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Lecture 3

ANTA02H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Festus Mogae, Renato Rosaldo, Thick Description


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTA02H3
Professor
Bianca Dahl
Lecture
3

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ANTA02: Lecture 3 On Fieldwork, Feelings, & Emotional Force
January 16, 2017
Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage by Renato Rosaldo:
Most basic level anthro who doesn’t understand why this tribe cuts off the head, and then
he finally understands it.
What is the Essay About?
Cultural relativism is difficult, and at times inadequate (wait… WHAT?)
o Problems and challenges of cultural relativism: it is difficult to get outside your
way of thinking and get into others cultural mind set (hard to stop your
ethnocentrism) and its sometimes its inadequate, sometimes doing your best to
understand and get the logic isn’t enough – you need to truly do the experience to
understand it.
Whenever the tribe experienced a lost of a loved one they would go out and kill someone
(response to lost was to go out form a hunting party and find an enemy and then chop
head, by chopping head off their anger would dissipate).
Rosaldo tried to understand the “logic” behind headhunting, to “translate” it in term, but
that didn’t work
o Tried to advance a cultural relative, and whenever he asked the tribe to explain,
the tribe would say that they just had an anger
o Economistic perspective an eye for an eye, he said okay when you lose
someone, you need to kill someone to feel better is to make it even, and the tribe
said no it is not about balance its just about born rage.
o Head hunting was made illegal, the tribe still experienced rage
Only his own experience (his empathy) could translate it viscerally
o the only way he could understand the practice is when he experienced the loss of
his wife (she fell off a cliff); Rosaldo he never understood how rage could operate
before until he experienced that rage as a result of his wife death then he
experienced the urge to chop head off (when talking to the insurance company).
o Only through viscerally experience (in the body, through feeling, he understood
the practice).
Does Rosaldo Ever Really Explain what that Logic or Rationale Actually is?
No he doesn’t, he is not able nor the tribe is to explain it in terms that the rest can
understand; the reason is emotional you feel it or you don’t
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Sometimes we cannot explain things to people on the outside
At times, you have to feel something yourself in order to truly understand it
We should not understood that ever culture has some depth symbolic meaning
Sometimes you cannot explain things through symbolic depth (some psychological
reason) cut off headings is not symbolic or meaningful it is just an act of rage
We shouldn’t assume a symbolic depth to cultural practice
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar
Psychodynamic, Freud romanticized
Chopping off head is not some meaningful or symbolic act its just simply chopping off
heads because of rage
Thick description” – behaviour must be understood, and described, in context
Describing things in the most detailed way in context
One that explains not just the behaviour, but its context as well, such as that behaviour
becomes meaningful to an outsider
Images can be interpreted in different ways, use think descriptions to describe why we
interpret them to be anger (i.e., more detailed reason why we think they are anger)
Example: Ryle’s “wink”
Describe a wink in a basic concept: involuntary muscle movement
There are different types of winks
Depth and Force:
Emotional force if you engage in think description that’s important, but ultimate you
need to take into account the emotional force (how strong is that thing, what does it feel
like, why does it matter).
You must describe thickly, deeply and recognition of emotional force!
Miller used thick description but didn’t include recognition of emotional force
The ethnographer as a “positioned” subject:
It is important in engaging in anthropology research; recognize yourself as the tool as an
ethnographer, we are part of the system we interpret in different ways (we affect the
people we research)
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You have a position we ask you to use the first person in writings b/c you are
recognizing that you don’t know what the person is thinking you try to use thick
descriptions
Anthropologist started writing differently after Rosaldo essay from their own
perspective (writing about mistakes) giving information about their own position
Emic vs. Etic. two ways of describing something (balance between the two):
EMIC
o The insider, subjective view
ETIC
o Outsider’s perspective, not part of system or cultural tribe
“Eclectic book knowledge and a range of life experiences, along with edifying reading and
self-awareness, supposedly vanquish the twin vices of ignorance and insensitivity.”
(Rosaldo, 8)
“I am illustrating the discipline’s methodological caution against the reckless attribution of
one’s own categories and experiences to members of another culture.” (Rosaldo, 10)
Culture as a busy intersection … But it is always also an unstable system, forever
changing:
Instead of thinking of culture as stable meaningful set, at every cultural practice there are
many different roads (ritual, legal, emotional, symbolic)
Cultural isn’t stable system, culture brings together different perspective
Culture is forever changing.
6 Emotions:
Psychologists used to claim only 6 “basic categories” of emotions could be consistently
performed and predicted through facial expression
People are able to analysis complex emotions “happily surprised” “fearfully anger”
Computer can recognize and distinguish different emotions
Quick Re-Cap:
“thick description” is necessary to avoid attributing your own assumptions, feelings,
rationales, etc.
“emotional force” emphasizes that some things matter more emotionally than others
and you can’t always describe this in purely logical terms
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