commitment and ethics even though Scheper-Hughes abhors “cultural relativism” [1995:414]. Consequently, she questions “two sacred cows”:

the proud, even haughty distance from political engagement and its accompanying, indeed, its justifying ethic of moral and cultural relativism. The latter has returned with a vengeance in the still fashionable rhetoric of postmodernism [p.414].

To me the dogma of the inseparability of poetics and politics, that is political commitment to the experimental program, and political engagement, that is political commitment to one political faction in a political situation replete with other political factions, are in principle one and the same. See for example Nomavenda Mathiane’s [1989] very different view to that of Scheper-Hughes. Mathiane is a black woman who lived permanently in a black township and witnessed all kinds of political horrors, including the necklace. Scheper-Hughes does belong, however, in the experiential camp vis-a-vis her emphasis on an “anthropology of the really real” [1995:417].

[3].Numerous alternative terms are used for experimental ethnographers. They include: experimentalists, ‘new ethnographers,’ textualists, postmodernists, and deconstructionists [Probyn 1993:72; Olivier de Sardan 1992:7]. Tyler [1986] also uses the term anarchists.

[4].According to Bohannan [1995:181, 185], “An ideology is a set of doctrines, assertions, and intentions that undergird a social, religious, or political position.” To quote further: “Ideologies differ from science (including social science) in that their propositions are not presented as theory to be criticized, tested, and improved, but rather as premises to be accepted on faith” [p.185]. It is a superb criticism of Clifford [1986:2] without referring to him.

[5]. I use metonym the way Leach [1976] defined it, but modify it in accordance with my field observations. According to Leach, metonymy includes sign, natural index, and signal. In the first, A stands for B as part for a whole; in the second, A indicates B; in the third, A triggers B so that the relationship between A and B is mechanical and automatic. What makes the metonymic operation powerful is the fact that, in practice, we do not carefully distinguish among sign, index, and signal, so that A stands for and indicates B, while B is seen to trigger A. In a happening, the happening [A] usually stands for and indicates the schema being actualized [B], while the schema [B] is seen to trigger the happening [A]. For charismatic and African Christians, this schema is centered on the activities of the Holy Spirit so that events [A] are interpreted as evidence of the Holy Spirit [B] working in the life of a person. For experiential anthropologists, the schema [B] being actualized in happenings [A] is that of the culture or “world” of the people under study.

 

[6].The aim is to move beyond the view that metonym, a trope, is but “an assertion of an association based on contiguity of relation” [Fernandez 1986:173]. The contiguity is causal. James Fernandez also recognizes the presence of metonymy in revitalization [p.172]. Metonym is a turn of thought that is used to express a relationship between an aspect of experienced reality and the larger reality, visible or invisible, of which the experience is a manifestation. This position which was brought home to me by scientists who were charismatic Christians [1994], is very different from the postmodernity posture that celebrates copies and images predominating over, and usually cut from, originals and substance.

[7].The book is co-authored by Paul Stoller and Cheryl Olkes. I am assuming that the “I” of the Prologue refers to Stoller. It is just an additional ambiguity of their method.

[8]. In Barawa [1986] Jackson uses hypotyposis, vivid description appealing to the sense of sight, to great effect [p.11-12, 29]. While I am not going to define each term here Jackson uses epizeuxis, anaphora, gradatio [see p.19]; ploche, epistrophe and epanalepsis [see p.22], among many others. Indeed, in my classes I found that students tend not to understand Jackson's books, especially, Barawa until the world of rhetoric is opened to them. In Barawa Jackson is the main character.

[9].My research of charismatic Christians was based on a global cultural perspective. See also Hexham and Poewe [1997]. Consequently, I interviewed charismatic Christians from various sub-communities in South Africa, as well as in the southeastern US, in western Canada, and in Britain and Germany. In this paper, and for purposes of simplicity, I refer primarily to black, white, “coloured,” and Indian South Africans who belonged to two kinds of churches: African Independent Churches, founded by black South Africans, and New Independent Churches, founded by people of all skin colours, but especially by white South Africans. The founding of African Independent Churches goes back to the nineteenth century. New Independent Churches began to be founded from the nineteen seventies onward. Again, because I took a global perspective I interviewed charismatic Christians who lived in mud huts as well as scientists who were charismatic Christians. My generalizations come from this spectrum of interviews [see Poewe 1994].

[10].The inclusion of sexual intimacy and gender in the book seems to have eclipsed what I considered to be most important, namely, how my past history played into every significant experience and insight. Unfortunately, in my exuberance about new insights gained from immersion in fieldwork, I showed my provincialism in matters that were not a direct part of my fieldwork experiences and about which I should have remained silent. As Newton [1993] reminds her readers, she took me to task for that.

 

[11]. It is important to understand that not all anthropologists give themselves over to experiencing the cultural schema of the other. Clearly, some anthropologists go to the field to test hypotheses, and so forth, that derive from the scientific schema of their discipline. Most of us do both.

[12].The kinds of ethnographies named in each box are mere suggestions. The reader might come up with better ones. This indeterminacy should be seen as part of the positive asset of participant-observation. It is a method that leaves us entirely open to discovery. If we heed doings and happenings in the culture outside, there is always the possibility that “the beautiful premises that are part of the culture within [our] heads” will be questioned and/or give way to new insights [Bohannan 1995:185].

[13].Reciprocal illumination is associated with the work of Joseph François Lafitau (1670-1740) who illuminated the customs and institutions of native Americans in terms of those of ancient Greece, at the same time that he illuminated the customs and institutions of ancient Greece in terms of those of native Americans [Mühlmann 1984:4]. Looking at contemporary material, Tedlock’s “Self/Other dialogue” may be an example of reciprocal illumination [1991: 82].

[14]. Some anthropological texts have already eliminated the concept empathy from their glossary and replaced it by intersubjective meaning and reflexivity. See Schultz and Lavenda [1987:46] where they say, "Recognizing the humanity of one's informants has nothing to do with trying to empathize [sic] with and reproduce their inner psychological states. It is concerned with intersubjective meanings..." Yet, empathy has nothing to do with reproducing someone's psychological state. As well notice their limitation of understanding to "informants" and of "reflexivity" to "thinking about thinking." As if that is all there was to fieldwork and the human being. My fieldwork was certainly never limited to "informants." Why else should I have made such efforts to learn their language and to use quantitative as well as qualitative methods of researching society. Furthermore, we shall see that empathy implies reflection upon the experiences and thoughts of self and other. As for reflexivity, the conjoining of self and other through intersubjective meaning, its limitations are obvious in, for example, South Africa where black and white Christians believe themselves to have arrived at common intersubjective meaning only to discover that there is no agreement between them in action or experience to which the common meaning seemingly referred. [Poewe 1993].

[15]. While I give examples of different kinds of empathy following Lipps, I differ from him in that I move away from the idea that empathy means projection of our feelings into the other. Zweig [1967] continues the use of "projection."

 

[16]. See Cesara [1982] (pseudonym for Poewe). Field experiences and empathy called forth significant memories. Working through these had a great impact on my anthropological world view and theoretics. The potential importance of erotic subjectivity and reflexivity for our epistemology, methods, and theories is most competently discussed in a book edited by Kulick and Willson [1995].

 

[17]. "This dress identifies us immediately. We, the long-dresses, don't get paid well. We don't get good jobs. Men treat us worse."

Astonished I said, "then you are identifying yourselves as a certain type."

"Yes. The dress identifies us as washers and ironers for whites ...There are other jobs. But we don't know them. Therefore we wear this dress. In this way ... Others won't approach us ..."

"Look," said one Herero woman. "Our tradition too goes with wearing this dress. Tradition folds us in, makes us cower, cringe, grovel." They used the word okuriyanga which is reflexive and points simultaneously to an exterior condition and a psychological state.

"Likewise," she continued, "the dress folds us in and narrows our behaviour ... It goes with our life."  And then they talked about how they use the dress to hold one another back.

The important point is that this conversation would not have occurred had their dress not called forth in me a feeling of empathy. It came as a hunch that the dress underlined the above inner life. The Herero-Victorian dress signalled to me, as said, their sense of tortured superiority, incapacity, self-imprisonment, and distinctiveness. It made a powerful statement about a major conflict in Herero character.

18.Some in our profession pretend that a private life in the field is professionally unethical. The fact is, all of us, at home or abroad, have a private life in addition to our work related life. Indeed, many make no distinction. Furthermore, insights gained from people with whom we live our private lives often spill over into work related things and not infrequently this is explicitly acknowledged. No one would be narrow minded enough to call this unethical. Where is the mutually inspiring public-private life in the field different from the public-private dynamic at home? It troubles those who categorically, not experientially, assert that those we study are objects and inferior. Probyn [1993], Hastrup [1992], among many others, including Cesara [1982], have shown otherwise. Like Romantics, postmodernists have quite literally “enthroned the national (or ethnic) community and its utterly individual, national (or ethnic) spirit” [Dooyeweerd 1979:179]. This despite the fact that “under nazism we have experienced what it means when civil-legal freedom and equality are abolished and when a man’s legal status depends upon the community of ‘blood and soil’” [ibid:186]. A full life lived under the dictum of universal human rights does not interfere with respecting the professional ethics of the discipline. In the business of respecting the human rights of people anywhere, we might even include those of the anthropologist. We are not a priesthood! I say this despite the fact that Newton [1993] reprimanded me for my ethical provincialism in the matter of homosexuality.