Monday, February 13, 2006


I’m finally back to the blog after last week’s server problems.

The reading, Chapter 1 from Fieldworking. In answer to Powdermilk’s question, “Why should a contented and satisfied person think of standing outside his or any other society and studying it?,” the writers of the text seem to give us a two-fold answer, which I will paraphrase as (1) To sharpen our observation skills, and (2) To make us better (more tolerant) people.

I’ve been thinking of the question and the answers, and it leads me to more questions. For example, how many writers and scholars are contented and satisfied? I’m happy with my life. But contented? Satisfied? I’m not so sure a writer, a teacher, or a scholar ever really reach that state.

Also, the answers the writers of the text give seem to be based upon a set of values it assumes we should adopt: (1) the value of sharp, detailed observations, and (2) the value of tolerance. Many of us would accept these values, but not necessarily all of us. Furthermore, should we accept anyone’s assumptions without first interrogating them? Not in my view.

I did love this: “it is not always objectivity or detachment that allows us to study culture, our own or that of others. Subjectivity—our inner feelings and belief systems—allow us to uncover some features of culture that are not always apparent” (9).

Sunstein, Bonnie Stone and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater. Fieldworking: Reading and Writing Research. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2002.

Sirc has a nice description of his children's picture book project. I am happy to see the amount of feedback here also:

J. Elkins dives into the grammar issue some more, and also discussed her thesis project. There is a lot of feedback from the class here!

Ty's Daddy has a really fine discussion of empirical research, and has reaaly used it to find a nice model for his own book project:

Bruce has some reflections on Fieldworking too:


Blogger Tysdaddy said...

You wrote:

"Furthermore, should we accept anyone’s assumptions without first interrogating them? Not in my view."

By interrogating, I assume you mean "get to know them." Accepting assumptions is a fairly simply thing; one just says, "Well, if that's how you feel, then I guess that's that." But in order to reach a state of agreement with anyone's assumptions, one must get to know the person at a deeper level and understand their reasoning regarding their assumptions. For example, if I say, "I believe chocolate chip is the far superior flavor of ice cream," then you could say, "Good for you." and leave it at that. You've accepted my assumption as MY assumptions, without necessarily agreeing with it, and we continue to live in peace. But if you want to argue that tutti frutti is the best flavor of ice cream, then we could sit down at Cold Stone, have a bowl of each, and discuss our reasons for our declarative statements. If, when all is said and done, you have seen my point and come to the conclusion that chocolate chip IS the far superior flavor, then we have reached an agreement regarding my assumption, and we've grown closer in the process.

I know my example is radically simple, but applying it in light of our chapter and considering a far more substantial issue, such as racism or prisoner rights or education, and I begin to see what the authors are getting at.

I have had many a disagreement with others over assumptions they've made regarding a myriad of weighty issues. Where some tend to go with the first option and say, "Well, that's your opinion, and your entitled to it," while silently confirming in their mind that I am messed up and just plain wrong, others have chosen to engage in friendly yet sincere badinage, and we've come to understand one another's perspective. While we seldom agree, the basis for a tolerant relationship is there, and we gain a level of respect for one another that is, unfortunately, a rare thing. Only in the context of these kinds of relationships can we honestly "accept anyone's assumptions," with a straight face.

Just my two cents. I hope they were helpful.


6:09 AM  

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