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Engagement and Critique in Ethnographic Praxis.

The Anthropological Messenger as Seduced


Seducer
Author(s): Klaus-Peter Kpping
Source: Paideuma, Bd. 45 (1999), pp. 209-232
Published by: Frobenius Institute
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40341771 .
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Paideuma45:209-232(1999)

ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS


The Anthropological
Messengeras SeducedSeducer
Klaus-PeterKopping

Experiencing
and free-thinkers
in
In Englandpeoplemakemuchofbecoming
totally
dispassionate
Mill.
do
Stuart
But
but
formulate
moral
sentimoralmatters:
Spencer,
they nothing
different
is required:
foronce,to feel something
different
ments.
Something
altogether
toanalyse
thisafterwards.
Thatmeans,
dear
andtobe ablethoughtfully
other)
(something
intheorignewinner
(Nietzsche
1969:203;
moralist,
mytranslation;
emphasis
experiences
inal).1
or passionateplea in responseto
One couldnoteasilyimaginea morepithystatement,
sinceitsinceptionas empirical
theanthropological
thedilemmabesetting
profession
ofitspractitionof
the
until
with
recently unspokenagreement themajority
study
as introducedby Malinowskithroughthe oxyers about the canonof methodology
is indeeda turning
observation'.
Nietzsche's'revaluation'
moron'participant
upsidedownof theagreedmodernpracticeof doingsciencebyputtingethicsas experience
beforeepistemology.
to putthesepreceptsintopracWhatfieldis betterequippedthananthropology
aim "to graspthenative'spoint
it,fieldworkers
tice,where,as Malinowskiformulated
of view,his relationto life,to realizehis visionof his world"(Malinowski1961:25)
whathe labelled"plungesintothelifeofnatives"(1961:22).In thefirstquarthrough
thenew 'scienceofmankind'was based on themethodological
terofthiscentury,
prithe
Self
which
could
be
called
an
'immersion
of
Otherness
via
of
macy experience
thediscussionaboutethnography
seemsto
In thelastquarterofthecentury
therapy'.
notof data but of writing
about
revolvearoundtheproblemof analysis
others,notofthe method ofbeingwithothers,butmerelyofthe product, the
ofknowledgeacquisitionbecomingexpendable.
process
done
Clifford
of 'thickdescription',
Whiletheinstigator
Geertz,has doubtlessly
hiscritique
theprocessofwriting
thelong-overdue
ethnography,
job ofdeconstructing
to bringtheauthorintothetextseemsto havegoneto theextremesarofall attempts
1

in SachenderMoralmache:
die hochsteNiichternheit
"In EnglandmeintmanWunder,wiefreisinnig
zu fortutmannichtsals seinemoralischen
Empfindungen
Spencer,StuartMill.Aberschliefilich
andereseinmal empfinden
zu konnen
etwasganzanderes:wirklich
m u 1i e r e n. Es erfordert
zu haben,um dies zu analysieren!
und Besonnenheit
hinterher
Also neue innereErlebnisse,meine
wertenMoralisten!"

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Klaus-PeterKopping

210

casticposition,possiblybornfromdespairabouttheimpossibility
of thetask,of defutile.
On
the
other
all
such
far
as
so
hand,he does underclaring
attempts
basically
statetheimportance
oftheself-reflective
stancewhichonlytheencounterin thefield
can generate.The deconstruction
oftextsmustremainvicariousas longas thedeconor otherwise
struction
ofthefield-work
paradigmis nottakenon seriously.
If theethnographic
is
through
enterprise supposedto rangefromparticipation
as I once put
to interpretation,
or fromunderstanding
mediationto communication,
whilethecommunication
itsknowledgeis authenticated
it2- whereby
byparticipation
could potentially
lead to emancipation
of selfand others,thelatternotneedingus to
authenticate
them-, thento establishthestatusofthatkindofknowledgewhichparresearchobtainsmustremainan urgenttask,comingbeforeconsideration
ticipatory
as a moral
of theformwhichthetransmission
of thisknowledgetakesis entertained
and epistemological
question.
blindseerTeiresiaswho after
The anthropologist
mayoftenfeellikethemythical
havingbeen grantedtheboon of changinghis sex,whenrechangedintoa man and
askedhowitfeltto be femalecouldnotrecalltheexperience.Butthentheanthropologistknowsthat"theotherestablishesme in truth:it is onlywiththeotherthatI feel
I am 'myself"(Barthes1990:229);withoutpretending
to 'be the Other'in the Dilis
theanthropologist
mode
of
(Nachempfindung),
theyan
'empathetic
re-experiencing'
morebeholdento theinsightthatthe'me' thathe writesaboutis a selfestablishedas
It is
a compositeafter havingencounteredthe Other, as Self transformed.
of
a diversity
thistransformation
through
processwhichI shallpursuein thefollowing
perspectives.

The Metaphor of Hermes


Over the years,a varietyof different
metaphoriccomparisonshas been appliedby
in orderto conveytheimporto
the
activities
field-work
practitioners
anthropologist's
in thefigutanceas wellas theexistential,
andmoraldialecticinherent
epistemological
re ofthestranger
attiwho as participant
observerhas to shuttlebetweencontrasting
tudesto the Other, betweennearnessand distance,engagement
and detachment,
involvement
and critique,experienceand analysis.Followingprevioussuggestions
(Kopping1985,1989;Crapanzano1987,1992),I shallreferto Hermesin hisfunction
take
as 'messenger'
who straddlestheworldsofgods,humansand thedead. I thereby
b eof
of
from
two
Hermes'
on
the
one
hand
of
the
nature,
cognizance
aspects
bridge
ing with others to writing aboutothers,whileon theotherthroughthe
intimation
of Hermesas seducerI referagainto the double bind,betweenselfand
otherin thefieldas wellas theresearcher's
selfin relationto readers.
2

"vonderTeilnahmeuberdie Mitteilung
zurVermittlung"

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

211

ofsomeofwhatI consider
I shallengagein a polemicand eristicdeconstruction
but I shallnotmaintainthis
excessivestatements
deconstructionism,
by postmodern
as I want
modeofthetrickster's
consistently
throughout,
puckishdelightin subversion
of
the
discussion
the
has
called
to carryon whatGeertz
"hackneyed"
epistemological
as wellas epistemological
statusoffield-work.
Bycirclingtheproblemfromhistorical
as trickster
metaphorremainsthe one of the anthropologist
angles,the overriding
conclusions
and
driven
to
abstruse
literal
throughbodilyexaggeration,
logic
through
as the deceiveddeceiverof Radin and Kerenyi(see Kopping 1985). I intentionally
of Hermeswho notonlysubvertsthroughclumsinessand
makeuse of theambiguity
as
one
who throughapplyingcharm,stealthand cunningbebut
pretendednaivety,
takeHermesas iconfor
the
comesthecreativegeniusof boonsofmankind.I therefore
whothrough
theheraldandmessenger
through
speakingand other
dialogicencounter,
in
a
of
seductive
forms
communication,
engages
processofgainingknowchallenging
in theproductsof
truth
and
'half-truth'
and
translator
while
as
revealing hiding
ledge,
.
communication
As Hermeswas also the inventorof the lyre,the comparisonto the seduction
musicto whichthelistenersuccumbsis impliedin mypleadingfora rethinkthrough
as morethan
ingof themodes- and metaphorsused forthatmode - of field-work
I suggestthattheoftenaggressive
epithetaused forthegainactivity.
'data-gathering'
be
recastin themodeof 'surof
of
information
etc.)
codes,
investigation
(cracking
ing
critics
of
Malinowski's
which
most
word
a
render',
assumedly
'imperialist'
postureconoverlookinhisoeuvrewherehe usesit withoutepistemological
implications
veniently
- in his "Diary"as follows:"I wentto thevillageand I surrendered
artisticalKulturkreis".
of
a
new
to
the
impression
ly
elaborationof 'surrender'as a keyconceptfordoingreThe epistemological
in written
it to a 'catch'(theconceptualizations
work)has been introsearch,relating
ducedbyKurtWolffin severalpublicationssince1976.1 shallrefermoreextensively
to
ithere,in orderto avoidimmediate
on: suffice
to them,further
misunderstandings,
statethattheterm'surrender'
(Hmgebung)does notentaila 'givingup' (whichwould
ratherimpliestheattenofselfand other.Surrender
be Aufgabe)ofselfor a 'merging'
oflovers'
or thatcharacteristic
tivenesswithwhichwe listento musicalperformances,
but
a
to findingof
whichlead notto a losingof self
theserelationships
relationships,
("to love in orderto
it,as expressedin themediaevalconceptof amorut intelligam
of socialscience
in
Wolff's
which
understand"
should,
understanding
byAugustinus)
'intellectual
of
our
foundation
or
be
the
curiosity'(see Wolff
research,accompany,
1976).
icon however
Yet,I do notthinkthatanyone metaphoror one singletrickster
ofthe
the
willsuffice
to figuratively
and multi-faceted
versatile
encompass ambiguities
to
resort
We
have
and
of
of
as praxis living praxis writing. may
enterprise
ethnographic
made a bold and convincing
of suchfigures.GeorgeSteinerhas recently
to a variety
intellectual
of
to
reduce
the
heritage modesofbeingin theworld
European
suggestion

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Klaus-PeterKopping

212

to thefourfold
ofPrometheus/Faust,
ofHamlet,ofDon Quixoteand ofDon
iconicity
conofa narcisstic
shown
to be emanations
Hauser
has
which
Arnold
Juan
previously
sciousness(Hauser 1964),and I have cometo theconclusionthatall fouralso typify
(Kopping1985). I tryherethento extendthefourEuropeanformsof tricksterhood
folddivisionbythefigureofHermeswhosharesa numberoftraitswiththeotherfour
whilelackingsomeof theirs.WhileHermesas criticand interpreter
goes beyondthe
and cunning
the
inventiveness
he
shares
oftheotherfourtricksters,
self-referentiality
ofPrometheus(wholackscharmwhileHermeslackstheother'slibidosciendias well
thecharmofDon
as therebelliousattitude,
beingmorediplomatthanrevolutionary);
the
of
his
out
his
but
desperatesituations);
Juan(lacking desparation, charming way
much
of
the
playednaivetyof Don Quixote (lackinghis delusionsand showingnot
ofHamletseemleastdevelopedwhile
withthevacillations
holyfooltrait).Similarities
in hisbeguilingmusicality
he resemblesthesingerOrpheus.Hermes'maintraitis his
realmsofthe
as itwere,hisabilityto carrymessagesbetweendifferent
multilingualism,
and to be 'persuasive'
travellers,
universe,
beingable to crossboundaries,protecting
As masterof dissimulation,
in hisfunction
as diplomat,psychopompand adjudicator.
He is also the
thief.3
he couldtakeon strangedisguisesand playthepartoftheperfect
masterand guardianof 'secretknowledge'adduced laterto him(as a double of the
Egyptiangod Thot who inventedsciences,writing,numbersand books), and his
charmwas apparently
Aphroditeout ofwhichuniontheherstrongenoughto attract
was
born
also
Brown
1969).
(see
maphrodite

Seduction and Annihilation: Europe's Quest


I hereputmyoptionson Hermesas metaphoric
imageforthefieldworkencounter
of
on
our
othertrickster
throwa different
iconswould certainly
understanding
light
theessenceof ethnographic
work- because of theseductivequalitiesof his dialogic
dispositionand because Europeanhistorystartswiththe metaphorof a seduction
thestoryofEuropaand Zeus,a seductionwhich- accordingto Steiner'spesthrough
- endsin a boundlessstrivsimistic
ofthemodernEuropeanconsciousness
assessment
in utterannihilation.
Whether
whichcan onlyfinditsfulfilment
ingfordestructiveness
the
destructive
search
for
this
Other
is
an
to
overcome
impulanthropology's
attempt
ses whichpermeatereality- whererealityovertakesanthropology
by throwingits
back at it throughusingit to leessentialist
theoretical
conceptof culturaldifference
-, whetheritsendeavourcan be perceivedas an
gitimate
genocideand otheratrocities
3

as approIn thisessayI intentionally


abstainfromcomparingHermesas thiefwithanthropologists
whichhoweverhas
priatorsofindigenousknowledge.Such equationwouldbe an oversimplification
will
beenmadeoffand on alsobyindigenousanthropologists.
aboutre-appropriation
Mycontentions
becomeclearin a latersectionthroughrecourseto themusicalmodeof 'recital'.

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

213

- savetheoccidentalconanswerto theonlyvisionwhichcould- in Steiner'sthinking


theJudaeo-Christian
and theGreco-Roman
sciousnessfromannihilation
by merging
worlds,the unfinishedprojectof the Renaissanceto weld Athensand Jerusalem
has begunto
remainsan open challenge.It is thechallengewhichphilosophy
together,
ofLevinaswho developswhathe himselfcallsan anti-toacceptthroughthewritings
whichrestsnoton theclaim
and anti-Heideggerian
anti-Platonic
talitarian,
philosophy
butin whichtheOtherbecomesas muchofa
forBeingand Subjectas self-fashioned,
focusas does desireand themessianicimpulseofJudaism(Levinas1961).

Anthropology as RedemptiveProcess?
to theSalvationist
entercan contribute
The questionremainswhetheranthropology
of
the
moral
stance
of
ontologiestogether
through
divergent
prise weldingculturally
as a redemptive
process
anthropology
exposingtheSelfto them.Formsofperceiving
Levi-Strauss
wereentertained
gavea negativeanswerwith
bysomeofitspractitioners.
his notionof culturalentropy.
By contrastwe mayinfera morepositiveimagefrom
the metaphorical
of anthropological
of
the
aims
vision
Malinowski's
field-work,
ofwhichhas to myknowledgenotbeen perceived(leastof all,by any
suggestiveness
who stillseem to revelin anti-imperial
of the busydeconstructionists
poundingof
other chests).
relationto redemptive
Thereexistshoweveran originalmetaphorical
processes.
of theWesternPacific",Malinowskirefers
of 1922 to "Argonauts
In hisintroduction
ofkinshiptermsand geneaand censusinformation
of demographic
to thecollecting
the "firmskeletonof
which
become,nevertheless,
logiesas "dead material"(1961:5)
as thefirmfounthetriballife"(1961:11).This,as maybe recalled,he laterdesignates
whereof
of
native
the
charters
dationforthe"constructive
[...]
institutions",
drafting
the
values
not
aware
of
them
are
determined
life
is
whose
those
govby
largely
by
or are unable to formulatethese coherently(Malinowski
erningthe institutions
touchesofnativelife"
1935:137).The secondfeatureto be aimedforis the"intimate
in
touch
withthenatives"
and
"the
to
(Malinowski1961:17), acquire
"being
feeling"
his
this
double
summarizes
(1961:8). He
by contrasting own approach
requirement
work:"[...] we aregivenan excellentskeleton,so to speak,of
withpreviousscientific
butitlacksfleshand blood" (1961:17),and repeating
thetribalconstitution,
emphatof
skeleton
out
soon
the
native
life
fills
of
actual
and
blood
the
full
body
ically:"[....]
ethnoto
the
abstractconstructions"
(1961:18).These are obtainedthroughattention
's breachesofetiquette(1961:8)orthose"imponder ab ilia of actual life"
grapher
of bodycare,food preparation
(1961:18;his emphasis)such as the routineactivities
offamily
and eating,as wellas througha knowledgeofthemeaningofthe"intimacy"
themutualinterlife as opposedto theidealconcept as expressedin "theaffection,
and thelittleantipathies"
(1961:19).
est,thelittlepreferences,

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Klaus-PeterKopping

214

The thirdaim of scientific


as he calls it, is recording"thenative's
field-work,
viewsand opinionsand utterances"
whichmakeup the"spirit"ofnativelifeas wellas
work(1961:22),and,seekingto "convincethoseHere thatone has been
ethnographic
and textualists,
There",claimedas an important
noveltyby some deconstructionists
theresultsin themostconto "formulate
Malinowskiadds a "thirdcommandment":
vincingmanner"(1961:23).Whatthendid Malinowskiend up with:anthropomorphizationofdata or redemption
oftheresearcher?

A Personal Encounter
theirdataor deliberations
to authenticate
It hasbecomecustomary
foranthropologists
to a field-incident,
as exemplified
by theindignantreplyof Levithroughreference
followsuitand
I shalltherefore
Straussto hiscriticGurvitch:"Theyaremywitnesses".
inJapanin 1966,becausetheincidentis one
relateone suchincidentfromfield-work
methodand thus
oftheethnographic
whichfirst
mademe awareoftheprecariousness
led to thepresentmeta-discourse
on participation.
ultimately
When I approachedthe founderof one of the manypost-warso-called"New
Religions"{ShinkoShukyo)in Japan,thelate Mrs. Sayo Kitamuraof OdoruShukyo
Kyo ("Religionof theHeavenlyShining
("DancingReligion")or TenshoKotaiJtngu
Goddess and the Sacred Shrine"),she got rathertiredof myinsistentquestioning
aboutherrelationto thedeity,whichwas assumedto speakthroughhermouthand
residein herbelly,and ofmyinquiring
aboutthestateof "non-ego"(muga)whichfollowerswerebelievedto achievethroughparticipation
in theritual"dance of loosing
one's ego" {muga-no-odori)
. She curtlyadvisedme: "Bakayaro"("you simpleton"or
"stupido")!- "You tryto graspwithyourhead whatyou can onlyachievethrough
yourheart(kokoro).You shouldparticipatein the dance of non-ego"(see Kopping
1967,1968,1994)!
The meaningof Mrs. Kitamura'sadviceseemsclear:she meantme to abandon
in orderto gain
and all formsofratiocination
myquestioning,
observing,
interviewing
or insightbyjoiningin thedanceofherfollowers,
whichwouldhelp
'understanding'
me to reachthestateofemptiness
answer
whichwouldrevealthedivinity
and thereby
all myquestionsthroughexperience.To putit differently,
themessageseemedto be and itwas startling
forme at thattimeand has remainedstartling
untiltoday- thatI
surrender
to theoccasion,leavingmyscholarly
interests
and orientations
and myraaside.
For
I
the
sake
of
the
realized
that
she was
tionality
participatory
requirement,
I
but
also
realized
I
in
that
could
not
to
the
as
Gouldner
occasion
for,
right,
give
put
it once,I had to satisfy
bothrequirements
ofmyprofessional
life,thoseof passionas
well as of reason.Because withoutpassion"manwould be a computer,
but without
reasonhe wouldbe a nakedape".

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

215

Mrs. Kitamurawas rightinsofaras myprofessedbeliefin gainingknowledge


in theactivities,
but besidesobserving
shouldentailimmersion
throughparticipation
I was also comthe
activities
of
and
in
of
self
this
own
others,
process participation,
my
The
world.
latter
to
the
outside
mittedto conveying
requiredme to attain
myinsights
insteadofengagement,
or at leastalways
detachment
distanceinsteadofinvolvement,
and reflectheapplicationofrationalanalysisin orderto gaina horizonofreflexivity,
to do in thelightof a widercontext,be it thatof
tionon whatthegroupwas trying
to social,politicalor
ofmessianicmovements
modernJapanor thatofthecorrelation
in othertimesand otherplaces.
economiccircumstances
by theoriesas
analysis,informed
My initialself-settaskwas fora comparative
outside
on
similar
available
wellas descriptions
Japan.Littlewas
phenomena
already
about*by
formytaskof'writing
a wallofnon-comprehension
I preparedto encounter
like
the
of
the
the
from
'outside'
founder,
who,
group
among practitioners
inquiring
of
believers.
of
their
a
a
to
become
me
wanted
member, part
community

Selected Contexts of the Field Encounter


and
theseveraldozenkeyadministrators
The founderand thegroupmembers(largely
memhundred
as
well
as
several
of
in
town
the
at
missionaries headquarters
Tabuse,
twoweeks,to
forseveraldays,sometimes
or work-duties
berscomingon pilgrimages
and latermanyindividualmembersall overJapanand overseas)
the headquarters,
Thiswas a reliefand
sharein theirexperiences.
werepreparedto letme as 'foreigner'
else
who has triedto do
be
for
anyone
surpriseforme at thesametime as itwould
of personswho
are usuallya category
researchinJapan sinceforeigners
participant
are considered'crazy'or 'odd' {hennagaijin):iftheytryto emulateJapanesewaystoo
closely,
theyeasilybecomea laughingstockas wellas a sourceofembarrassment.
which
had no qualmsaboutmynotionofparticipation
The groupI encountered
who are
in otherresearchareas:Anthropologists
oftencreatesthegreatestdifficulties
cannot
neitherdoctorsor nurses,nordevelopment
agentswithspecializedknowledge,
like
to
of
their
wish
theirpresence,notto speak
or legitimate
participate
easilyjustify
the
'one ofthem'.However,themembersofthisreligiousgroupcouldnotunderstand
aboutthemthroughthetool of rationalinquiry:The onlywayany
reasonforwriting
to conversionand to theexperienceof diwas to be done was as 'testimony'
writing
vineblessingin orderto spreadthetruthoftheirgospel.I, on theotherhand,waswilland sharein theirexperiences,
happyto getawayfromtheoftenonly
ingto participate
butI was notpreso commoninmostfield-work,
vicariouswayof'gazingat otherness'
or even
to
fake
conversion
one
of
of
to thedegree 'becoming
them',
paredto surrender
to giveup myanalytictask.
reachedin theend was forthegroupto accepttheidea of my
The compromise

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Klaus-PeterKopping

216

aboutthemas approximating
theirnotionofconversion
literature
whilegrantwriting
thosewho
as
man'
the
the
freedom
or
of
a
learned
(erai
hito)>
ing
spleen
foreigner
in
the
in
known
for
a
are
writebooks
countryside.
by people
living Japanesesociety
ofa founder
However,beingin close contactwithmanyadherentsat theheadquarter
takenas 'God's truth'forworldsalvation,at a place
of teachingswhichwereliterally
whichwas to be the'futureparadise'{tengoku)on earth,I was also oftenchallenged
in myprivateselfwheninvolvedin questionsoftruthor of 'mybeliefs'.I soon realized thatI could notbringoffa 'neutral'stand,norcould I fakebeliefin theirspecific
anthrotruth:theencounter
led meto rethink
myownbeliefsofwhichmyprofessional
are
an
inseparablepart.
pologicalpursuits

Authentication
While
of theresearcher.
on theissueof theauthenticity
My exampletouchesdirectly
its
to claimthata writtenethnography
it has become customary
gains authenticity
literature
theconcept
in therecentdeconstructionist
to field-work,
throughreference
of fiction'and nottheexistentially
seemsto be devaluedto meanthe'persuasiveness
and morallymorechallenging
trulyentails,the 'being
questionof whatauthenticity
we
trueto oneself.The questionwhichwe oughtto be able to answeris notwhether
are convincing
to a readershipbut whetherour findings
relyon an authentichuman
involvement
with
other
human
and
that
questioncan onlybe assessed
being's
beings,
to good or bad
of
not
attention
to
the
primary
praxis field-work, byreference
through
or to rhetorical
adumbrations.
Whatdoes 'beingtrueto oneselfentail,in genwriting
eralterms,forthe anthropological
Surely,thereaderwillsay,no answer
profession?
can be expectedor givenin detailas onlytheresearchers
could answerthisforthemI
we may
selves. recently
wroteconfidently
on thisas follows:"The onlyauthenticity
in otherwaysof perceiving
claimin thisenterprise
we derivefromour participation
of our
and
not
the
the
tourist
or
thepersuasiveness
from
casual
of
reality,
voyeurism
'fictions'in our world"(Kopping1994:25).I stillmaintainthisposition,but withan
extensionor ratheradditionresulting
whichforcedme to
froma variety
ofinfluences
in my
re-think
thefield-encounter
myposition,influences
rangingfrom're-creating'
to
the
literature
field-work
of
the
culture'
from
adherents,
memory
teaching
'writing
methodsto undergraduates
to
Malinowski'sintroduction
throughrereadingcarefully
to encountering
aboutsimilarproblemsduringcon"Argonauts"
colleaguesthinking
ferences.
in thefieldshowedto me then,
As thereactionto myparticipatory
attempts
and morepronouncedly
did shareto a degreemyownidea
shownow,myinformants
of trueknowledgeto be gainedthroughactionand experience,but we partedat the
pointwhereI insistedon holdingto myownbeliefswhichincludedtheaimofwriting
about themin an analyticway.Nevertheless,
in spiteof disagreements
truedialogic

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

217

I would
of thedifferences
did develop, because
interactions
beingmaintained,
and myself wereindeedmutually
curiousandwilling
think,becausewe informants
of
but also to suspenddisbeliefin thepossibility
notonlyto suspendpre-judgements,
a meetingofthoughtand feeling.

Two Forms of Access to Reality: Knowledge of the Head and the Heart
Littlewas I preparedto encountera culturalsettingwherea splitof two kindsof
knowledgewas takenforgranted,whereknowledgethroughgivingin and surrenwhile
deringto experiencewas consideredthehighestformof realizingfullhumanity
formof living,a formwhichthefounder
was consideredan inferior
all ratiocination
Mrs. Kitamuramade responsibleforthe 'declineof theworld' (usingthe Buddhist
termmappo,thethirdof threeages afterthe deathof Shakyamuni,
beingtheage of
declinebeforetheApocalypse).
WhileI was notpreparedto relinquish
myown pursuitof rationalanalysis,the
of
different
this
with
encounter
concept knowledgemade me aware not onlythat
but
was caughtin thesamebindwhichMrs.Kitamurawas describing,
anthropology
as a praxisin orderto be
was indispensible
thattheclose encounterof participation
levelof gameon a morethanintellectual
or difference
able to detectthe similarity
I
playing.I was challengedin mybeliefthat couldpossiblykeepmypersonalselfsepaorientaself.And I nowbecameawarethattheprofessional
ratefrommyprofessional
tionto writeand be involvedwithanalysisdoes belongto myauthenticity.
ofwhatGouldnercalledthetwo
thusencompassesthecombination
Authenticity
as well as knowledgeas awareness
formsof knowledge,knowledgeas information
see also Kauffmann
1990),where(Gouldner1972:493;fora similarpositionemerging
and enabout
without
mode
cannot
come
reflective
as
selflatter
the
participation
by
does
involve
the
and
gagementwithconcreteothers.This engagement participation
sectionof it,since,as Diamondonce expressedit,
fullSelf,nota compartmentalized
RolandBarthesputit
whenwe talkaboutgeneralizedotherswe aremostinauthentic.
Nietzsche:
veryaptlyby quoting
- whichSchopenhauer
himself
asheexperiences
theother
thatweexperienced
Supposing
a
be calleda unionwithin
moreaccurately
andwhichmight
callscompassion
suffering,
- we shouldhatetheotherwhenhehimself,
likePascal,findshimself
ofsuffering
unity
hateful
1990:174).
(Barthes
thepower
Barthescontinuesthislineofthought:"Now,whatever
In hisowncomment
oflove,thisdoes notoccur:I am moved,anguished,foritis horribleto see thoseone
is
but at the same timeI remaindry,watertight.
loves suffering,
My identification
(1990:57).
imperfect"

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Klaus-PeterKopping

218

thegap betweenexpeThereis no guaranteethatwe can everbridgesuccessfully


rienceand analysisor betweenthetwoformsof existencewhichLevinaslabelledthe
different
attitudesto theworld:eitherwe are givingin to it and are takenoverby it
itto us
and assimilate
(thenwe areexistingin themodeofecstasy),or we appropriate
(thenwe are in the mode of knowledge),but priorto both are formsof enjoyment
is a wayofbeing(Levinas1987:63).But,we mightadd,
(jouissance)and all enjoyment
worlds.Whilewe mayreachan understanding
ourwayofbeingis in different
through
of meaning,we willnot
or by negotiation
reachingout to theOther,by imagination,
thehead-hunter's
be able to changeplaces.Rosaldo'sexampleof understanding
rage
of meaningthroughour own hurtand the accomrefersto the flashof recognition
panying'natural'reactionofrage,butitis 'his' hurtand rage,or in Laura Bohannan's
in a genuinely
words:"The greatertheextentto whichone has livedand participated
thatone
one
realizes
to
which
the
extent
understood
the
culture
and
it, greater
foreign
it"
be
of
couldnot,withoutviolenceto one'spersonalintegrity,
(Bowen1964:291).

Appropriations of Self and Other


I would now statethatonly
witha religiousfounder,
thefield-encounter
Rethinking
as
thisencountercouldI becomeawareofthesecondpole ofmyauthenticity
through
and person:theaimto analyseandwriteorwhatRolandBartheswould
anthropologist
have called 'thepleasureof thetext'.Yet,I could onlygivein to thatby havingfirst
to theanthropolThusbothformsofpraxisbelongcertainly
givenin to theencounter.
or subsequently,
and no matterhow manytextsI readpreviously
ogist'sauthenticity,
to takeplace.The examtheencounterremainstheprimary
sourceforthereflexivity
no laying
ple of the encounteralso makesit clearthatno formof 'text-positivism',
the field
or
after
of
whether
before,during
open all possiblememories influences,
ofJapaneseattitudes
canhelpto elucidatethesourcesofmyinterpretations
encounter,
to knowledge,
which- whilepartialinspiteofall theabovegivencontextual
analysisitprovides
aremyown'map' to makesenseofa plethoraofsingleincidences;whether
a readerwiththesamemap is open to debate.
and
The encounterclarifiedmanyquestionsI had about Japanesereligiosity
fell
into
behavioural
incidences
However,
place.
incomprehensible
manypreviously
in
themeaningofwhatMrs.Kitamurasaid also was informed
bypreviousexperiences
and existential
Moreover,the epistemological
Japan,includingmisunderstandings.
how
startled
became
clear
to
the
task
of
of
my
re-cognition:
anthropology
impossibility
accessto halfa dozenmessianic
could I haveor pretendto havesimilarparticipatory
groups?
ofJapaneseconceptsof knowand interpretations
My above giventranslations
forotherpurposes,likethe
own
are
of
reappropriationsmy
experiences
ledge certainly

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

219

in thelightofinforan essayistic
one athandofpresenting
approach,reappropriations
mationand purposeswhichwerenotat issueat thetimeoftheencounterin thefield
or ofitsfirstanalysis.
vocation(for
also made sense of myanthropological
The encounterultimately
of
made me realizemydifference
thetimebeing),but foremost
throughthe alterity
and forcing
me to explainmymeback uponmyownalterity
the Other, throwing
notonlyto theOther,but also to theSelf(and in
selfto myself,
authenticating
myself
of researchas well as writing).
thissenseof coursealso legitimating
mycontinuation
The encounteritselfis possiblyresponsibleformyquotingofLevinasin thiscontext,
is decisive- here and now - formy agreementwithor critiqueof
but certainly
in fieldMalinowskior othercolleagueswhohaveaddressedtheproblemofotherness
or formyquotingcertainauthorsand not othersin theessay:put
workand writing,
I
own
culturehistoryand myintellectual
read
heritagein thelightof the
my
simply,
is reallyabout,
what
And
that
after
field-encounter.
all,
is,
comparative
anthropology
as wellas fromthe
theSelfas individuallife-history
namelyto re-readand re-interpret
it
for
thus
of
a
collective
(and procritically
personal
re-appropriating
memory,
point
reads
hisfieldidea
a
researcher
who
of
this
an
extension
fessional)purposes.(For
by
Forster'sworksand viceversa,see Rapport1994.)
workthrough
JeanPouillonput the dilemmaveryaptlyas follows:"The notionwe have of
a properanthroofwhatwe are ourselves",and,so he continues,
othersis a function
ideas
and whatwe
of
our
the
comes
about
"prejudiced"
through integration
pology
knowaboutothers.Buthow,he asks,can our "prejudiced"ideas becometrueknowcanbecomeconsciousofthe
thathe (theanthropologist)
ledge:"Thismeansadmitting
thathe canjudgethemand needno longersubmit
whichorienthisthought,
traditions
to themevenifhe stillacceptsthem"(Pouillon1980:37-39).
This does soundlike the adviceof Gadamerthatwhilewe maynot be able to
reflection
overcomeourprejudicesthechanceatleastexists"tofreeourselvesthrough
to
us".4
This
still
leaves
us
unbeknown
fromthatwhichotherwise
open the
oppresses
and self-reflection
(reflexivity)
getsetintomotion?Before
question:howdo reflection
the
not
does
that
to
wayto this,I takea detour
open
self-referentiality
trying prove
in thefieldof artisfamiliar
form
of
of
another
a
discussion
re-appropriation
through
in themusicalmodality.
ticre-creation

Original and Copy: Citation and Re-cital


Whiletheresearchsubjects(partnersof a dialogue)providetheoriginalinformation
induced),theyend up disembodiedin the literalsense of the
(possiblymaieutically
4

"die Reflexionbefreit,indem sie durchschaubarmacht,von dem, was einen undurchschaut


beherrscht"

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220

Klaus-PeterKopping

word,made overintonewbodies in the'bodyof thetext'providingthe'pleasureof


thusloosingcontroland powerin a similarwayas
thetext'to distancedreaderships,
is at leastmitigat's disempowerment
whenwriting,
do researchers
althoughthelatter
ed bythecontrolovertheauthorialshapingoftextsas 'woventhings'(I shalllaterdiscussthepowerofseductiontheinformant
retains).Thisproblemrelatesto the'approin
written
text
to
whichI shallturnnow.
the
of
priation' knowledge
is thatofthetranslato thenotionofappropriation
An issuethatrelatesdirectly
the
zumAusdruck),
tionfromexperienceto expression(Dilthey'svon derErfahrung
be
closer
we
would
that
the
Some
textualists
of
'citation'.
convey impression
problem
to thetruthor wouldgaina moreaccuratepictureoftheOther(or theOtherand the
and diaries
ifwe onlyhad all thefield-notes
in theirinteractions)
Selfoftheresearcher
their'path' (a typicalexamplewiththese
and thuscould re-construct
offield-workers
in
on field-notes
or ratherof meta-discussions
aims is the collectionof field-notes
fuis
clearthata returnto a newtextpositivism
Sanjek1990).It shouldbe abundantly
ofothertexts(foran incisivecritileas everytextis theabsorptionand transformation
Since
see
Kauffmann
these
1990).
Schleiermacher,
interpretation
lines,
tique along
thepresentand
while
the
of a 'text', past,
addressing
alwaysentailstheappropriation
forthepresentaudience's(and interpretThe originalis thusappropriated
thefuture.
to transPouillonputitcogently
er's)relevances.
requirement
bypositingas minimum
to the'languageof
fromthe'languageof departure'"and "intelligibly
late "faithfully
arrival'"(Pouillon1980:38).
and performers
It is forthisreasonthatconductorsof Beethoven'ssymphonies
of Schubert'sLiederarehailedas 'creative'persons,as they're-create'and areinsofar
originaland creativebecausewhiletakingbothsidesintoaccounttheyare appraised
or a Lied shouldsound,whilethe
bythe'taste'of thepresentas to how a symphony
audiencerarelycareswhetherBeethovenor Schubertwouldhaveplayedor sungitin
ofthecopy,theexactreplica,whichis desiredbut
thesameway.It is nottheidentity
calleda 're-cital'.The
of an originalin whatis appropriately
a 'convincing'rendering
(theexamples
reproduction
veryproblemoftheage ofexactmechanicalor electronic
of Disneylandor of Hearst'scollectionmania are the seriousexamples,the ironic
or AndyWarholtheplayfulcombreakingofthisfadin theworksofRoyLichtenstein
mentson it)is thatitleavestheaudienceratherlistless,as a millionRaphaelMadonnas
areknownto be exactlywhattheytryto hide:
or therebuilding
ofMedievaltownships
withoutlifeor 'spirit'.
fakeimitations,
of a piece ofmusicor a dramaticroleby a gifted
each 're-creation'
By contrast,
and possibly'cathartic'in Schiller's
artistis consideredunique,rivetting,
soul-stirring
withthetasteand theimagiin
it
accordance
because
the
sense,
interpreter
'got right'
oftheaudience.Thisexperienceis replicated
nationas wellas thedesire(thefantasy)
timefor
and re-experienced
by anybodywho readsa poemthefirstor thehundredth
whenthe pleasureis not derivedfromthe author's
privatepleasure(or edification),
intentions
but fromtherelevancesthereader,listeneror viewerattachesto theocca-

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

221

that"ethnographers
canno longerclaimthissortoforiginary
sion.Clifford's
statement
because "one writes
or creativerole,fortheymustalwaysreckonwithpredecessors",
in
of
is
utter
in the lightof an
and
nonsense
them",
spite
among,against,through,
in
would
hold
a
framework
see
(it
barely
positivisticenvironment;
interpretative
and artistscould have
Clifford
1990:55).Australian
Aboriginalreligiouspractitioners
perspective.Aboriginesof the Northwestof Western
taughtClifforda different
Australia'touchup' thepaintingson rockswherethe Dreamtimecreatorbeingsleft
is enactedin periodsofsacredtime,duringseathisre-painting
their'imprint':
activity
in truly're-creationaT
sonal'increase'ceremonies,
time,in ordernotonlyto 'rememto effectthe
re-collectthe ancestorcreators),but specifically
ber' (or anamnetically
as a creativeact (repeatingthe
increaseof all species,thusperceiving're-creation'
Dreamingas theCreation).
indeedthepowersoftheorigthepresentperformers
appropriate
Byre-creation
has to encompassan apprehension
and in thissenseeach appropriation
inalcreators,
ofthecreativeoriginalprocess.Each readan understanding
or rathercomprehension,
is an originalexperience:
thatis the
orplayingofmusicor conversation)
ing(orwriting
This also empowerseach readeras lastintertruemessageoftheartofinterpretation.
as does themediator.In my
preterwhiletheauthorloses controlovertheproduction,
theinformant
as wellas thetranslator/mediator-anthropolpresentframeofreference,
to
make
sense of the product.As I triedto show
reader
the
must
empower
ogist
anotherfeaturegetsshortshrift
of
a
the
through explication personalfield-encounter,
in interpretation
is denied:thetransforand re-casting
in appropriation
if'originality'
has to be takenintoaccount,in parinvolvedin an encounter
mationoftheresearcher
his
or personalframeofinterpreting
ticularthechangingofhistheoretical
perspective
I
in
or
what
have
called
critical
and otherculturalarrangements
pre're-appraisal'
effectof research(whichmayworkalso forthe research
viouslythe 'emancipatory'
partner).

A Break-Down of Occidental Confidence?


Geertzspeaks of an
In regardto the Malinowskian'spirit'of gainedinformation,
formoflifebut
not
about
another
claim
to
the
just
speak
ventriloquism:
"ethnographic
to speakfromwithinit" (Geertz1988:145),makingMalinowski's
(meanethnography
of
and
self-transa question self-testing
an "oddlyinwardmatter,
inghis field-work)
and makingof itswritinga formof selfwhich,so concludes
revelation",
formation,
whileformost
"his
of
Malinowski
dramatized
for
self-transcendence",
Geertz,
hopes
fears
of
their
"it
dramatizes
(Geertz1988:22-23).It is difdescendants,
self-deception"
ficultto imaginethatGeertzas advocateof 'thickdescription'hereresortsto such
viewsaboutanthropology's
searchforwhatis humanin us all. An uncharpessimistic

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222

Klaus-PeterKopping

itableexplanation
butas based
wouldbe to see thisremarknotas rhetorical
hyperbole
ofsuspicionwhichmaybe thelogicaloutcomeof
on theworld-view
ofa hermeneutics
definedbyKantand furan attitudeofmisanthropy
(see Kopping1995).As originally
is convincedthathumannature
therdevelopedbyHelmuthPlessner,themisanthrope
oftenfroma feelingoffailure(see Plessner
is governedbyegoismand deceit,resulting
worksofGeertz.Thus
1974:213).Thisis a traitdiscernible
veryearlyon in thewritten
and his informin 1968 he claimedthat"therelationship
betweenan anthropologist
halfseenthrough",
antsrestson a setof partialfictions
havingfirstassertedthatthe
"are notreallythere"
tearswhichmanyanthropologists
see in theeyesof informants
note: " [...]
Evans-Pritchard's
is
which
the
for
(Geertz1968),
original
unacknowledged
an anthropologist
has failedunless,whenhe saysgoodbyeto thenatives,thereis on
bothsidesthesorrowofparting"(Evans-Pritchard
1951:79).
are amiable,
whetherall fieldencounters
We mayquibblewithEvans-Pritchard
hate
and
a
mixture
of
as in manyfieldsituations
theremayhavebeen
love,of greed
and anger,theremayhavebeenmomentsofsuspicionand disgust,and theremayalso
who knowsso much,whowas sucha pestering
be reliefat thepartingofthestranger
ofreward,fameand re-union
and
the
side
on
nuisance,
ethnographer's theexpectation
and
with'civilised'life.But therewillalwaysbe sorrowon bothsidesifengagement
field
forms
of
a
have
occurred
over
(other
anthropological
negotiation
long period
we findthatwhichEvans-Pritchard
workare notunderdiscussionhere).Otherwise,
labelled'competent'ethnographic
work,butifitwas onlywonthrough
physicalproxthetotalhumanbeing",
did not affect"theentirepersonality,
imityand iffield-work
no "deeperlevelofUnderstanding"
willhavebeenreached(Evans-Pritchard
1951:82).
- in conmodern
Geertz
states
that
Twenty
categorically
anthropology
yearslater,
skills
trastto thefounding
and mothersto whomhe grantssuperiorrhetorical
fathers
- has becomethebusinessof "halfreaders
to half-convince
convincedwriterstrying
aboutthe"preoftheirhalfconvictions"
(Geertz1988:139).As clueto theconviction
incident
whichGeertz
valenceof deceit" (to use one of Bailey'srecenttitles)the
to an
whenhe refusedto lendhistypewriter
offers
itself,
reportsabouthisfield-work
the
this
into
Geertz
writer
which
led
to
a
of
the
puts
indigenous
relationship.
break-up
framework
of
deceit:
following
polite
as an
hisdemandto be takenseriously
was,tacitly,
Borrowing[...] myinformant
asserting
thatdemand[...]. We both
intellectual
[...], i.e. a peer;lendingit,I was,tacitly,
granting
knewthattheseagreements
couldbe onlypartial:we arenotreallycolleagues[...] (Geertz
1968).

of social
abouttheemptiness
As Simmelpointedout at thebeginning
of thiscentury
we
infer
esteem
or
devotion
should
not
from
their
observance
(Simmel
courtesy,
any
1950:400).
Earlyinsightto thiseffectcomesfromPascal's treatise"Troisdiscoursesurla
conditiondes grands"of 1560wherehe advisedthatone can requirethatone greetsa

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

223

duke but one cannotrequirethatone holds him in esteem.One could arguewith


on hissidefor
he did notsee the'winks',butmistookcourtesy
Geertzagainsthimself:
have
been
and inferred
of
esteem
base
reason
inconvenience)
(the
may
plain
showing
an
did
for
thattheinformant's
implied equalityhe,Geertz, notbelieve
request courtesy
to be therein thefirstplace,a result ifI mayspeculate- possiblyofthelack of the
whichhe requiresofpresentwriters
ofethnography.
verysameconfidence
While chidingGeertz fortryingto wheedlehis way out of this conundrum
communion'for a case whichis a
throughrecourseto a theoryof 'cross-cultural
or a clash of personalities,
RobertJay
personalmiscommunication
straightforward
couldnot
as
he
admitsin thesamebreaththathe too mismanaged
relations,
personal
and that"anyawarenessI had of particular
remembera singlepersonalinformant,
to me,to others,and to theirownlives,exceptas
as theyrelatedpersonally
individuals
- ofsystems
ofriceagriculture
as dynamofsuchpatterning"
itboreon myperception
because of some
ic of social and economicpower- "slippedby me, or,ifregistered
in myrelationwiththem,gotsetapartintotheseparaterealmofmyprivate
intimacy
whichhe made
thatthefaciledistinction
life"(Jay1969:376).Jayadmitsin retrospect
theformer
betweenrelevanceand responsibility,
in hisearlierfieldwork
beingrelated
or
to
the
latter
the
to thescientific
beingrelegated
'private' 'personal'level,
project,
as actionare
becauserelevanceas knowledgeand responsibility
cannotbe maintained,
and
informant
between
researcher
in
the
intertwined
(Jay
relationship
inextricably
1969:377-378).

Humour, self-irony and surrender to seduction


of the Selfwon
Jay's'confessions'are an exampleof insightabout the limitations
whichbrings
to 'scientific'
butitis theveryattention
after field-work;
anthropology
ofthelack,dimlyfeltin thefield,leadingnowto a new'self-realaboutthisrealisation
theold 'me' and creatinga future'me' withdifferent
orientations,
isation',rejecting
ofbeingin theworld.
thusleadingto a changedmorality
comesin his readingof RousThis is also theconclusionto whichLevi-Strauss
seau's "Confessions":The long relianceof Europeanthoughton the self-fashioning
subCartesian"cogito"cannotestablishtheSelfas a reflexive
objectofthereflecting
in
his
realisation
that
lies
Rousseau's
For
Levi-Strauss,
againstthe
importance
ject.
thediaas a thirdpersonthrough
ofMontaigne theSelfhasto be established
attempt
onlypossiblethroughthepresenceof others,in orderto arriveat
logicinterrogation
therefore
ofRimbaud's"je estun autre".Levi-Strauss
theinsight
agreeswithRousseau
it".5It is
that"whenI hearmusic,I am hearingmyself
in thepronouncement
through
5

addressinGenevaforthe250thanniversary
ofRousseau'sbirth(Levi-Strauss
See Levi-Strauss'
1973).

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224

Klaus-PeterKopping

indicatedthat
fromthisperspective
thatLevi-Strauss,
who had previously
surprising
no particular
viewof theworldshouldbe consideredas superiorand thatanthropologistshave to followRousseau'sadage thatone has "to refuseoneselfin oneselfin
"
orderto acceptoneselfin others (Levi-Strauss
1973:242),does notgetto thepointof
himself
as a "manipulated
but
rather
feels
his
own
being" (Sontag
society
criticising
theirown
criticise
who
those
At
the
same
time
1966:69-81).
anthropologists
chiding
as
customs
the
abstruse
even
in supporting
societywhilebecomingmostconservative
ofthe'good life',then
soon as theyenterthefield.Butifno societyhas theprerogative
is thatvery
at bothendsshouldbe possible.Standingalooffromengagement
criticism
attitudewhich came into prominencewith the notion of Scheler and later of
and itis an attitudethe
classoftheintelligentsia",
Mannheimaboutthe"free-floating
its own preceptsof
to
If
chooses
cannot
afford.
deny
anthropology
anthropologist
ofthe'psychicunityof
in theimpossibility
of disbelief
the suspension
to be
itshouldindeednotbe surprised
thefield-work
mankind'underlying
endeavour,
which
as thatcosmopolitanism
and readers)as untrustworthy
taken(by informants
Rousseauregardedwithgreatsuspicion.We cannotretaintheattitudeofthelimping
The adherentsof the 'writingculture'formof
Oedipus ifwe wantto do field-work.
deconstructioniftakenas majorpursuitof 'culturalstudies'- are feedingintoand
of all re-creative
productions,
relyingon the verynotionof the untrustworthiness
the
with
are
Barnes
as
partialand
they "discouraged
suggested,
maybebecause, J.A.
therefore
in
world"
and
the
real
what
on
of discovering
goes
philosophicaldifficulties
and otherself-contemplating
"theirenergiesto exegesisto theindustry
purdiverting
suits"(Barnes1979:188).
In contrast
to RobertJay'sattitudestandsthatofLaura Bohannanwho during
as follows:"I was one who seemsto be
field-work
realizedher own 'tricksterhood'
whathe is not and who profess[sic!] faithin whathe does not believe" (Bowen
whenshejoinedin thelaughter
1964:290).She achievedthesupremefeatofself-irony
as a
in
face
abouttheanthropologist
a pantomime her
of herinformants
performing
butalso perceivedtheunacceptablesideoftheOtherwhentheylaughedabout
writer,
in whichtragedy
is genuine
a blindmanstumbling
about,stating:"In an environment
an [sic!] frequent,laughteris essentialto sanity"(Bowen 1964:295),and further:
"Thesepeople knowtherealityand laughat it. Such laughterhas littleconcernwith
a littlemad,foritis thelaughunderthe
It is oftenbitterand sometimes
whatis funny.
maskof tragedy,
and also thelaughterthatmaskstears.Theyare thesame" (Bowen
or as she put it: "It is an errorto
1964:297).But she could notsharein thatlaughter,
is to like"(Bowen1964:291).
and to understand
assumethatto knowis to understand
from
the
level
of
Here we are on different
experiencewithotherness,
ground,argued
in togetherness,
Bauman's
use
and
ofbeing-for
(to
terminology)
Heidegger's Zygmunt
Bohannanthusavoidedthepitfall
of one's own writing.
notthedistancing
reflection
once as theattiwhichBaumancharacterized
or condescension
of moralindifference
does not
tude "youarewrong,I am right,[...] thefactthatI bearwithyourotherness

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

225

exonerateyourerror,it onlyprovesmygenerosity"
(Bauman 1992:XXI). Bauman
of theequivalenceof knowledge-protherefore
callsfora dialogicacknowledgement
of the interests
of othersseriously.
ducingdiscourses,whenwe take thislegitimacy
That would be truetoleranceas well as a signof solidarity
(theonlyvalue Bauman
wantsto savefrommodernity's
project).
Bohannanachievesthiskindofinsightthrougha senseoftheanarchicpowerof
and sympathy
forthe
humourwhich,as theartof balancingbetweenself-enjoyment
since Romantimes;or as
has been perceivedas a signof truehumanity
suffering,
mindoftheGermanRomanticMovementof
FriedrichSchlegel,thegreattheoretical
of and createsa feelingfortheinsoluble
the 1820sput it: "Ironycontainssomething
and
the
sametimethenecessity
of competediaat
the
between
impossibility
struggle
logue.Withironyone surpassesone'sself".
or "that
suchas theindignation
("but I was a field-worker"
Anyotherattitude,
of somemembersof theanthropological
is beyondtheboundsof scholarlycivility")
who reactedviolently
againstthechargebySangrenandJarviethatdeconprofession,
sinceFrazer,would have been
struction
was thebest excuseforarmchair-ethnology
of
that
'heaviness'
whichis theveryoppothe
vice
the
Romans
as
gravitas,
regardedby
of
which
of
the
the
siteof
Schlegelagainsaid in unsurpassed
levity
poeticimagination
and theinspi"Behindthecreativeimpulsestandsthebuffoon,
thefollowing:
clarity
rationalforceofpoetryis thedivinebreathofirony,
permeatedbytrulytranscendentalbuffoonery".
whodelightsin hisownpranksand thefaults
ofthetrickster
It is thisbuffoonery
said: "Ifwe had no faultswe wouldnotdeor follyofothers,or as La Rochefoucauld
rive so much pleasurediscoveringthemin others"6(La Rochefoucauld1959:72),
as
whichmakesthe encounterwiththe othera salutaryexperience.The limitations
ofboundariesonlybecomeclearto us whenwe see ourselvesas
wellas thesurpassing
is besetwiththeveryiltheOther.Butfield-work
thirdpartiesthroughencountering
we
arecreative.Therefore,
when
are
in
which
we
Schlegel,
caught,following
liberality
then
do we gainfreedom
to be able to analysewe haveto embracedistance,foronly
towriting,
and
to a task.We havethen,afterall,to revert
fromourundividedattention
sender
of
mesthe
the
of
the
freedom
irreverent
to
the
leads
buffoon,
trickster,
writing
sages,to Hermesas herald.
abouttheattempt
Thereis a veryfineexampleof reflection
byan ethnographer
to
of the monologicdispositionand the temptation
to escape the self-referentiality
on theDjibouti-Dakarexpeditionas follows:
write.MichelLeiriscommented
butwithout
an ounce
witha certain
Intense
assiduousness,
work,towhichI givemyself
have
carnal
of
thanstudy
be possessed
I'd rather
ofpassion.
knowledge
possessed
people,
6

"Si nous n'avionspointde defauts,nous ne prendrions


pas tantde plaisira en remarquerdans les
autres."

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Klaus-Peter
Kopping

226

willnever
rather
thanscientifically
knowallabouther.Forme,abstract
Zarina,
knowledge
be anything
butthesecondbest(Leiris1934:324).
Leiriswas one of the fewwho saw that dangerouspoison whichlies behindthe
thatwhichSusan
oflivedexperience,
demandand theaimto publishan ethnography
implies
Sontaghas calledtherevengeof theintellectupon art,as each interpretation
butalso
is notonlyaggressive
thattheoriginalis notgood enough.Sucha hermeneutic
againsta poison:the
impious:"Fromthestart,writingthisjournal,I have struggled
note:"In theyear
also
a
melancholic
adds
idea of publication"(Leiris1934:215).He
as thepossione legend:thatoftravelling
and had at leastdestroyed
1933 I returned
"
a text,Leiris
When
he
oneself
or
[...]
(1939:202-203).
producedfinally
bility escaping
in order
1
first:
write
met
told
me
when
we
"I
much
what
Genet
it:
like
about
very
says
to be loved' thatseemsto me ofunconditional
(1934:209).
sincerity"
Thus,whilewishingin vainto embracetheresearchsubject,he endsup yearning
to embracethereader:fromtheimpossibleto thepotential.Thisis possiblythesame
the surpassingof anxiety(of
attitudewhichDevereuxsuspectedbehindall writing:
Othernessin theSelf?)throughmethod(i.e. writing).

Letting go
BehindLeirisstandsanotherproblem,thatoftheconstantseductionoftheOtherand
standsat thecross-roads
it,anthropology
bytheOther.As Burridgeonce formulated
of European philosophies,betweenPlatonicEros and Christianlove, betweenthe
"faithin therationally
objective"as antidoteto whathe calls:"[...] theinertialhuman
and interrelatedness"
drifttowarda viewpointbased whollyon the participation
in similarterms:
to it recently
(Burridge1973:12).MichaelJacksonreferred
dilemma.
On onehand
a profound
hadreflected
Myownfield-work
amongtheKuranko
intoa book,a durable
I foundmyself
fora wealth
ofdatawhichI couldconvert
striving
makemyname.ButontheotherhandI feltmyegothreatened
bya
objectwhichmight
andoppressive
bizarrecustoms,
worldofopaquelanguages,
Running
livingconditions.
to thiswillto amassknowledge
wasa profound
desireto giveup andletgo,to
counter
tobe flooded
the
African
ambience
allowmyconsciousness
1989:163).
(Jackson
by
areworthquotingas well.Relyingon GadamJackson'sconclusionsforanthropology
he states:
er'snotionoftheongoingtradition
and itsreflective
appropriation,
andtradiAnanthropology
ofbiography
whichso forthrightly
reflects
upontheinterplay
a different
a primary
datumentails
tionandmakesthepersonality
oftheanthropologist
oftruth
Itis a notion
notionoftruth
thanthattowhicha scientific
aspires.
anthropology
values
and
thanuponmoral,
basedlessuponepistemological
certainties
aesthetic, political
1989:167).
(Jackson

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

227

as wellas intertextually,
embodied
ForJacksonmeaningsare createdintersubjectively
"
he says,"peoplecannotbe reduced
in gesturesas wellas inwords: [...] quitesimply",
to textsanymorethantheycan be reducedto objects"(Jackson1989:184).
The dilemmaappearinghere,thatbetween'givingin' to theOtherand 'givingin'
theprospectofsurrender
to thetext,was clearlyperceivedbyKurtWolffwho offered
and existentialism,
as a synonym
as a methodical
answer,derivedfromphenomenology
of'identificafor"totalexperience"(Wolff1976:22)as followsundertherequirement
tion':
theindividual
identifies
besidessuspen(themainpointoftheattitude,
[...]insurrender
ofeverything,
thetotalinvolvement
andtherisk
thepertinence
sionofreceived
notions,
theindividual
identifies
withit,itsoccasion,
ofbeinghurt):insurrender
moment,
object,
nottheaimofthecatch.Forifitwere
self.Butidenfication
[sic!]is theaimofsurrender,
wouldnot
wouldnotbe cognitive
theaimofthecatch,surrender
love,thesurrenderer
orchange
wouldwanttoidentify,
wanttoknow,
assimilate,
but,bydefinition,
gonative,
wouldbe consummated
as a stateand
theexperience
ofsurrender
insomeother
fashion:
evenas a turning
as an episode- perhaps
remembered
point.Butsincethesurrenderer
so
ofunderstanding,
there
istheloveofthecatch,
wantstoknow,
conceiving,
considering
mustlosehimself
tofindhimself,
nottolose
canbe toldwhathasoccurred,
thatothers
hewouldbe self-destructive
otherwise
1976:23).
(Wolff
himself,
or kowtowing
to
assimilation
would meanidentifying
If it werenot so, if surrender
end
with
oneone
also
whim
of
others,alwaysbeingpolite,
might
up disgusted
every
and castingin a newcontextor conselfwhenleavingthefield.Dialogicappropriation
As an Aboriginesaidto Stanner:
frontation,
impliesthecomingto theforeofconflicts.
Him got road belong himself"(Stanner1979:24).
"Whiteman, him go different.
fortheattaining
ofselfofdifference
is theprecondition
theautonomy
Acknowledging
respect,by not makingthe Other over into the Self or the Self becomingOther.
Dialogue also has to showtheOthernessoftheOtherto thatother,givinghimor her
thestatement
thattheanthroofSelf.Onlyifthisis realizedin engagement,
autonomy
of the comprethe
self
the
detour
of
is "thecomprehension
by
pologicalenterprise
hensionof theother"(withwhichRabinowmodernizesMalinowski'sadage of 1922;
see Rabinow1977:IX)canbe agreeduponwithoutmakingtheOtheronlya tool.With
withwhichI startedtheessay:It may
thiswe mustfinally
agreewithNietzsche'sinsight
be timeto put ethicsbeforeepistemology
(as also pursuedby Levinas).A secondary
ofmessagesmeansthat"itis
translation
the
that
entails
result
insight
epistemological
but the extreme
we
are
not
some
studying,
philosophy
primitive
mysterious
finally
own
and
our
own
ofour
language"(Lienhardt1954:97).
thought
potentialities

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Klaus-PeterKopping

228

Which catch?
The catchof surrender
seemsto me to lie in severalresults.One is theriskwe runby
a
method
of
embracing
gainingknowledgewhichinvolvesthe Self as subjectand
objectat thesametime,and a subjectas thirdpersonwhichcan onlycometo thefore
throughencounterwith concreteothers.It entailsthe risk,as ZygmuntBauman
pointedout,not to be takenas a kindof knowledgecompatiblewiththe 'scientific
community':
down
Thepricea theory
whichsubjects
itself
tothetextofauthentication
paysforpulling
exorthebarrier
theexperimenter
andhisobjects[...] is likely
tobe considered
dividing
bitant
thanwiththesignificance
ofitsresults
morewithcertainty
bya scienceconcerned
(Bauman1976:109).
restson thedesireto reachout personally
withouttheguaranteeofreciParticipation
and
for
ridden
and canthis
reason
the
method
is
withirregularity
procity
endemically
notbe taughtor learned:It certainly
cannotbe requiredof all,forit has to remaina
retainsitsseduchowevercan onlybe achievedifalterity
personaldecision.Surrender
and
this
it
can
retain
if
is
difference.
Seductionis
it
as
tion,
only
permitted
autonomy
therefore
thelife-bloodof thefield-encounter:
to wantto knowtheOther,but never
be able to achievecompleteunion,beingawareofthisdivisiveness
withoutdespondor
which
Nietzsche
warned
as
much
as
about
the adulating
(about
ency self-disgust
attitudeas detrimental
to historical
to
the
retain
as
well
as
studies),
regain Utopiandesirewiththeknowledgethatfulfilment
wouldend theseductiveness
of alterity
which
wouldthenbecome,as Levinasputit,"banalizedand dimmedin a simpleexchangeof
courtesies
whicharesignsoftheinterpersonal",
and I wouldadd,ofimpersonal
'commerce'.That remainsthe challengeof field-work
(forthisview of Levinassee also
Bauman1995:60).
Onlythiswaycan seductionitselfretainitsironicformwhichprovides"a space,
notof desire,but of playand defiance",because,as Baudrillardextendshis explanationof the concept,"thelaw of seductiontakestheformof an uninterrupted
ritual
raisethestakesin a gamethatnever
exchangewhereseducerand seducedconstantly
ends" (Baudrillard1990:21-22). The anthropologist
must surrenderto seduction
whichin thiscase has severalfaces:the seductionof the field(and the imagination
aboutit),of theOther,and of textas well as reader.But thisis also theonlywayby
whichtheethnographer
can maintainUtopianhope: "The togetherness
ofbeing-for
is
cutofthesameblockas hope,[...] butwhatkeepsthehope aliveis precisely
theunfulfilment"
(Bauman1995:69).
The ethnographer
is a Hermeswhohas notbeen calledto receivea message,but
becomespossiblyseductivethroughbeingand remaining
an enigmato thehostcomthe
Other
to
While
the
on moralas well
munity,
seducing
engage.
powerdifferential,
as epistemological
the argument
levels,has oftenbeen describedas insurmountable,

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ENGAGEMENT AND CRITIQUE IN ETHNOGRAPHIC PRAXIS

229

It
imagination.
forgetsthepowerof seductionof theOtheroverthe ethnographer's
is ultimately
also
mustbe added thattheseductionofOthernessin thefield-encounter
desire
to
the
reach
this
ownmaking:hisimagination
one oftheethnographer's
projects
in
Other
reality.
imagined
is movedby twoforcesof seduction:his desireto
The ethnographer,
therefore,
But bothare to a
field-level
as well as thelevelofwriting.
on
the
both
levels,
engage
he is therefore
of
of
his
own
his
desires, system imaginings:
largedegreeprojections
not
desire
which
does
seducedby his own
emergethroughsolipsisticexultimately
Hermesas seducedseducer!
istence.Indeed,a strangemessenger:
aboutthefieldengagement
A finalcatchemergesformefromtheessayofwriting
it is the insightintowhatRolandBarthescalled
in relationto thepraxisof writing:
underthewordpotin(gossip)in his "A Lover'sDiscourse"the "wickedness"of the
it'sabsent,it annuls
third-person
pronoun:"[...] it is thepronounof thenon-person,
butyou.I do
are
never
be
a
referent:
cannot
the
other
For
[sic!]
[...]
me,
you
anything
notwanttheOtherto speakofyou" (Barthes1990:185).
WhileI shouldhavelikedto addressthereadershipas 'you' (evenifunknown,
to the generalizedOther,the colleagueanthropologist.
imagined),I have referred
becomesthegeneralized'they'(see also
Other
of
the
Worse,
myfieldencounter
of all
of thisissue),but thatis theinauthenticity
Favret-Saada'scriticalre-assessment
a discoursewhich,as Barthesalso intimated,
discourseas opposedto liveddialogicity,
leavesme caughtin a cage: "I do notgetout ofthesystem"ofthe"image-repertoire"?
it is theOtherwho makesan appearancewhenwe surYet in dialogicalengagement,
as a moral
pass theSelf.We mayhaveto suspenddisbeliefin theunityofhumankind
of
the
to
if
to
surrender
we
have
even
diversity ontologies.
epistemological
community,
Nothingpreventsus fromthemoral'but'. Onlyone catchis clear:It is not through
but in therealmof Zwischenmenschlichkeit,
thatwe becomeauthentic,
intertextuality
the'interhuman'
interphase.

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