For curio’s sake – and for its [mild] critique of anthropology – there is this short chapter from Orhan Pamuk’s ‘Museum of Innocence’. You only need to know that the ‘author’ of the text has been deliriously in love with Fusan for years. What is impressive however is the way empirical evidence gets into the novel, a documentation of this obsession. It is even possible to visit the museum and see the butts lovingly displayed.
Following this -giant- boat by ethnography.
The following post is the first in a series of oceanic dispatches from Disorder member Charmaine Chua. She is currently on a 36-day journey on board a 100,000 ton Evergreen container ship starting in Los Angeles, going across the Pacific Ocean and ending in Taipei. Follow her ethnographic adventures with the tag ‘Slow Boat to China’.
“In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates.”
There is uncanny beauty in the monstrous. This, at least, is the feeling that seizes me as I stand under the colossal Ever Cthulu berthed in the Port of Los Angeles. The ship’s hull alone rises eight stories into the air; even from a distance, I am unable to capture its full length or height within a single camera frame. In describing the…
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Was asked for advice on preparation for field research today…
It is always a good question. I think most anthropologists, in preparation for fieldwork, write a fairly critical ethical reflection on what they are about to do, but invariably the actual doing of it throws up things they could not really have anticipated. That in itself is interesting, and good. A kind of dialectic based on preparing for the unexpected. Perhaps this can be called the great philosophical angst and reflection form of the existential conundrum – boiled down to: how can you get yourself ready to be surprised?
Methods courses have always somehow been about this. The anthropologist or sociologist is someone who trains to seek out what they do not know. Most especially, or maybe ideally, to find something that they probably don’t even know they are looking for. How can this even be taught? Maybe it is a philosophical attitude, maybe it requires a certain kind of person, maybe it is always self-deception? We do tend to seek out what fits our understanding, what confirms our view of the world. Yet we also try to recognise that the only reason for doing anything is really to find out if it’s possible to see the world differently that we do now.
My advice is always to stay prepared for what you cannot be prepared for, even if it means disregarding advice… An old book, Kurt Wolff ‘Surrender and Catch’ might be worth a look in this regard.
On the other hand, my position has usually been that anthropologists and sociologists should not be inflicted upon the world. Keep them home – a moratorium on fieldwork for 20 years…