Author: Michael Dunford is currently a PhD Candidate at the School of Culture History and Language. His research asks how how agrarian economies and agrarian ecologies intersect with the politics of ethno-racial difference in mainland Southeast Asia. Prior to his time at ANU, Michael was a social science instructor at the Parami Institute in Yangon, … Continue reading Purity, Danger, and Handwashing
When you think of an expensive outfit, what comes to mind probably won’t be a hazmat diving suit designed to keep your entire body out of contaminated water. For some, however, this is the height of sexual attire, an expression of sexuality. At a time when the logic of free market and consumption has encroached upon every aspect of our lives, any of our private desires and pleasures, kinky or vanilla, normal or perverted, are all deeply embedded as part of contemporary capitalism and are constantly shaped by it.
In many ways, Dungeon Masters are the ethnographers of their own worlds. Granted, we’re not exactly interviewing the people who populate them, and we’re inventing most of the traditions and customs out of the content in our own imaginations. But when it comes to building a narrative about people and their ways-of-being, there isn’t all that much difference between narratives of “a” world and narratives of “the” world. This is something we actually have in common with fiction writers as well. Ethnographies share, to an extent, certain characteristics of novels; such that both the author and the anthropologist are setting out to involve their readers in a particular time and place, with a particular group of people (set up as pseudonymous dramatis personae), all who will hopefully tell us something about ourselves in the end.
I remember when I was a little girl, I was fascinated with war memorials. Stone colossi towering over people, gravely staring into the infinite as if seeing something none living can see. Looking at these selfless men and women who exchanged their mortal lives for the immortality of memory made me wonder why certain people and events are chosen to be remembered, and others – to be forgotten.