All posts by Matthew Timothy Bradley

My training is in anthropological linguistics and ethnohistory, and my subject matter expertise is in Native North America, kinship and social organization, and history of anthropology. I blog at The Human Family. Follow @MateoTimateo; circle +MatthewTimothyBradley.

The Empty Tomb and valuing the right questions

The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions. – Claude Lévi-Strauss, ‘The Raw and the Cooked’

Easter is my favorite holiday. It’s pretty much the only holiday I care about, really. A big part of that comes from my discovery during my late 20s that the oldest of the Easter accounts, that found in Mark, ends not with the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus but rather at his empty tomb.

Easter morning

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise.

Mark originally ended not at chapter 16, verse 20, but rather at verse 8:

But when they looked up, [the two women] saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

I know that millions and millions of people understand the story of the first Easter as one of bodily resurrection and as the answer. This was more or less what I understood it to be about for most of my life, and as I never found the resurrection to be a particularly compelling part of Christianity, I also failed to find Easter particularly meaningful. But since learning that at least some of the (proto-)Christians understood the story of the first Easter as the source of a bewildering question rather than of a reassuring answer I have been very much taken with the day.

Matthew Timothy Bradley

Elsie Clews Parsons’ loveshack

That a patrician New Yorker was in an open marriage during the early 20th century is an attention grabber, ergo the title of my post. But that is not even among the half dozen most impressive facts of Elsie Clews Parsons’ life, about which more below.

Last spring I had the opportunity to visit her Gilded Age cottage in Lenox, Massachusetts, where she and her husband Herbert Parsons summered. One of the most enjoyable parts of my afternoon was my walk up to the cabin above the cottage. The cabin was designed for Elsie by her paramour C. Grant LaFarge, one of the architects responsible for the design of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. As I checked out the cabin’s interior, I imagined Elsie sweating through the soupy Southern New England days over the pages she had filled in the desert Southwest.

C. Grant LaFarge

The Lenox, Massachusetts, cabin where Elsie Clews Parsons spent her summers writing up her field notes.

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Linguistics, Anthropological Linguistics, and Linguistic Anthropology

Defining that increasingly rara avis, the anthropological linguist.

The anthropological linguist possess proficiency in linguistic analysis of the sort falling under the umbrella of Basic Linguistic Theory. To put it crudely, s/he can solve problems in phonology, morphology, and syntax.

The anthropological linguist conducts fieldwork in order to collect data in the service of the production of a linguistic description. This has always meant that s/he has an at least decent ear. Nowadays it also implies has some ability to utilize digital audio recording technology and to construct RDBs.

Anthropological linguistics

Anthropological linguists combine a background in hard linguistics with the willingness to undertake fieldwork.

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Friday fun — run-ins with anthropological hoaxes.

There aren’t many things as Upstate-y as the blue and yellow historical markers ornamenting the two-lane roads of the Empire State. One of my favorites is found on the Cherry Valley Turnpike near the Onondaga Reservation. While I knew about the Cardiff Giant through teaching about the scam during my first-ever go-round TAing,1 running across the marker put the hoax squarely on my mental map and made it a lot realer to me.

marker – Cardiff Giant

Ever have a run-in of your own with a famous or not-so-famous anthropological hoax?

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Clothing – 7 Ethnological Studies

Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Matthew Timothy Bradley.

One of the things I want to do during my second go-round guest blogging at Savage Minds is to create a series of how-to posts—what is called “service writing” in the commercial publishing world—about dressing for hot weather fieldwork. Prior to that, though, I want to offer this list of seven of my favorite academic articles about clothing. The list is meant to be fun, as are the photos and the video of mine I have included along with it, none of which are meant to be illustrative of the items discussed in the articles. Please do feel free to mention some of your own favorite clothing-related articles, books, broadcasts, or films in the Comments, as well as to link to any photos or videos of your own. (Seriously! Please do. ☺)

finger weaving

Ceinture fléchée (aka, Assomption sash), on sale in Québec, May 2012.

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Authorship and the writer

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.*

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Fiction and familiarity

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.

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Reading non-ethnographic non-fiction

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.

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Writing non-ethnographic non-fiction

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.

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