(11/21/02 11:38:36 am)
| famous dead folklorists, researchers, anthropologists, etc?|
can you tell me any anecdotes about famous dead folklorists, researchers, anthropologists, archeologists who did intresting good things? I have on my list here, my friend angela (carter) and others, but they are mostly writers, performer/ academicians, like Joe Campbell.
I am wanting to include this in the work I was talking about here recently in writing about stories, how they are gathered, how they portray the cultures from the outside, from the inside, etc.
Thank you for any ideas you have. There are so many ideas afoot, any are welcome.
(11/21/02 11:54:20 am)
You need to get Judith Berman to tell you a Franz Boas story or two.
(11/21/02 4:42:04 pm)
You also might try contacting Ursula LeGuin. Her father was Alfred Kroeber (1876-1960). He wrote the Handbook to Indians of California, and was president of the University of California anthropological museum when Ishi, the last Yahi, lived there.
(11/21/02 10:08:05 pm)
| Lang and Muller|
Well, you know about the feud between Max Muller (who was a prime exponent of the solar hero approach to interpreting mythology), and Andrew Lang (who favored the cultural evolution approach). The feud got so heated at one point that Lang did a reductio ad absurdum on Muller's theories and "proved" that Muller himself was a sun god.
I've also found heartily amusing the fact that the debate between the advocates of ballads as products of individual artists and those who prefer communal composition are referred to as "The Ballad Wars." We folklorists can't merely be satisfied with a mere "disagreement" or even a "controversey" -- no, it's a WAR, darnit!
(11/23/02 10:07:19 pm)
| thank you|
well thank you everyone for these clues. I appreciate it. i wonder if that is the same Boaz I met in the 60's in Chiapas. I will ask Judith, hopefully she will come on soon. I did not know about the feud, or any of the other points you all made. So again, thank you. It enlargens to hear other's minds. I know more about the feuds in psychology which go on ad infinitum and ad nauseum by a handful. Mio Dio, if people only spent half as much time in something other than feuding....I know its tempting to fight --certainly is dramatic and even arousing and sexual in a certain way, but I would rather have real theatre and real sex that just the 'appearance' of such in words-- (grin)
This last definitely comes tongue in cheek
cpe'e evile fairytale twin
(tell me if I am in trouble now....)
(11/25/02 2:49:02 am)
I was at a fund raiser (in the 60s) for Parabola magazine. Invited not for my ability to give money, but because I was pubished in the magazine. It was held at some Very Fancy apartment in New York. (Quite overpowering to a young assistant editor.) The bon ton were invited, along with their checkbooks. And the main attraction was Joseph Campbell who, after canapes and drinks, stood up on a chair and regaled us with an ad lib 3/4 of an hour storytelling on the subject of Giving. He must have retold half a dozen or more tales from around the world on the subject and threw in an exegesis or three. It was a masterful performance.
(11/27/02 8:55:58 pm)
| Boas, Kroeber et al.|
Anthropologists doing "interesting good things." Hmm. Cpe, can you be more specific as to topic or issue?
A folklorist who might be of interest is Barre Toelken; see his famous "Pretty languages of Yellowman," anthologized widely, or "life and Death in the Navajo Coyote tale" (it's late and I'm lazily approximating titles rather than looking them up), which appears in Swann and Krupat ed., RECOVERING THE WORD, an important mulling-over of a particular ethical dilemma.
Regarding the issue of anthropology and "informants" as they are referred to classically, or "consultants" as is the more common usage today, I do want to say something about Boas, who is one of my anthropological heroes. (This may belong in the other thread). The following is rather lengthy but I hope it is more or less to the point.
Franz Boas, who died in the 1940s, was the intellectual and institutional founder of modern American anthropology and an influential figure in American folklore in the first part of the century as well. The modern concepts of culture, cultural bias and cultural relativism come from Boas. His influence is even greater than many people today realize; today's cultural studies, deconstruction and "decolonization" in the academy all have their roots in Boas and collateral intellectual lineages like the sociology of knowledge. One of Boas' most important and enduring insights, I think, was about the way in which the observer's culture conditions how and what s/he perceives. This first appeared in his 1888 or 1889 article called "Alternating Sounds." At that time people who studied "primitive" languages believed that because of the primitive mentality of the speakers, these languages lacked definite sounds like the more evolved (read European) ones. Instead the poor savages wobbled all over the place trying to speak. These wobbles were called "alternating sounds."
Boas' observation was that you could instantly tell the native language (German, Dutch, English, etc.) of the scholar by how he transcribed -- in B's example -- Inuit words, and Boas' insight was that each language *primitive or not* has its own categories of sounds, and speakers inevitably hear other languages through their own categories. For Japanese speakers the difference between r and l is not meaningful (they fall within the same category); for English speakers the difference does convey meaning (they fall into different categories). Thus English speakers hear Japanese speakers "alternate" between r and l, as if they can't manage to stick to either "correct" sound. On the other hand, English speakers can't hear the Japanese distinction between what is transcribed as single vs. double consonants (I've heard this called gemination in Italian, don't know the correct term in Japanese). Boas' insight was later arrived at independently and formalized by the Prague School and comes to us as the modern concept of the phoneme.
But Boas understood that perception through learned categories applies to culture as well, and that if you are not a native of a culture you will inevitably observe it with the same kind of bias as those early linguists and their "alternating sounds." This poses a rather profound methodological problem for anthropologists. Boas believed that only natives of a culture could really express their culture accurately. His solution was really two-fold: first, to recruit cultural natives into his ethnographic/folkloric project (as it turned out, mostly Native Americans, though he also worked with others such as Zora Neal Hurston), and secondly, to collect volume after volume of "texts" *from* natives of the culture -- usually native-language myth and tale texts, but also other kinds of materials -- which in his view expressed "the culture as it appears to the Indian himself." In other words, the solution is to present the native's own voice.
I've talked about this in my article of the same name, in George Stocking's edited volume VOLKSGEIST AS METHOD AND ETHIC. That article is mostly about Boas' work with the most important of the native ethnographers he recruited, George Hunt, with whom Boas worked for some 45 years, paying him by the page to provide accounts of "the culture as it appears to the Indian himself," but I also briefly touch on the achievements of William Jones (part Fox Indian, one of Boas' first doctoral students), Ella Deloria (Oglala Lakota), Archie Phinney (Nez Perce) among others. There's a mistake in there about Phinney, whom I subsequently learned did live to return from Soviet Russia. I also have a biography of George Hunt for a volume that's been languishing in editorial limbo -- his relationship with Boas was complex and difficult to sum up, but there was a great deal of respect and affection. Boas put Hunt's name on the covers of some of his publications and always acknowledged his contribution.
Boas at the turn of the 20th century set an example that subsequent generations of anthropologists have not always followed. I think there has been a history that bringing rigor to anthropological work somehow requires relegating the 'informant" to near-invisibility in publications, and concealing native voices with scholarly terminology and abstraction. What kind of personal relationships off the printed page existed between anthropologist and source, though, I think has always varied from individual to individual and is impossible to generalize about.
There is an anecdote told by Levi-Strauss, who with other French Jewish artists and intellectuals lived in exile in New York during the Nazi years. LS hung out with the surrealist crowd who were discovering "primitive art" and he was greatly impressed by Northwest Coast (Hunt's home) art. He said to Boas, what a great experience it must be to be around these subtle and astonishing artists. Boas replied, "They are Indians like any others." Some have interpreted this as derogatory and evidence of Boas' racism, but Boas was profoundly anti-racist and I am certain that he meant something entirely different. He was trying to bring LS down to earth. He meant that these great artists did not sit around sipping coffee and intellectualizing but were ordinary folks out there fishing for a living, swatting mosquitoes, scratching their armpits and telling the occasional off-color joke. Some years after Hunt's death, Boas wrote someone else at Fort Rupert and said, essentially, "tell me all the gossip, I never hear any gossip any more." His subjects were real people to him and not intellectual abstractions or the liberal academic's icons of oppression and authenticity.
The above-mentioned Stocking volume also has an article about Kroeber (one of Boas' first PhDs) called something like "'The Little History of Pitiful Events,'" in which the author takes Kroeber to task for not having done more to prevent the fate of California Indians (symbolized most visibly by Ishi). I think he may be too hard on Kroeber.
I could go on about the Boasians: there was the brilliant Edward Sapir and his collaborations with a range of Native Americans, including his NATIVE ACCOUNTS OF NOOTKA ETHNOGRAPHY (again, all from memory, please forgive if I've gotten the title wrong). That generation is out of favor and even little known today but I sometimes think they spent more time listening.
Wow, it's late -- I'd better climb off my hobby horse and get to bed. Hope some of this, at least, made sense --
(11/28/02 4:06:29 am)
| More, more|
Judith--please climb back on your hobby horse. That was fascinating. Boas has been a name to me, though I knew little about him. I managed to grab a series of monographs of his that the Springfield, Mass library was dumping when they cleared out their entire anthropology section. (I got most of them for the grand sum of $31.) But to hear your take on Boas and his cohorts is fascinating.