This week, a translation of an interview between anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro of the Museu Nacional in Brazil, and journalist Alexandra Prado Coelho. "My wish, with the rage that we are all feeling, is to leave this ruin as a memento mori, with the memory of the dead, of the dead things, of the dead peoples, of the dead archives, destroyed in this fire. I would not build in that place. And, above all, I would not attempt to hide, to erase this event, pretending that nothing happened and to try to put there a modern building, a digital museum, an internet museum – I do not doubt that these ideas will come forward. I would like that it remains in ashes, in ruins, only the façade standing, so that all can see and remember. A memorial." With thanks to Thiago Opperman for the translation.
Even as I attempted to (re-)present my research as anthropological, on its journey into the public sphere and a wider audience, it was interpreted and reinterpreted as ‘international relations’. When I was interviewed, I was introduced and thanked as a generic ‘PhD researcher’.
There’s anthropological spirit in investigative journalism that anthropologists could better acknowledge. Regardless of whether it has a anthropology qualification attached or it is embedded in complex cultural theory, it is something that sparks thinking about the ‘other’; the ‘strange’.
I still remember vividly the words of an informant who, when asking him about his vision of a freer Iran, responded adamantly, “we don’t need more freedom, what we need is less corruption”. While such a view is not obviously universally transposable, I think it taps into a certain social current.