A now dearly departed friend of mine was a living archive of Iroquoian linguistics. The first hour I sat down with him consisted of me asking questions, him reeling references off the top of his head, and my pencil trying desperately to keep up. To one of his suggestions I responded, “I’ve seen that one, but I had a hard time reading it.” To which he replied, “Well, you should have seen it before I rewrote it for her!”
My first semester in graduate school my Linguistic Field Work professor was asked if there was a difference between an informant and a collaborator. His answer, as I remember it—an informant is someone from whom you gather data, a collaborator is someone who really should be listed as a co-author.*
There are two lovably anthropological beats to Man of Steel. The first is a glimpse of knm er 183. A big thanks for pointing that one out goes to my old classmate August Costa.
The second is the absence of fictive kinship.
My impression is that many people read fiction as an escape from their day-to-day. I am not those people. I like to have enough of a non-fictional toehold on a story to be able to judge its verisimilitude. I don’t want to be the reader analog to the millions of people under the impression that the legal system is in any way similar to Law & Order or CSI.
Given my interests and experiences, my toehold criterion seems to leave me with only so many fictional reading options to choose from. But early this spring I came across one short story and one novel fitting it to a T.
A link to Ian Bogost’s recent ten point Twitter microrant (his term!) regarding the world of academic publishing popped up for discussion on CE-L today. Number three especially caught my eye.
In yesterday’s post I discussed my discovery that I have non-ethnographic writing options. In today’s post I touch on the corollary, my discovery that I have non-ethnographic reading options.
What I like in ethnography
My reading of the decade prior to last November consisted almost entirely of anthropological and linguistic literature and of ethnographies and published primary sources when given the choice. During that period I began reading 18th century military journals as sources of data and came to appreciate the way their authors used language, as in the following example from a 1761 journal describing a scene from the area where I spent my youth:
The prospect from some of the Hills pleasant, though not very extensive, occasioned by a circumstance extraordinary enough & perhaps not to be parralled—viz. That go to the highest Mountain you can see yet when on the top of it you see others still higher. This we experienced every Day’s March.
Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Matthew Timothy Bradley.
I began graduate coursework at the Indiana University (not the University of Indiana!) Department of Anthropology in August of 2004. I learned an enormous amount about anthropology while I lived in Bloomington. The majority of that learning ended up taking place outside of anthropology courses. Because I was on IU’s anthropological linguistics track I actually took more courses from within the Department of Linguistics than from within the Department of Anthropology. I never once felt deprived of what I had come to the Midwest for, though. Two of my linguistic’s professors had done more fieldwork than 99% of cultural anthropologists you will meet, and any content I might have missed in the classroom was more than made up for by the time I spent hanging around at my advisor’s wonderful research institute.
Despite the fact that I kept learning more and more quickly during my time in Bloomington—maybe because of it, actually—I started struggling more and more to write. Writing has always been a slow and trying process for me. But as graduate school wore on and then afterwards, the relationship between understanding better and writing worse held true. A movie could be made about the special kind of frustration that is gaining ever more esoteric knowledge in conjunction with loosing the ability to express it. Such a film would be, to paraphrase my friend Jon Marcoux, of interest to tens of people. But I digress.