As Rama becomes more and more the icon of “virile Hinduism” and the symbol of a new kind of hegemonic, patriarchal, masculinity, so Krishna is held up as the counterpoint: masculine but not man; gendered but fluid; and sexual but not bound by cultural or even biological norms.
Hierarchies persist, which is why factions, such as covens, coalesce in the first place. They emerge from a place of need. A need to counteract isolation, disparate power within disciplines, or the worlds anthropologists inhabit as part of fieldwork, and the worlds that meld and twist as part of the analytical process.
Returning again to the ethnography by Conklin that started my thinking on this issue, the experience of compassionate cannibalism of the Wari spoke to the collective experiences of saying goodbye in a way that is supported culturally and emotionally. This exemplified a place of grief where both individual and collective experience were privileged equally.
Anthropology has long ago dispensed with the notion that there is any ‘one’ truth. But I think most ethnographers still hope that in describing a group, the people within that group still see at least a reflection of themselves; still understand it as describing something that is legible to them.