This month, Jodie (00:53) points to what the men didn’t say at the Golden Globes, and the problems of performing allyship. “So if we’re looking at the men at the Golden Globes who appeared to not behave like allies… are you saying we can’t rely on appearances because we can’t see inside to really understand their intentions, or that we should?” One response was Simon’s: “I would work on the old adage, that actions speak louder than… interior states?”
Ian (6:05) asks about using sickness as an ethnographic method, and just how far recreating someone’s physical experience can help you understand their point of view. The topic follows a chat Ian had with friend-of-the-pod Michael Rose, whose research was shaped by the times he got sick in the field: “…he made his body very vulnerable, but he didn’t choose to get sick in those ways. The real question is how much credence we can give to trying to recreate somebody’s physical experience as closely as possible?” One response was Julia’s: “Obviously I could not consume the anti-psychotic drug that a lot of my participants were taking, but I think that there is value in trying to get at that lived experience (of another person), considering that anthropologists are the analytical instruments.”
Next Julia (10:55) asks how we should understand the “gaps” in health or life expectancy between groups, and the politics of placing the blame on structural factors versus individual choices. “A lot of my patient participants are very aware of the dangers in various health behaviours that they pursue. However, they enjoy living in a very present-centred way that is also representative of a quality of life that wouldn’t sit comfortably with clinicians.” One response was Simon’s: “The person who takes a coffee enema and then has to go to hospital because they’ve damaged their bowel, where do we put them in the social contract? Do we say, well it’s your fault, you didn’t listen to medical advice, or do you say, well no, they were making their own choices, they had a particular schema of value in mind, which overrided [sic] a long life as the most important kind of life.”
Simon finishes us off (16:40) with a paean to slow research and slow thinking, which lets ideas shift and adapt: “I think there really is something to be said about a long stewing in one’s intellectual juices, to think about what it is that we can learn from other societies.” On anthropology’s value, Simon adds: “it’s a fairly narrow version of what humans can accomplish, when you say that all there is, is finding the next breakthrough cure in cancer, and building the next combine harvester – I’m not saying that those things aren’t worthy, I think that they are – but I think there’s also something to be said for us studying ourselves, and enriching the ways in which we think about what it is to be people.”
Here’s the article that sparked Jodie’s thinking, “What the men didn’t say”
Mike Rose was inspired by Michael Jackson’s “From Anxiety to Method in Anthropological Fieldwork: An Appraisal of George Devereux’ Enduring Ideas,” which appears in Jackson, Michael (2013) Lifeworlds: Essays in Existential Anthropology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Mike has published a couple of articles on affect and anthropological fieldwork, which can be found at his Academia page. He also has a piece on The Familiar Strange blog, called Inedia with a Grain of Salt.
In Ian’s segment, Simon uses the term “qualia.” Here’s one definition: “The ‘what it is like’ character of mental states. The way it feels to have mental states such as pain, seeing red, smelling a rose, etc.” Chris Eliasmith (2004-05-11). From the online “Dictionary of the Philosophy of Mind” [accessed Jan 21 2018].
Julia refers to Emma Kowal’s ethnography Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia. Berghahn Books, New York, 2015. http://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/KowalTrapped
This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the schools of Culture, History, and Language and Archaeology and Anthropology at Australian National University, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.
Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com
Show notes by Ian Pollock
Image by Ian Pollock: Frodo, Ian’s field dog, contemplates the pleasures of slow research