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Is Anthropology Art or Science?

[and Comments and Reply] Author(s): Michael Carrithers, Andrew Barry, Ivan Brady, Clifford Geertz, Roger M. Keesing, Paul A. Roth, Robert A. Rubinstein, Elvi Whittaker Source: Current Anthropology, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Jun., 1990), pp. 263-282 Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Stable URL: . Accessed: 20/10/2011 02:04
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? I990 by The Wenner-GrenFoundation forAnthropologicalResearch. All rightsreservedOOI I-3204/90/3I03-0003$2.50



Number 3, JuneI990

Though the question may seem dated,it is still-to use Taylor's (i985) imagery-part of the greatconversation of our civilization: Can knowledgeof the human world firmfoundation be erectedupon the sort of apparently knowledgeof the naturalworld enjoys? that scientific corner Justnow in our socioculturalanthropologists' the discussionhas grownlively,and forthe momentthe Romantic one: whatanswer seems to be a thoroughly is, ever anthropology it is not a science, and the knowlcreate is in no sense scientific. edge anthropologists and hermeknowledge is interpretive Anthropological neutic ratherthan positive, tentativeratherthan conclusive, relativeto time, place, and authorratherthan Anthropological has knowledge beenthought lack theabsolute universal. to certainty attributed, wrongly, natural-scientific to knowledge. This answer has an august pedigreein the phenomOne consequence thiscomparison beena viewofethnogof has as raphy unreliable ethnographers writers fiction. in enological and Romantic traditionand has been mediand as of But, as ated to the social sciences in generalby such writers thefirst place,thestandard natural-scientific of knowledge whichethnography compared wrongly against is is conceived. The Dilthey,Weber,Schutz, Ricoeur,and Gadamer.The admeasure natural-scientific of knowledge notabsolutecertainty vantageof this view is thatwe can conceive our knowlis butitsusefulness within specific humanpractices. Second, justas edge of otherhumans to be especiallyrich because we, natural-scientific is knowledge founded intersubjective on pattern like our subjects, are humans "suspended in webs of recognition, is ethnographic so in knowledge, though thelatter minerals.But, on significance"ratherthan unthinking case thepatterns patterns humanactionandinteraction. are of All humansarecapable, example, grasping closelyknit for of a the otherhand, if all we know is others'attitudesand seriesofinteractions a narrative in sequence.The anthropological beliefs, and if all we can use to understandtheir atknowledge erected suchevidence on maytherefore regarded be thensuch titudesand beliefsis our attitudesand beliefs, notas absolutebutas reliable within recognizable limits. The ulknowledgemay be as insubstantialas it is rich. timate standard whichethnography be judged the against must is practical of knowledge persons in (I988), Geertz (I988) and Clifford acting a social setting. Two recentwriters, have embraced this possibility and pursued it much MICHAEL is Reader theDepartment Anthropol- farther. in CARRITHERS and of are They conceive thatanthropologists first ogyoftheUniversity Durham(Durham of DHI 3HN, England). on and "writers"theyunderstand the foremost writers, Bornin I945, he was educated Wesleyan at University (B.A., do model of writersof fiction.What anthropologists is i967; M.A., I97I) and at OxfordUniversity(D.Phil., I978). He has personae with more or create for themselves writerly lectured theLondonSchoolofEconomics at Oxford at and and derivesfromthe text and that authority has donefieldwork SriLankaandIndia.His research in interests less authority, arehumansociality, narrative figurative and in thought action, even Anthropologists itselfand its styleofpresentation. and SouthAsia. Among publications TheForest his are Monksof And in consequence the produce new genres(Clifford). SriLanka: An Anthropological Historical and Study(Delhi: Oxpretendto of ford University Press,i983), TheBuddha(Oxford: Oxford Univer- reliability the knowledgeanthropologists (Clifmake is offarless interest than the inventiveness sityPress,i983), "An Alternative Social History theSelf," of in The Category thePerson, of edited M. Carrithers, Collins, by S. ford)or the persuasiveness(Geertz)of theirtexts. andS. Lukes(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,i985),and This line has encounteredserious and, as faras I am "WhyHumansHave Cultures"(Man,in press). The present paper concerned here,decisive opposition(Spenceri989; Roth was submitted final in form xi 89. 6 Geertzand I988, n.d. b). Nevertheless, I989; Carrithers reveal where the problemlies. Geertz (I988: io) Clifford textsostensibly remarkson "the oddityof constructing scientificout of experiencesbroadlybiographical."For NorthAtlanticsocieties scientific knowledgeis thevery yet impersonal, antypeofknowledgeand by definition thropologists'knowledge is based ultimately on perrefers to sonal experience.How is thispossible? Clifford knowledge-its the "dialogic" natureofanthropological character. and intersubjective essentiallyinterpersonal to which we represent Once again: how can knowledge, ourselvesas beingimpersonaland objective,be founded on matter so subjective and mutable as interpersonal The difficulty epistemological-what is the is relations? evidence if it is not sciencharacterof anthropological tific?-but it is also social and political. How are we i. I thankthemembers theDepartment Social Anthropology of of as anthropology a serious activityto ourin Edinburgh, invited to writethisas a MunroeLecture, to represent who me and David Riches and Bob Layton, who encouraged to pub- selves and to those with whom we are engagedifit is so me lish it. nebulous?

Is Anthropology Art or Science?1





Volume 31, Number 3, JuneI990 empirical import is undetermined: we cannot tell unambiguouslywhat the object of what statementsis or who their author might be. Nor could the bulk of ever aspire to trulyscientific status. ethnography Thus, though his ambitions could hardlybe farther fromthose of Geertz and Clifford, Sperbershares with them both the assumption that anthropology must be located with respectto science and a particularundernatureofethnogstandingofscience, ofthe interpretive and of the polar oppositionbetweenthem.Moreraphy, over,he shows in clear and therefore disputabledetail just how he would handle an actual piece of ethnographicevidence. I will argue that the notion of scientificknowledgeunderlying these remarksis erroneous, thattheimpliedoppositionbetween"plain observation" and Evans-Pritchard's is interpretation a false one, that we can therefore take him to have "observed" something like "silent disapproval," that the "inference" could have been made directly the ethnographer, and by can thatsuch evidently statements easilybe interpretive givenuseful empiricalimport.

The Problem
and I suggestthat a different more credibleanswer can we be givento these questions. First, must look at what anthropologists presentas evidence. Second, we must look closely at the benchmarkof scientificknowledge knowledgehas been so often againstwhich ethnographic measured. One writerwho has alreadymade some headway in is (i thisenterprise Sperber 985 ), and I will beginwiththe same sample of anthropologicalevidence as he does, Nuer Evans-Pritchard's Religion(i 956:222): from drawn himself I was presentwhen a Nuer was defending againstsilent disapprovalon the partofhis family sacrifices. had been He and kinsmenofhis frequent thatit was feltthathe was degivento understand love ofmeat. He the stroying herdfrominordinate said thatthiswas not true.... It was all verywell forhis familyto say thathe had destroyed herd, the but he had killed the cattlefortheirsakes. It was "kokeneyiekienke yang," "the ransomoftheirlives with cattle." He repeatedthisphrasemanytimes as one by one he recountedcases ofserioussicknessin on his familyand describedthe ox he had sacrificed each occasion to placate the spiritdeng.

The Bugbear,Science
One part of the problem lies in the received and abbreviatedversion of science that so deeply influences writers.I want firstto suggest many social-scientific thata morerealisticgraspofscience as a humanpractice would inoculateanthropologists againsttheneed to caricatureour own activity way ofcontrast. a view of For by scientific practiceI relychiefly what mightbe called on the "modified sociological realism" of Ziman (I978), Hacking (i982, I983), Taylor (i982), and Harre (I986). Much of this view can be tracedto Polanyi (I958). is The centralintuitionofthesewriters thatscience is a human activity and as such is not so alienatedfrom the worldofhuman practiceas to producean absolutetruth, in absolute facts,or an absolute confidence itself.Their of is simtheory truth not one of correspondence-facts a ply match the way the worldis-but rather pragmatic one thatconsidersthemeasureoftruth be in itsuse. It to is in facta false dichotomybetweenknowledgeand activitythat has createdthe spectreof unconditionaland disembodiedknowledge.As Hacking (i 983: I 3 I) puts it, "The harm comes froma single-minded obsessionwith and at representation thinkingand theory, the expense of intervention and action and experiment." activitiessuch as calculating, Indeed,Hacking regards modelling,structuring, theorizing, speculating,and apas proximating onlypartofwhat scientistsdo. They also measure,scrutinize, notice,manipulate, mix,build,calibrate,make machines work (and, I may add, consult, argue,lecture, publish,and do manyotherconstitutively social thingsas well). Scientistsdo ofcoursemake representations-for example, a table, a graph,a diagram,a set of equations, a verbal description, model-but we a are to thinkof these not as beingtruebut only as being more or less useful. "When thereis a finaltruthof the thenwhat we say is brief, and it is eithertrueor matter,

(pp.I4-I5) Sperber argues


this is about as raw a factualaccount as you will ever works.Yet not a single findin most ethnographic "Silent in statement it expressesa plain observation. disapproval"cannotbe observedbut onlysurmised. thata man "had been givento understand Similarly, a thatit was feltthat . . ." is an inference from variety ofoftenambivalentand complexbehaviors.These inferences likelyto have been made not directly are by the ethnographer, by his informants. resultThe but seis ing description actuallywhat the ethnographer of what he understood what his inforlected from mants told him ofwhat theyunderstood. It is difficult do justice in a shortspace to Sperber's to subtleargument, his basic orientation science and to but to anthropological evidenceis as follows:We can realistically hope fora "factual account," a "plain observation," or a "description" from anthropology, but not froman anthropology that conceives itselfas based in like The would be rather ethnography. real anthropology and cognitive psycholcognitive psychology, forSperber of ogyfalls unambiguouslyinto the category "science." in discipline Ethnography, contrast,is an interpretive that aims at understanding while an(read Verstehen), thropologywould aim at scientificexplanation (read of could beErklaren). The interpretations ethnography come the scientific materialforanthropology onlyifaccommentthat descriptive companiedby "an appropriate clarifiestheirempiricalimport" (i985:32). In the present practiceof ethnography, evihowever,ethnographic dence as presentedis not factual, is not plain obserand vation, is not description.It is interpretation, its


Art 265 Is Anthropology or Science? 2

called forththe otherwise unaccountable reaction of as ethnography fiction. treating as farther well. As HackThe liberationcan be carried ing (i982), Taylor (i982), Ziman (I978), and Roth (I987) argue,this modifiedrealism also entails that thereare formsof evidistinctmodes of reasoningand different disciplines, to different dence appropriateto different and manipulainterventions, kinds of representations, supportthe rejectionofa unitary tions. Such differences (p. I44). A necessarypart of modifiedsociological realism is scientific touchstone of truth, but some particular that therebe different representations some subject, rigour, of some particularcanon of evidence is still approrepresentations that may compete but thatmay also be priate to each discipline. Indeed, we can broaden our just alternatives, each offering some advantagesin ma- perspective,for on this account there is no reason to nipulating matterat hand. It is, moreover, concep- dwell solely upon the natural sciences. Even in the sothe a tion of science that is comfortable with a broaderand cial sciences we may still be concerned with "how prophistorically informedview of scientific change and erly to warrantclaims fromwithin a chosen perspecwithhow claims For my purposesthe effect Hacking's ar- tive" (Roth I989a:5 6I). I am concerned mutability. of gument is to remove the sense of metaphysical ab- are warranted ethnography. in soluteness that we unthinkinglyattach to science throughthe attributionof "truth" to scientificjudgments.And thatis the sense in which Hacking's view is Intersubjective PatternRecognition "modified,"namely,thathe cedes usefulnessand effectiveness to scientificrepresentations without making I want now to introducesome notions used by Ziman them the touchstoneof truth. many formsof naturalscience as (I978) to characterize Finally,modifiedrealismis sociological in thatit rec- reliableknowledge.I recognizethat thereis a dangerin I ognizes that the sorts of knowledgethus producedare this,since when I then applythe ideas to ethnography is in producedby people configured relationto each other might be thoughtto be assertingthat ethnography and flowingwithin a much larger stream of human like, say, botany,full stop. But what I mean to say is events.As Ziman (I978:i125-26) puts it, "the cognitive this: thereis a generaldesignin the practicesdeveloped contentsof science depend fortheirformand integrity by NorthAtlanticsocieties forthe collectivecreationof on the mannerby which this social institutionshapes knowledge, and there are shared human capacities and governs members."Science has a social as well as underlying its that creation,and it so happens that the dean intellectualhistory, new notions of evidence and signand one set ofcapacitieshave so far been best underfor argumentation may arise, old ones may perish,and the stood in regardto the natural sciences. (If, of course, explanation for such events cannot be limited to the some of the confidencethat attaches to the word "scirhetorical impersonal success of their results. No knowledge is ence" were to rub off ethnography through on knowledgesimpliciter, but ratherall knowledgeis rela- suggestion, then that mightin the presentatmosphere tive to a communityof knowers.We need not thinkof be no bad thing.) science as transcending the human world; rather, is it of Ziman's understanding scientificknowledgecomembeddedwithinthe human worldas one ofthe sortsof prises three elements: a communityof knowers,that consensibleto them,and that on thingsthat we do-or have done, fora little while, in which is perceptually some places. which they reach consensus. For the presentI will be and conNow, ifthis generalview ofscience is accepted,thenI concernedwith two elements,the community think its implicationsforthe writingsof Geertz, Clif- sensibility. and Sperberand forthe absolute realistview that The communityis logically constitutedas all those ford, the On theyimplicitly espouse are veryimportant. theirab- who can in principleperceiveand report same natusolutist view scientific evidence and argumenttran- ral phenomena,such as a changein the colouroflitmus scend the socialityand historicity our merelyhuman paper. In this sense all observersare interchangeable, of or world,and measured againstthat standardethnography and, as Ziman stresses, interchangeability equivacannot but seem insecure and trifling. we see that lence of observersis "the foundationstone of all sciYet scientific practicesdo not transcendour human world: ence" (p. 43). To discerntheforceofthisdictumwe have if theyare human activitiesas well, partofhuman history only to ask ourselves how science would differ only and partof what humans do to, and with,each otheras members of the Church of England could observe a Democrats well as to the naturalworld.In thatperspective science change in litmus paper or only registered is moreprovincial, less universal,and less powerful than could detect neutrinos or only Bantu-speakerscould we mighthave thought. Thus one pole in the opposition measure crystal growth. Entry to the communityof between interpretive and scientific knowledge is re- scientificobserversis in principleuniversal,and even moved, and we are liberatedfromthe compulsion to thoughin practiceaccess is limitedby manycontingencompareanthropological knowledgewith an impossibly cies, this "in-principle" universalityguides the selfand rigorousstandard.Only such a compulsion could have understanding routineproceduresof science. false. It is not a matterof representation. When, as in physics, providerepresentations theworld,thereis we of no finaltruth thematter"(p. I45 ). This contrasts of with our usual view of science, which Hacking characterizes thus: "When science became the orthodoxy the modof ernworldwe were able, fora while, to have the fantasy thatthereis one truth whichwe aim. That is [whatwe at took to be] the correct representation the world" of




Volume 3I, Number 3, JuneI990 basis oftheenterprise, conversion consensibleevithe of dence into consensual bodies ofreliableknowledgestill dependsupon a complex and by no means infalliblesocial process. Finally,the abilityto perceivethepattern and the ability to produce the patternare not the same thing:one may not be able to drawthe rose effectively even though one is able to recognizeit. Experienceintervenes well as at the otherend of the process,forone can perceivethe finally elicitedpattern, read themessage,and stillnot be able to do much with it. A consensiblepatternis only one, thoughan essential,partofthelaboriousweavingof scientific knowledge. Ziman's is an intricateargument, but I want to take fromit just one question. Is there anythingin ethnographicpracticethat corresponds intersubjective to pattem recognition?

The universality scientific of is observation prominent in our receivedunderstanding science; its collective of character less so, but of course the principleof interis would mean little if the observationsso changeability made were idiosyncratic hermetically or private.In that sense the whole edificeof science restsupon perceptual the consensibility, abilityofpeople to perceivethingsin common,to agreeupon and to shareperceptions. Moreover,Ziman continues,the "verypossibilityof perceptual consensibility dependsupon a veryordinary faculty, sharedby all human beingsand by manyanimals.Without conscious effort, all have remarkable skill at recwe ognizingpatterns."This "intersubjective pattern recognition," he says, "strikes deeper at the roots of 'logicality' in science than the positivists seem to realize" (pp. 43-44). To illustratehis point Ziman presentsthe following, which he calls a "message," designedto conveythe results of a visual inspectionto otherscientists(p. 44): Deciduous shrub,glabrousor nearlyso, withweak, trailing sub-glaucous,oftenpurple-tinted stems, eitherdecumbentor forming bushes 5o-0oo cm low high,or climbingoverothershrubs, rarely moreerect and reaching2 m. Prickleshooked,all moreor less equal. L'flets2-3 pairs, I-3.5 cm, ovate or ovateelliptic,simply,rarely doublyserrate....

Human Patterns

In makinga pointverysimilarto the one I wish to make here, RaymondFirthpresentswhat can be regarded as just such pattem recognition. During his fieldwork amongTikopia he receivedwordthathis friend, RanPa son of the local chief,was teke, which means gifuri, "unwilling(to do something)"or "angry"or "objecting "What is this strangeplant?" he asks. Nothing other (even violently)"(I985:39): than a species of rose,the common fieldrose ofBritain. When we got to his house we foundhim highly "It does indeed have the characteristics listed above; in agitated.He and I greetedeach otherwith the usual the picture[a line drawingof a rose],however,we perpressingofnoses, as publiclyrecognized but friends, ceive a patternwhich the botanistlearnsto distinguish forhim this was an unusuallyperfunctory gesture, like the face of a friend"(pp. 44-45). and he paid me littleattention. was uttering He brief In Ziman's account, the picture and its messageincoherent statements:"I'm goingoff see". . . to what Sperberwould call its descriptivecomment-are "They said theiraxe should cut first".. . "But was it not simplya verbaland a pictorialrepresentation the of fora dirge, It was fora dance!" Men were trying no! same thing,and theyare certainly two versionsofa not to soothe him down by respectful and to engestures, singlepropositional truth. Rather,the pattern just the is quire the reasonforhis agitation.Tears were streamwhich is not in that sense propositionalat all. pattern, ing down his cheeks,his voice was highand broken, On the otherhand, the descriptionis used to "refer to his bodyquivering fromtime to time. otherremembered visual pattems. How would one definethe adjective'serrate,'exceptto say thatit was 'like My experiencewith colleagues and studentshas been a saw'?" (p. 45) The message helps to place the image in thattheygraspthispassage immediately, withno effort. an "archive" of images. The "message" that Firth offersincludes the phrase The message performs otherfunctions well: it may, "highlyagitated."One effect this partofthe message as of for example, place in the archive other information is to remindus ofotheroccasions on whichwe have met about dates or locations or timeofday orpersonspresent such a pattern, through personal experienceor through or otheridentifying of tags.Indeed,the whole archivecon- representations emotion in conversation, literature, sists in a lacework of images with theirmessages: some film,or even ethnography. Rangifuri's Pa tears,the inofthe archivemightbe propositional, to thinkofthe coherenceof his words,and his generaldemeanourare but laceworkor any of its individualconstituents merelyas distinct,vivid, and discriminablefromother pattems bearingtruthvalues can hardlydo justice to the com- such as, say, "riotous jollity." Moreover,the patternis plexityof its construction and use. This is the sense in not merelyvisual or auditory.Other,constitutively sowhich a logical-positivist view of science is plainly in- cial components-the contrastbetween Pa Rangifuri's adequate. ordinary and this "perfunctory" the soothgreeting one, Moreover, the messages are intersubjective that ing gesturesand enquiries of the othermen-also conin theywork to create the consensibility, sharedper- tributeto the passage's consensibility. the An anthropologist ception,that allows the image to be used as evidence mightofcourse ask first what is for within a collectivity-perhaps better,a lacework-of culturallyspecificin such an event. It is likely,forexpersons. Thereafter, even though consensibilityis the ample, that some of Pa Rangifuri's display of emotion


Is Anthropology or Science? 1267 Art

of was specificto the style and emotional registers the Tikopia. The high,brokenvoice and the tearsdo not,for example,sound veryBritish.It is also likely-and Firth later makes this clear-that the occasion forthe emotion was stronglydeterminedby local conceptions of rights and obligations and by the particular circumlife stances of Pa Rangifuri's in relationto others,and, indeed,somethingofthis dimensionis alreadyinherent in the actions and judgmentsof those surrounding him. Perhapsthe eventsaccompanying Rangifuri's Pa distress followed the cultural grain of Tikopia life in what Schieffelin (I976) has called a "culturalscenario."And it should also be stressedthat some literary skill has gone into presenting pattern. the But neverthelessthe pattern in itself is "intelligible"-the wordused by Firth-and Anglophonereaders do not need the whole social and culturalsettingto get the basic idea. Just Ziman did not requirea theory as of perceptionto make his point that visual patternsare consensible,so Pa Rangifuri's demeanouris consensible without our having to embrace any particularview of how this comes about. We need not subscribe,forexample, to a theoryof "hard-wired" perceptionof emotion to realize that Pa Rangifuri upset. We need not is know the details of Tikopia folk psychologyor of Pa Rangifuri's place in social relationsto graspthe fundamentalsof the pattern. Indeed,thereis something peculiarly pure about our apprehensionof Pa Rangifuri's state: along with the otherTikopia thenpresent, are we about the causes of his condition.Yet with mystified themwe can perceivethatsomething has happenedand the characterof that something. veryroughlyidentify For us now it would be a matterof leisurelycuriosity, thoughforthe Tikopia then it was a matterof pressing to urgency, connectthis consensiblyrecognized pattern with some largerexplanation. I have begunwith this truncated example ofFirthand Pa Rangifuri not because it is absolutelysimple-it is not-but because it is simple relative to the sorts of consensiblepatterns thatethnographers usually use. Often the readeris asked to compass at a glance a pattern several individuals at once. Here is a comprehending passage fromLewis (I980:50) explaininghow the Gnau of Papua New Guinea pass on theirritualknowledge:

tions devoted to that end. The evidence forthis argument consists in the unplanned and purposeless occasions on which the Gnau do pass on such knowledge. These occasions forma consensiblepattern. The relevantpart of the message that goes with the patternmightbe somethinglike "sociable purposelessness" or,better, "hangingaround."It is truethata rainy afternoon say, a college dormitory Connecticutis in, in in manywaysverydifferent from "similaroccasion" in a a men's house up the Sepik, but the sense of similarity that gathers these and the other nameless occasions Lewis mentionsinto one set would be difficult miss. I to suppose that part of the consensibility lies in the contrast with that "social activity" or "doing something together"that is so characteristic us as a species. It of even seems likelythat"havinga purpose,"and therefore its opposite,are fundamental onlyto the human but not perhapsalso to otherspecies. But howeverthatmay be, the image that bears Lewis's argument socially comis plex, comprehending numberof individualstaken toa gether, and yet immediatelygraspable. Some of the most compelling,and yet complex,consensible patternsused by ethnographers those that are add a further level of complexity,namely, temporal change and movement,to a situationsharedby a number of people. In the following passage Lienhardt what counts forthe Dinka as the most significant part of a sacrifice.He begins by pointingout that during a sacrificethe Dinka invoke divinities over and over again: This rhythmical repetition particular of sets ofwords and ideas, spokenfirst singlythenin unison,gradually has an effect which may be observedby anyone a attending sacrifice comes to be felt and, moreover, by the foreign observer himself.At the beginning of such a ceremony thereis usually a lot ofchatter and disorder. People come and go, greeteach other.... It is commonforthose officiating tryto call people to to some order.... As the invocationsincreasein tempo,however,the littleburstsofincisive speech by the invokerand his chorusdrawthe congregation more and moretowards the centralaction.... As the invocationsproceed, of the repeaters the invocationsworktogether more smoothlyin rhythmical speech,and a collectiveconcentration upon the main themeand purposeofthe becomes apparent. gathering This concentration attention a singleaction of on ends when the sacrificial victimis thrownand killed....
(i 96i:233)

describes sucha movement order reveal in to

WhenI questionedpeople about how theyhad learnedor failedto learnabout something, exfor or ample,a myth, genealogies,or the meaningof some ritualaction,theysometimesmentionedindividuals who told them ... or theysaid it was the sort ofthingmen used to talk about in the eveningin the [men'shouse] when theywere lyingon theirbeds beforegoingoff sleep, or on rainydayswhen they to In hungaroundby the fireside. similarcircumstances, The assertiontowardswhich Lienhardt leads us is that I althoughrarely, have heardmen by some chance get and thekillingofthevictimis the centralact ofsacrifice roundto a mythand tell it, or go into some explanais so consideredby the Dinka. The evidencehe adduces torypoint about the meaningofa rite. forthis consistsin a pattern which can be grasped hardly The point of Lewis's exposition,in otherwords,is that less immediately than Lewis's "hanging around," the Gnau do not systematicallyand purposefully go thoughit is a patternthat develops over a considerable about passing on such knowledgeand have no institu- time. Part of the accompanying message mightbe "col-




Volume 3I, Number 3, JuneI990

lective concentrationand release," which suggests a family resemblance to many other such occasions less throughout world.Lienhardtconveysa slightly the abstractmessage with more art by using such words as ''congregation,"evocative of assemblies with a quite specificcultural provenance.Other comparisonscould usefullybe made, and indeed one such comparisonaptag, pearsin the chiefidentifying "sacrifice."Yet thereis no reason to believe eitherthat these messages or any should exhaust the posother,eithersinglyor together, sibilities forcomparison.The patternitselfis consensible apartfromany particularmessages that mightbe associated with it. The Dinka sacrificeraises a number of issues that in were not so easily distinguishable the earlierexamples. In the firstplace, as Robert Layton has recently reminded and as I can richly me attest, fieldwork usually in and beginsforthe ethnographer a welterofconfusion Even the most elementarymatters, incomprehension. such as when a ceremony beginsor even ifit is goingon, are farfromobvious. It therefore seems quite conceivto able that Lienhardtwould not have been able at first appreciatefullythe patternin what he was watching. The idea of consensibilitydoes not, however,require that patternsbe immediatelyand easily elicited. The only requisiteis that once patternsare elicited theybe intersubjectively intelligible. It mightalso be suggestedthat Lienhardt'sveryartfulness militates against reliable consensibility.But once again thenotionofconsensibility does not preclude in care and workmanship the representation patterns. of A line drawingof a fieldrose is artfully made, but such is far or beingsuperfluous deceitful, craftsmanship, from an absolute requirement the archiveof botany. for thisit followsthatintersubjective from patMoreover, caternsneed not be conceived as having one correct, nonical form. That theremay be otherand verydifferent some matter-a rose,a sacrificeways of representing does not invalidate the consensibility the evidential or A character a patternas represented. new dimension of of the matterat hand can be exploredby devisinga new a representarepresentation without rendering former tion erroneous.Indeed,forthe same reason the message the need not be regarded single, as accompanying pattern simple,or closed: as we learnmoreabout Dinka or about otherways oflifewe may want to drawout otherentailments of the Dinka sacrificeby using new messages. Finally,thereis no reasonto believe thatthe consensiexhibited ethnographers by comprisesa bilityofpatterns lexicon of patterns.Here once again, the analogy with natural-scientific patternrecognitionis useful: we do not supposethatwe would failto learnand recognizethe formsof even an indefinitely large spectrum of rose from species, even if each were only slightlydifferent the fieldrose. Whateverit is that allows us to see patdictionaryof images to terns,it is not a foreordained which the world conforms.And so, analogously, we need not assume that there is only a limited or specifiablenumberofpatterns be foundin human life(see to Hofstadter I986).

as displayed the mostcomplex patterns Indeed, their at whilebeing are by evidence anthropologists oneswhich, uniqueand are and consensible intelligible, nevertheless the patterns, unfoldThesearenarrative irreproducible. thanthe and evenmoreintricate elaborate ingofevents Dinka sacrifice sketched Lienhardt. as by conventional into develops justsuch account Pa Rangifuri of Firth's Firth was shownby theothers elaboration. a narrative withtheappropriby howto takePa Rangifuri thewrist to and atedecorum leadhimbacktohisfather apologize. there (I985:40) goeson from He didso, andthestory then outburst The background his [Pa Rangifuri's] to the before chief]. becameclearto us [allthosepresent son Myfriend's hadbeenlostat sea somemonths to before I knew)andhe hadwanted makeprepa(as rite.... Butwhen mortuary for rations a celebratory to he hadgoneto askhisfather an axe to begin for for cutdowntrees makebarkcloth thegraveto had and clothes old chief temporized, he had the himself him, his was thought father refusing so threw in he later, private, outofthehouse.(Asit emerged by hadputthisdownto manipulations hisbrothers a of whomhe hadsuspected wanting dancefestival their drain the ritual, making so toprecede mourning His now on family resources priority.) father extake for the thathe hadnotrefused request the plained and else he axe,that hadhad something on hismind, to if that his sonhadonlywaited, permission go wouldhavebeen aheadwiththefuneral preparations over, the this, axe was handed to given him.After rites andthewayto thefuneral was nowopen. of the Let me first separate workmanship representaitself. Thereare the tionin thispassagefrom pattern "barkcloth," someterms-"celebratory rite," mortuary "mourning ritual,""dance festival," "graveclothes," "funeral rites"-that must be supposedto indicate and thatarenot,howpractices, articles Tikopiawords, in The lies further specified. craft partly theelegant ever, in so in variation prized English prose, partly expository in whatis suggested English "funeral," "mortuary," by contrast beand "mourning," also in a suggested but a and rites." thisconBy tween "dancefestival" "funeral between such trast Firth hints that strong the opposition felt activities in words likewise is conveyed theEnglish the to among Tikopiaand was important Pa Rangifuri. of sensewe neednotknowtheactualcontents So in that a "dance festival" "funeral or rites,"fortheirsignifiAn canceis provided the flowofevents. analogous by In of "chief." thecourse the couldbe madefor argument the passagewe learnthatthe son "requested" axe of and him,thathe had not "refused," thathis "permisall even sion"was required. From thiswe understand, if their relevant littleaboutTikopiachiefs, we knowvery in of and characteristicthisseries actions reactions-the to permission. ability giveorwithhold our that It might asked, be whatwarrants confidence
these elliptical suggestions are elsewhere elaborated?


Is Anthropology or Science? 2 Art 269

Just this: in ethnographies practiceis to connectany nizable, and I thinkthis passage meets that criterion the as one piece of evidence with many othersin such a way well as the earlierones. Yet it is just too complexforits that the language of representation gains clarity and comprehension be taken forgranted. to Visual intersubspecificity over a whole ethnography. the cases of jective patternrecognitionis foundedupon a capacity In Lewis and Lienhardtabove, forexample, the evidence common to all humans,even thoughthe capacitymust presentedand the language in which it is couched de- be activatedor supported formed training expeor by and pend not only on the cited example but on a weaving rience.Is therean analogous capacityforcomprehending together many cognatepatterns of with theirmessages. a flow of human events? The same is trueforFirth:in his writing Tikopia as a on Fromthe answerto thisquestionwill arise the answer whole there are plentifulillustrationsof the detailed to a second, equally pressingone: What do we underof specificity a Tikopia "chief," a Tikopia "dance fes- standwhen we graspa pattern such as this?Is it simplya tival," a Tikopia "funeral."(Forthe incidentof Pa Ran- trueand accurate recordof events,or somethingelse? see esp. Firth I956:60-74.) Whereas Geertz has gifuri, I do indeed thinkthatthereis a generalhuman capacarguedthat we believe in the ethnography because we ityforcomprehending flowofevents.It could be called a believe that the ethnographer was there,in factwe be- the "narrative mode ofunderstanding" (Bruner I986; see lieve that the ethnographer was there because of the also Ricoeur I983) or narrativity (Carrithers a, I989, n.d. dense and interwovenspecificityof the ethnography n.d. b). The basic argument is as follows: Humans (Carrithers I988). understandcharacters,which embodythe understandStill, it is perhapsnot immediatelyclear whereinthe ing ofrights, obligations, expectations, propensities, and pattern consists.The passage is so compactand allusive, intentionsin oneself and many different others, and full of changes of tense and viewpointand of reactions plots,which show the consequencesand evaluationsofa by one person to another's attitude,that we mightbe multifarious flowofactions amongcharacters. Narrativtemptedto call it unspecifiable.But I thinkwe can do ity,that is, consists not merelyof tellingstoriesbut of betterthan that. understandingcomplex nets of ever-new deeds and We can begin by unpacking the passage chronologi- changing attitudes.Anotherway to put thiswould be to cally. First, immediateeventsofthe quarreland rec- say that human beings perceive any current action the onciliation are set in a largerflow of events,having a within a large temporalenvelope, and within that enscale ofmonthsrather thanminutesor hours.That flow velope theyperceive any given action not only as a reconsistsin Pa Rangifuri's loss ofhis son and consequent sponse to the immediate circumstancesor current imgrief.Through this we understandsomethingof the puted mental state of an interlocutor of oneselfbut or more enduringpredicament, and therefore story.(I owe this latterfordisposition, also as part of an unfolding of Pa Rangifuri, that dispositionin turnrenders and the mulation to Paul Harris.) This capacity is most richly action in the foreground more easily comprehensible. attestedin human speech and storytelling, it is not but thereis a larger Moreover, setting linguisticabilities. yet,one measuredin reducibleto languageor to narrowly decades and generations,in which the old chief took I thinkit essentialthatcharacter narrativity conin be office, had sons who rivalledeach other,and so forth, both inin ceived verybroadly,since it must comprehend the characteristic ways of Tikopia at that time. This dividualsas havingstatusesand roles-that is, as standlargerframeis usually presentedby anthropologists in ing in a prescribed relation to one another-and the form normsor the schemes ofsocial organization, individuals as having idiosyncratichistories,propenof but to do so theyalmost always relyon materialwith a sities, and relations. On the one hand, there must be greatdeal ofnarrative such as legendsormyths, some room forabstraction, thatpeople can be underso content, to connecta narrated on with past with occurrences therecent stood as actinggenerally, a first approximation, of past and present.Even evidenceofthis scale can assume a specificset of obligationsand rights, forexample,a as, a narrative chiefor a father acts with obligationsand rights pattern. toward In the foreground, the shortesttime scale, thereis subordinatesor sons. On the other hand, the particuon the immediateflowofeventsin which actions and reac- larityof one personrather than another, Pa Rangifuri of tions are closelylinked.Pa Rangifuri must also be grasped.We must asked his father for ratherthan his father, an axe, his father he temporized, reactedbadly because understandnot just the type of the Tikopia chief,for of griefand because he suspected his brothers'opposi- example, but also his individual propensities: meland relationscalmed him and arranged lowness or irascibility, tion,his friends or and so generosity stinginess, foran apology,the apologywas made, and he was even- forth.Whetheror not the Westernnotion of an inditually given the axe. This is the pattern, createdby ac- viduated personalityreally grew out of a much earlier tions and immediatereactions,each one leading to the sense ofpeople as personaeor typesas Mauss suggested next,flowing together with compellingemotionallogic. (see Carrithers,Collins, and Lukes I985), narrativity must comprehend both of those possibilitiesand many othersas well. Narrativity But characters with theirrelationships also set in a are flowof events,a plot,with its sense ofplans, situations, The chiefrequirement have so farimposed upon such acts, and consequences. Plots embodywhat a character I human patternsis that theybe intersubjectively did recog- or characters to or about or with some othercharac-



Volume Number June I990 31, 3,

an understanding that grew more explicit as the affair moved towardresolution. Narrativity presupposes,in otherwords,a thoroughly intersubjectiveaccount of emotions, intentions,attior tudes,and motives,not a cognitivist methodologicalindividualistone. I make this point because so many, and includingan illustriouscompanyof anthropologists social theorists (see, e.g., Evans-PritchardI95I:46; Nadel I954:I08; Lukes I973:II7; RothI989a; butalso intentions, emosee Carrithers 1980, 1990), have treated tions, attitudes,and motives as essentiallyunaccountable or irrelevant. They have perhapsdone so in reaction to our academic folk psychology(based on our philosophical folk psychology),which has deemed it reasonable to considerpeople quite apartfromtheirsocial setting. But, as Bennett(I976) has shown, even the simplest entails mutual atand most routineact of conversation tributionsof attitudes and motives of a powerfuland for elaborate sort. The only requirement such "mindreading"(see Whitenn.d.) is that it work to make conversationspossible. Dennett (i987) has shown how pervasive in human life and how serviceable is the "intentionalstance," the understanding eventsby atof tributing motives, purposes, and plans to agents. The is yardstick againstwhich such attribution to be judged is not omniscience but relative success. And similarly of the attributions motive and attitudethat appear in for narration need only be adequate to account usefully to the streamofaction and reaction.Indeed,it is difficult could go beyondwhat is resee how such attributions vealed in the streamof action. We cannot seek an absolutely correct,unequivocal, "scientific"understanding for of such mental states apart frominteraction, it is thatgives them sense and makes them only interaction available to consensiblerepresentation. This argumentcan be very slightlyexpanded to answerthe second question: is thispattern Pa Rangifuri of as recountedby Firthan accurate recordof events,or it else? Well, it must be something else, for is something accurate.Rather, is a it not simplyand straightforwardly an but synthesis, artefact, one producedundera particular constraint:it had to set out in a perspicuousorder those events and attributions adequate to produce an act accountofwhat made participants and what the confor sequences ofthose acts were.The criterion including any detail was just that it contributeto showinghow one thing led to another.As a synthesisit is no less "created" than Leinhardt'saccount ofDinka sacrifice or the drawingof the fieldrose. The negativeside ofsuch a synthesis thatthereis no is guaranteewhatsoeverthat all possible relevantdetails were included or that all relevantviewpointswere considered.Perhaps the old chiefhad a much deeperplan overanother, thananyonerealized,or therewas conflict unmentionedmatterthat had been simmering. Perhaps the Firthhimselfwas unwittingly vessel of a pervasive and disruptive colonial influence.There are myriad possibilities,and no account ofhuman eventscan be wholly proofagainst such rude surprises.

ter or characters, what reasons, and what followed for from can that.Indeed,characters no morebe understood in isolation fromthe plots in which theyare enmeshed than plots can exist without the characters who populate them.And in particular characters plots can the and so ripenover a lifetime, that,forexample,a much eartransition beinga father a to or lier,or a still anticipated, chiefor whatevercan be understoodas bearingon present action (see Carrithers n.d. b). There may be many ways other than by narrativeto understandsocial organization in the abstract: figurative language can be used, or graphicillustrations. to understand relaBut the tion to oneselfand to each otherof the various charactersin theircontinuing mutual engagements calls fora morepowerful capacity,one thatcan accountforevents in the distantpast and connect them with the present and future. To comprehend plot is therefore have some notion a to ofthe temporaldimensionofsocial complexity, it is and the temporaldimension that I take to be crucial. Humans cognize not so much thoughtsand situationsas of the metamorphosis thoughts and situationsin a flow of action. The consequence of this intricateability to understand people in action is human sociality,a sociality remarkableeven among our social primatecousins and one enablingus to fashionand refashion social arof rangements unendingcomplexity, variety, instruand mental effectiveness. I thinkit important stressthatthe apprehension to of in othersthatis predicated narrativity not an absolute, is impersonal, and unqualified Cartesian knowledge, as thoughan X-rayof someone's graycells. It is ratheran that arises only withinthe give-and-take understanding of sharedlife,and so is qualifiedby time,place, persons present,and the flow of events and relations within which those persons are immersed.It was not Pa Ranstate of being teke,its psychologicaldescription gifuri's and its physiologicalmanifestations, thatconcernedthe theirexplanationbut the signifiTikopia or constituted cance of that state forwhat was goingon. He was teke not in some abstract absolute sense but relativeto the or persons involved-his father,his brothers,his dead son-and to the swiftly changingsituationin which he and the otherspresentfoundthemselves.In that intersubjectivesense the designationteke was a seed bearing thepotentialto growinto an elaboratednarrative perof sons, relations, and events-a plot with charactersthat would satisfyinitial puzzlement.Indeed, the only thatpuzzlementwas a story, one thingthatcould satisfy that set Pa Rangifuri'sdistressin a narrativeflow of people acting in respect of each other. Moreover,this as story, Firth presentsit,was not one thathe or anyone else devisedin privatebut rather arose out ofeventsand utterances before bodyofconcerned a occurring persons. Not just the events themselvesbut also theirunfolding were widelyknown.There explicationand commentary of might,of course, have been various interpretations eventsat various times duringthe action and especially but the afterwards; in orderto act relevantly participants had to fasten on some minimal shared understanding,


Art Is Anthropology or Science? I 27I

On the other hand, the synthesisdoes possess five (i) that characteristics inspireconfidence: It accountsfor of the flow of events. (2) The attributions attitudeand motive are closely and intelligiblytied to people's inare teractions. The attributions those disclosedbythe (3) participantsin the course of events. (4) The action is unequivocally and vividlyrelated to the particularcircumstancesoflifeamongthe Tikopia. (5) The episode as told has robustnessand independencefromits use by Firth.It could be used by someone else to illustratefraan conflict, anxietyto pacify ternalrivalry, generational chiefs,or the verypeculiar position of axes among the Tikopia at the time. In that sense the episode has a disas tinctcharacteras evidence ratherthan argument, an made from thanthe reasoning itemin the archiverather rather thanthe edificerising such items,as a foundation For above the foundation. all these reasonswe would be justifiedin accepting and using Firth's account until new datum is revealed. some startling

vs. Evans-Pritchard Sperber

his frequent The little story of the Nuer justifying has much the same character Firth'stale of as sacrifices to Pa Rangifuri. is ellipticallytold and refers a flowof It in events understandable both a largerand a more immediate frame.It does not suggesta theoreticaluse in itselfbut would be amenable to many such uses. Sperbersays that "this is about as raw a factual acworks. count as you will everfindin most ethnographic Yet not a single statementin it expressesa plain observation." This cannot,however,reallybe a relevantconsideration.First,the ideas of "plain observation"and ''raw factual account" are inappropriateboth to the Sperber'scriticism model underlying natural-scientific the Representing patternsused as and to ethnography. evidencein eithercase is likelyto take a good deal ofart and energy, thereis no such thingas a "raw" factor a so that"obserSecond,ifit be thought "plain" observation. vation" can be direct,immediate,and achievedwithout had thattoo is false.Evans-Pritchard skill or application, in not just parachuted but had alreadyspenttimeamong the Nuer, time that was vital to his perceivingand reportingpatternsin Nuer life. And third,the absolute scientificknowledgethat would be subservedby "raw and againstwhich ethfacts"or by "plain observations," fails,simplydoes not exist. nography Sperber's next observation concerns the following "I statementby Evans-Pritchard: was presentwhen a himselfagainst silent disapproval Nuer was defending on the part of his familyand kinsmen of his frequent sacrifices."Sperberremarks:" 'Silent disapproval'cannotbe observedbut onlysurmised."But,to the contrary, I suggest that "silent disapproval" is just the sort of thingthat mightbe graspedwith verylittle surmise.In remarkis set in an elthe first place, Evans-Pritchard's frame:"he [the lipticalbut quite unambiguousnarrative that it Nuer in question] had been given to understand inordinate the was feltthathe was destroying herdfrom love ofmeat. He said thatthiswas not true.... It was all

the verywell forhis familyto say thathe had destroyed herd,but he had killed the cattle fortheirsakes." Sperber could rightlycomplain that the who, when, and where of this storyare leftobscure,but the basic narrativeflowis not. Forsome timetheNuer had been killing This had desacrifices. cattle fromhis herdin frequent pletedthe herd,indeed,severelyin the eyes ofhis "family and kinsmen." They conveyed their objections to him and-now the action switches to the immediate his scene witnessedby Evans-Pritchard-met prolonged with silent disapproval. protestations Thus in this settingthe "silent disapproval"is understood not as so many attitudesor mental statesofuninwitnessesbut as partof a flowof actions and terrogated reactions within a group of people, the Nuer and his kinsmen."Silent disapproval"gains its sense and meaning as a consequence of earlier events-the frequent sacrificesand the kinsmen's reaction to them-and it of leads on to further action, the protestations the man againstunspokenbut implicitaccusation. Providedthat Evans-Pritchard was privy to the stream of events in was set,he could have used which the silentdisapproval not of thephrasewith confidence as a description a mysnecessaryfor terious inner state but as an attribution thingsto continueas theydid. Was Evans-Pritchard privyto the stream of events? partof is Sperber sceptical.He writesthatthe preceding the narrative, unravelledfromthe phrase "he had been given to understandthat it was felt that . . . ," is "an inference froma varietyof oftenambivalentand complex behaviors.... likelyto have been made not directly The matebut by the ethnographer, by his informants." rial does not permit an unequivocal response to this. evidenceto the But thereis strong may be right. Sperber contrary, and, moreover,the veryfact that Sperberadmits Evans-Pritchard's accuracyto be an empiricalmatter suggeststhat,if not here, then elsewheresuch evidence is admissible. to One circumstancethat would incline us strongly account would arise ifhe had actually Evans-Pritchard's betweentheNuer and his witnessedan earlierargument relatives over sacrifice.There is no way of knowing has whetherthis is so, but Evans-Pritchard noted more out mostly thanonce thathis Nuer researchwas carried simplyby living without the advantageof informants, among the Nuer. So he might have had that sort of confidence his own judgment. in But what if he had been merely told of antecedent were Is disagreements? it likely that the disagreements Perhaps-but if the merelysurmisedby the informant? informant local knowledgethenwe would not think had or it mere "inference" "surmise" ifhe or she told EvansPritchard that the Nuer and his familyquarrelledover sacrifice.It just is the sortof thingthatneighfrequent bours know as a matter of course. One hears raised voices. Nor would we think such knowledge ambivabe lent,even thoughit would certainly complex. Moreover,it is possible that the antecedentswere revealed by the Nuer himselfin the course of expostulatoo tion. Perhaps he said, "You always say I sacrifice.




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personalin the important sense that it is knowledgeof persons exercised by persons in respect of each other. Some partof the knowledgemust be distinctly cultural and general,but this distinguishable generalizing power must be knittedtogether with actual personsand actual circumstances. Each person's knowledge is thereby in verified corrected public,thoughthepublic is not a or college of scholars but the school of hard knocks. The ethnographer engageswith this expertise, not perfectly comment" quatedescriptive (i985:i9). perhapsbut partly out of the will to do so and partly out interpretations of sheer necessity,and fromthe encounterhe or she Finally,any one ofthesemoretrusting seems more plausible than the complicatedspeculation elicits consensiblepatterns. is The object of such engagementis the creation of a us: description actually Sperberoffers "The resulting selected fromwhat he under- second sort of knowledge,one foundedupon the Nuer what the ethnographer told him of what they knowledgeof personsby personsbut validatedamonga stood of what his informants much widerand more diffuse community, includingthe understood." If my interpretation the passage is accepted,then readers of this journal and the world of anthropology of themselves. For the implication is, I think,that we must attributeto and, nowadays, often the informants from a Evans-Pritchard kind ofpracticalknowledgeofevents. this community the knowledge is transformed to Such knowledgeis of course neithercomplete nor ab- knowinghow to knowingthat,froma performer's a it but it has at least one desirablecharacteristic: critic'sconsciousness. Indeed,it is just the transformastract, that arises out of the streamof events that alone can make tionofsocial knowledgeinto declarative knowledge its This does not amountto treating gives ethnography distinctivevalues and character the detailsintelligible. as Evans-Pritchard a Nuer or to saying that he under- as a discipline. We place requirementsupon the new to matrix:it standsall dimensionsofNuer lifeor even to sayingthat knowledgethatare quite foreign its original view ofhuman societies, with a Nuer. Rather mustfitinto a moreabstracted he could hold his own in argument or case, and it must be corrigible falsifiable. it is to accept that,in the settingof this particular Moreover,some mix this knowledgewith a literary skill he possesses enoughcompetenceto make his way sensi- anthropologists whose effect, I have presentedit here,is not to mysas bly. knowlI suggest,therefore, that the measure of such knowl- tifybut to clarify. Yet did the anthropological edge is not narrowlyepistemological but pragmatic: edge thus creatednot retainits animatingspiritin the in could one act appropriately its light?Or-since the Nuer's personalknowledgeofeach otherit would be not or encomknowledgeis sometimesdiscoveredin retrospect in a knowledge but fancy.A finishedethnography but confailureto act properly-could one have acted appropri- passes much more than consensible patterns, as ately had one only known? In the case of Evans- sensible patternsare as necessaryto the ethnography Pritchard and the protesting Nuer, we take thatlimited pages are to a book. A complete portraitof anthropology a discipline as competencealreadyto have been achieved. Elsewhere, of would demandmuch more than I have offered here.We forexample,when Lienhardtremarksthat the effect ob- should have to understandthe otherkinds of evidence Dinka invocation "comes to be feltby the foreign " use, the way in which theyweave that server himself, a processofachievingthe knowledgeby ethnographers revealed. In other cases, as when evidencetogether, the processofforming and oneself is fleetingly consensus is with and correcting each other.And, of Firth shownjust how to lead Pa Rangifuri thewrist or of differing by to apologize,the knowledgeis explicitlytaught.And in course,we should also have some notionofthe knowing These are philosophicalbut also empirical some verymarked cases, such as that of Briggs(I970), community. the evidence arises not froma finishedcompetencebut and social-historicalquestions that have not yet been froma veryprotracted painfulcourse of learning.It fullyanswered. Here I have only tried to suggestthat and in- ethnography inexperience of mightbe thoughtthat anthropologists' beginsin the studyofthe variety human it validates theirevidence,but,on the contrary, is often socialitybymeans ofhuman socialityitself. mayask We fromour very lack of expertise-and its correction- of that studynot certainty reliability. but that the most persuasivetestimony originates.

much, but I don't!" Indeed, the following indirect to speech,"It was all verywell forhis family say thathe had destroyedthe herd," suggeststhat the clue to the continuingquarrelwas containedin the Nuer's speech itself. expandwhatevertheNuer said to "he had been To but that . . ." is perhapsinference, it givento understand is hardto see it as invalid or misleading.Indeed,Sperber admits as much when he later writesof this statement that "the clues are clear enough to determinean ade-

From Consensibilityto Consensus

I began with an apparentparadox,namely,the problem ofconstructing public and reliableknowledgeout ofmaterialthatseems irreducibly personaland autobiographr ical. But once we understand ethnograph as an activity the paradox resolves itself.There is one sort of knowledge,thatwornby,forexample,the Nuer themselvesas accountable agents in theirsociety. Such knowledgeis

DepartmentofHuman Sciences, Brunel University, Middlesex UB8 3PH, England. Ii i 90 Uxbridge, There was a periodwhen it was commonplaceforsocial scientists to legitimise (or criticise) theirpracticesby


Is Anthropology or Science? | 273 Art

Throughsharpenedlogic and a proposedvocabularyfor identifying and theoreticallymanipulatingpatternsof evidence,Carrithers seeks a more deterministic (certain and reliable)ethnography; also seeks to destroy he what he considersa strawman that some postmodern critics have set up as "science." Both efforts worthwhile. are So is his emphasis on pragmatictheoriesof truth,his identification science as a human activitysituatedin of the worldofhuman practiceand perceptualconsensibilI985). ity,and his inference thatclaims to absoluteor complete In contrast these arguments, are to Carrithers conceivesof truth dogma.His timingis also right-the criteria for in as questionsand anthropology a peculiarlyundifferentiated discipline reachinganalyticagreement answering with its own quite distinctiveinterestsand values. In makingsuccessfularguments the social sciences and in he generalterms, distinguishes anthropology its con- the humanities are themselves less agreed upon than by cern with the identification "consensible patterns" everbefore Rorty (see of I983; Roth I979, I989; Bernstein in throughthe acquisition of a "practical knowledge of I989). But the articlefalters themidstofits strengths. The title raises the spectre of Lord Snow's famous events." However,the verypossibilityof such a general in conversationin ancharacterisation problematic the lightofsignificant Rede lecture and a long-standing is differences The articulationof art and science in any between the ways in which anthropologists thropology. and distincthemselveshave construed theiractivities.Forexample, contextis not easilyuntangled, theeither/or it is possible forethnography constructquite varied tion cannot be sustained by the conventionaldivisions to relationsbetweenits authors,its readers, and its objects between value and fact,the true and the beautiful,the the (Strathern I987). Moreover, any generalcharacterisation real and thefantastic, subjectiveand theobjective,or intuitiveand the formally of anthropology likely to obscure ratherthan reveal the apparently is inductive(see the relations between specific anthropologicaltexts KuhnI977, Barthes i982, Bruner I986, Brady I990). Anand broader political and "scientific" discourses. If thropology shows a tensionbetweenthe extremes, be to in does indeed have any distinctivecharac- sure,but it is mutuallyconstructed its opposition-a anthropology effect Boon i982, I984) thatultimately not as- "moiety" (see teristics,then these should be demonstrated, makes it indivisible as an "artfulscience." Carrithers sumed. Carrithers's paper begins by posing the question doesn'tdeal withtheproblemon thislevel,althoughthe whetheranthropology an art or a science. Yet, as he title suggeststhat he mighthave. is His position on Geertz and Clifford similarly is vague mightagree,it is probablymore helpfulto ask instead The relativeand culturally situatedsciwhetherquestions raised in the studyof art or science and undefended. might provide insights for an understandingof an- ence that he espouses is much closer to "interpretive" than he says. His criticismapplies better In thropology. recent years, for example, ethnography anthropology has been describedby a numberof writersas a formof to Sperber, especiallywhereit rises againstshallow carifiction.Thus, a whole arsenal of questions developed caturesof science.

comparing them to those of the naturalsciences. Fortunately,those days are largelyover. In any case, as Carrithersnotes, the natural sciences themselves are not now thoughtto be nearlyso "scientific"as they once were. For Carrithers, "new" philosophyand sociolthe off ogy of science appear to let anthropology the hook. No longeris thereanyneed to worry about the scientific status of anthropologicalknowledge when the status of natural science itself is problematic. Instead, the can of anthropologist be concernedwith the specificity discourse: its attentionto the detail of anthropological fieldwork,its "particular rigour" and its "particular canon ofevidence." In thisway,according Carrithers, to anthropology can avoid the excessive demands both of rationalistswho would wish anthropology be a scito ence in the traditional sense and ofpostmodernists who would seek to translate anthropology a form literinto of aryexperimentation. It may be, however,thatthe arguments thephilosoof phyand sociologyofscience are less compatiblewithhis positionthan Carrithers a supposes,forin providing critique of traditionalaccounts of scientificmethod and forms of representationsociologists have necessarily drawnattention the diversity thepracticesconvento of tionally understood as scientific,as well as the significantdifferences the ways in which "scientific" in discourses constitute their relations to their objects the idea that (Rabinow i986:236-41). Furthermore, thereexists any necessarydistinctionbetween the discoursesof the naturalsciences and political and literary discourseshas been increasingly challenged.Indeed,the naturalsciences can usefullybe understoodas formsof political discourse (Latour I983, Shapin and Schaffer

withinliterary theory be appliedto the ethnographic can text,and the possibilityof alternative literary forms can be explored.However,while an emphasisupon the idea ofethnography fiction as may lead to a concernwiththe characterof the text and the possible significance alof ternativetextual forms,this should not be at the expense of an attentionto the possible relationsbetween the politics and practicesof anthropology and those of the naturalsciences. It may,indeed,be more helpfulto conceive of anthropology as fictionbut as science, not not in orderto providethe subject with a dubious (and unnecessary)legitimationbut in orderto compare the forms persuasiondeployedin anthropology of withthose of the naturalsciences. Paradoxically, now thatthe natural sciences are beginning lose theirearlierauthority to as forms knowledge, maybe possible and significant of it to reexaminetheirconnectionswith anthropology.

DepartmentofAnthropology, State University New of



York N.Y. 13126, U.S.A.9 I College, Oswego,





Volume 31, Number 3, JuneI990

wantingin relation CLIFFORD ethnography GEERTZ Ratherthan finding to somethingelse held to be science, some aesthetes, InstituteforAdvanced Study,School of Social Science, knowl- Princeton, o8540, U.S.A. i2 XII 89 humanists,and textualistsargue that scientific N.J. by edge itselfis inessential,that it can be transcended "a point of view otherthan,somehow higherthan,that I do not wish to commenton the substanceof Carrithand banal by of science," and thathuman thoughtshould not culmi- ers's paper,which strikesme as distracted nate in the application of scientificmethods (Rorty turns.I onlywish to have it on recordthatI do not hold It is also true that the positivisticmodel of the views he attributes me. I do not believe that anI98I:I55). to science criticizedin this discourseis sometimesa straw thropology not or cannot be a science, that ethnogis targetthat,as Eagleton (i983:I44) notes, "does not ex- raphies are novels, poems, dreams,or visions, that the haust the term"; declaring"that thereare no absolute reliability anthropological knowledgeis of secondary of works inor groundsforthe use of such words as truth,certainty, interest, that the value of anthropological realityand so on is not to say that these words lack heressolely in theirpersuasiveness.On the second page is to Carrithers right pursue of Worksand Lives, in a passage invokingladies sawed meaningor are ineffectual." both the issue; he just may be lookingin the wrongplaces. in half, I explicitly,and as I thoughtforcefully, thatI would Theory tailored to the open-endedpatternsof social deniedthatI held such views and predicted of lifeis bound to be ambiguous.It is loaded withpotential be accused by the easily frightened holdingthem. in and for its I do, indeed-doesn't Carrithers?-thinkthat rhetorfor intellectual terrorism interpretation in overthefactsforever "an- ical effectiveness has somethingto do with who gets virtualopposite,a hovering alyticneutral" (Marien I988), the adoptionof an invul- believed and who doesn't and that it mattersa bit who nerable and mischievous but empty critical position says what, where,when, and to what purpose.But the (Eagleton I983:I44-45). But, in defenseof Carrithers, notion that I have an "absolute realist" conceptionof staying that empty of determinismis largely a self- science is a sheer fantasy.(I have neverwrittenat any both the closure lengthon the natureofscience,but ifI did it would look handicap thatunderestimates inflicted in patternsthat can be discoveredin particularresolu- more like Thomas Kuhn's work than anything else; it theyare in the would not look, as much as I admirehim,like Dan Spertions ofculture,no matterhow transient conclusionsin ber's.)So, too,is thenotionthatI differ from views of the long run,and the potentialfordefensible includingpoetic and psy- Taylor,Hacking, Polanyi,or Roth that science is a huotherkinds ofinterpretations, chological ones (see also Lukes i982). that it does not man, thus social and cultural,activity, in involve the search forabsolute truth,that the specific Finally,I see the discussion of locatingobjectivity mutable subjectiverelationsmore as a problemof mis- formit takes varies fromfieldto field,even fromproband thatit involvesmorethanthinking leading premises and incomplete information-a talk lem to problem, trick-than as a genuine paradox.It is resolvedin part theorizing, are and that representations one thingand of, processes and what they purportto be representations like Caranalysis of narrative throughCarrither's It as of ethnography a social activity. onlyremainsobvious rithers's me, quite another. impersonal or objective opposif one believes that perfectly As I have spent much of my careervigorously at knowledgeis possible-and thatis a positivisticconceit ing the idea that "thereis one truth whichwe aim ... does not share.He seems to agree [one] correctrepresentation the world" (or, I might of Carrithers apparently cleanlyout of add, any one correct it), thatimpersonalknowledgeis not dragged way ofrepresenting inside "scimind a "mirror-of-nature" (Rorty I979) by Archimedean ence" or out, and thatthereis some redline to be drawn method, that scientific writers, like all others, are across thoughtpolarizing"insubstantialart" and "firm situated culturally,that scientificknowledge,like all science," it is more than a little dismayingnow to be knowledge,is personal(see Polanyi I958, Grene I969, it. as represented defending Perhapsa more interesting SchwartzI974). One can discoverin this nexus that all question, afterall, than why so many anthropologists knowledgeis ultimatelycarvedout ofa tacitand ambig- can't writeis why so many can't read. Or won't. uous pool ofperceptions and thatit is subjectto sharing and conversionin variousforms.Concentration com(a parativedialogue with self) and agreeableconversation ROGER M. KEESING about it with others can make it precise. It becomes InstituteofAdvanced Studies,AustralianNational "impersonal" or "objective" only throughrelated cul- University, A.C.T. 260o, Australia. I 90 Canberra, 9 There is neithermagic nor hamstringturallaundering. morenor Carrithers's ing paradoxin that,just a relativebias neither papermakes some usefulpoints,althoughI than the changeto any otherrigorous am less persuaded than he is about the cross-cultural less encumbering or to of and cultural-provenience languagegame. Getting know transparency translatability patterns. to are I agree with him that characterizations science in of how and getting know thatin ethnography equally wants to know interpretive bound by these principles. Carrithers anthropologyhave often caricaturedthe it how thismightbe true,confronts in a practicalframe- knowledge of the "hard" sciences as harderand more work, and (fuzzy opposition and talk tricks notwith- abstract than it is. His insistence, followingZiman, moves the conversation ahead one respectable Hacking,and others, thatscience is socially and historistanding) is step. cally constituted useful.(However,he ignoresanother


iS Antnropoiogy Art or 3clencem 1275

also seems to me to overlooka voice in the polyphony of postmodernismthat sees argument Carrithers's scientificknowledge as radically problematicand so- problemnoted long ago by Li (I937) and a related one cially and culturallyconstructed.Some postmodernist noted less long ago by Rosaldo (I980). Li pointed to a citing Rortyand his ilk, go much far- contradictionin the process of pattern recognition: anthropologists, does, ratherthan whereas an American seeing A, B, and C will assume therin this directionthan Carrithers that idealizingan objectivenaturalscience to which ethnog- thatthis implies D and E (because thatis a pattern raphyis radicallycontrasted.) fits togetherin the conceptual and experientialuniI take for grantedthat some formsof ethnographic verseAmericanslive in), a Chinese will assume thatA, knowledgeare more "objective" than others.If an eth- B, and C implies F and G (and not D and E). His case in the point had to do with Zuni marriage, writesthatin the 28 householdssurveyed, which looked very nographer number of pigs per household was 5.7, I will suspend different his through Chinese eyes thanit had to Ameriskepticism and assume that she got things right (al- can anthropologicalobservers. That is, the missing though,knowinghow few of the Kwaio pigs I countedI pieces of a pattern-and we never see "all" of it-are and these may be actually saw at the time, I probablyshould be more inevitablysupplied by the observer, skeptical; I also rememberasking Himalayan villagers deeplyproblematic (evenifwe accepttherecognizability how many sheep and how many goats they had: we of A, B, and C, which raises a host of other issues). are we finallygot down to the limitingcase of one sheep-and- Rosaldo argued 980: 2I -24) that anthropologists (I and tells me that 32% of the mar- givento assumingthat the most obvious,everyday, goat).If the ethnographer I ried couples in the village are livinguxorilocally, am familiaraspects of otherpeoples' lives and talk can be inclined to accept the fact that they were carefully taken forgrantedas unproblematic-our challengebecounted(butwill suspectthat,forreasonsnotedlong ago ing to translateacross cultureswhat strikesour eyes as scheme is inappropri- most exotic and unfamiliaragainst this backgroundof by Goodenough,the classification ate to the choices villagersmake). If the ethnographer common humanness. She warns that the sense of the to tellsme thatthevillagershave no wordcorresponding familiarin everydaytalk, experience,and life-routines I withone another, may be radicallymisleading.Our intuitionsabout culdon'tgetangry "angry"and therefore arrivedin the field turalsameness,in otherwords,may giveus impressions will surmise that the ethnographer view oflanguageand a muddledview of of soliditywhere culturalquicksand lies below. with a distorted is emotions.I always assume thatthe ethnographer part My argumentis not forinfiniteand radical cultural of I of the picture,and my understandings the Nuer and diversity untranslatability:have recently suggested and in the Tikopia will always include Evans-Pritchard a (n.d.) that "if radical alteritydid not exist, it would to pith helmet and Firthin khaki shorts,trying make be anthropology's projectto inventit." Yet I thinkthat and sense of it all. the path to cultural translationis more difficult perThat bringsme to Carrithers's point about the inter- treacherous-and less easily crossed by rhetorical seems to believe. of pretability behavioral sequences and patternsacross suasiveness-than Carrithers cultures and hence the reasons we should have faith narratives. and plausible fieldwork in well-constructed I certainly agree that narrative conventions provide PAUL A. ROTH of means ofgivingplausibilityand coherenceto our ethno- Departmentof Philosophy,University Missouriand St. Louis, St. Louis, Mo. 63121, U.S.A. 27 XII 89 graphicaccounts and evoking the co-participation about But faithofreadersin our interpretations. I worry the whetherour narrative powersreallyreflect depthof The title question is evidence that the "unity of of our understanding the cultural scenes in which we method" thesis is not yet put to rest. Doubt regarding local the scientificstatus of ethnography appears to stem participateand our empathy in comprehending comparisonsbetweenit and some antiquated nuances of meaning and emotion. Geertz's accounts of morefrom Bali have a magical power to convince the reader;less ideal of science than fromspecificissues arisingfrom The time forbeenterprise. wondrously constructed and artfullycrafted ethno- failuresof the ethnographic to graphic narrativesusually are much less persuasive, lievingthat "science" means conformity specificfornear-native mal rules is long past. Much recentwork supportsCarthoughtheymay reston yearsof fieldwork, as fluencyin a local language (on the possibilitiesof mis- rithers'sshiftin emphasis to anthropology a kind of and false exoticizationof culturaltexts,see practice(Rouse I987, Fuller I988). translation is The most important aspect ofhis essay,however, its Keesing i989), and mountainsof case historiesand obof as servationaldata. Could thereeven be an inversecorrela- treatment narrative a formof explanation.The detionbetweenthe solidityofour ethnographic knowledge tails ofsuch analysesoughtto allay concernsabouthow, I and provideobjective and our abilityto conveyinterpretations persuasively? forexample,anthropology history devices and pattern explain also renthatthe narrative perceptions explanations.Allowingthatnarratives worry in which Carrithers places his faithmay operatemore ders pointless, I suggest,the putative distinctionbeif only once and tween explanationand understanding. powerfully we have seen the ceremony proBeforeaddressingthe substance of Carrithers's the don'tunderstand local languageverywell thanifwe have seen it a thousand times and can tell when the posal, I have threequibbles to mention: is, as I believe Clifford of conI. Geertzis not guilty, stammersor slips in a pun sotto voce. officiant



Volume 31, Number 3, JuneI990

flatingissues of authorial voice and textual authority. some mythic standardof scientificrationality;I have As I argue elsewhere (Roth I989b), Geertz's work ex- inveighedelsewhere against that view (Roth I987, esp. whateveraccount we take to emplifiesthe virtuescentralto narrativeexplanations. chaps. 4, 5, and 9). Rather, withwhatwe must at least be consistent Geertz demonstrateshow authorial self-presentation be explanatory shapes a work withoutassuming that such insightsac- take to be correctin otherfieldsof inquiry. status. count fortheirauthoritative These constraintsare very general,and much more 2. To argue,as I do, that it is hopeless and pointless needs to be specifiedin orderto providean account of to seek a systematicaccount of the intentionalidiom is how narratives explain. But theypointto the social emLike Daniel Dennett, I beddednessof our explanatory farfromdeeming it irrelevant. practicesand to the varithatnaror withinfieldsand across disciplines, would urgean instrumental pragmatic interpretation ous factors, is rativeexplanationsmust accommodate. of this way of talking;Dennett's position,moreover, who takes intenBennett, quite unlike that of Jonathan tions as a basis foran analysis of communication.My of disdain of reification this idiom is not tantamount, ROBERT A. RUBINSTEIN 320 E. 43rd St., however,to demandingits exclusion fromexplanations %Ford Foundation,Cairo Office, of social behavior. N.Y. 10017, U.S.A.30 XII 89 New York, that 3. The workin narrativity needs to be confronted and overcome (N.B.: not rejected) is that of Hayden Carrithers's article is one of a numberof recentworks returnin discussions of episWhite (I973, I987). White,Louis Mink, and others, that signal a refreshing emphasizedtheparallelsbe- temologicalissues in anthropology a focuson our disreacting againstpositivism, to tween a historian's craftand a novelist's; the current cipline as a collective enterpriseratherthan on the and perproblem,I would argue,is to attendmore to the charac- idiosyncratic interpretation our professional of teristics of narratives qua explanations (Roth I988, sonal anthropologicalexperiences. Especially congeni989b; see Megill I989 fora review of some of the key ial are his attemptsto dissolve apparentparadoxes in problemsin this area). by ethnography treatingit "as an activity" and his in of interpretations human Perhaps because of his acquaintance with Ricoeur's grounding anthropological as work, Carrithersemphasizes narrativity temporal cognition. I find this general orientation promising synthesis.Consequently,he wonderswhat characteris- (Rubinstein, Laughlin,and McManus I984) but disagree tics such a synthesisshould possess in orderto "inspire with some of Carrithers's specificapplicationsof it. he confidence." I agree that it is incorrectto attemptto legitimate However,thefiveattributes thenenumeratesilluminateno logical or even structural aspectsof anthropological understanding showing that it conby imitatthe requiredsynthesis.It is simply no help to be told formsto an erroneousmodel of science through in method" or by seekingrefuge a strictly consistsin "understanding thatnarrativity complexnets ing "scientific of ever-newdeeds and changingattitudes." The term literary-interpretive understandingof our enterprise the is rejecting comparison "understanding" one thathas createdproblemsin the (Rubinsteini984:48). Yet after fiveattributes to first presupposebut do of anthropology the "receivedmodel of science" Carplace. Carrithers's Even worse, rithers seeks to legitimate analysisby appeal to alterhis not clarifya demand for understanding. read- native models of the physical sciences. He then mistheyignorethe whole complex of issues regarding ing ourselves into others about which Winch, Geertz, takenly grounds his argument on an "in-principle" is and Clifford have rightly cautioned. scientific community ("The community logicallyconWhat Carrithers neglectsare the social and integrative stitutedas all those who can in principleperceiveand demands that candidate narrativeexplanations must report. . ."). Appealing to such "in-principle"underOn of satisfy. the social side, two factorsstand out. What standingsinevitablyleads to misrepresentations the counts as an explanationis time-boundand audience- scientificenterprise(Rubinstein I984, I988; Straight dependent;this is what makes an explanationsocial. It I976), especiallyin analyzingepistemologicalproblems is time-bound in the Kantiansense suggested talk in anthropology. not by example,it is not PursuingCarrithers's oftemporalsynthesis in but,rather, a Kuhniansense,in simply a matterof observinga change in the color of termsofhavingto relyon an available stockofcurrently litmus paper but one of understanding the theoretical it This also definesthe respectin which significance thatchangeand putting to use forsome of acceptableforms. it of explanationsare audience-dependent: is otherinquir- purpose.It is the purposefulness scientificcognition ers, broadly or narrowlydefined,who constitute the that connects it to everyday cognition.It is in the conshifts text of purposefulaction that we can determineif a jury.The statusofworksmay fallor risefollowing in academic fashionand changesin audience,but such is scientificrepresentation "more or less useful," the is the fateof all formulations scientific of that Carrithers substitutesfortruth knowledge. criterion correctly Anthropological knowledge (indeed, any putative or falsityforevaluatingscientificclaims. Since all scito knowledge)is also to be judgedin regard how it inte- entificknowledge is relative to a communityof pracit to thatwe refer a real, socially grateswith what else passes as knowledge.The works titioners, is important this con- organized, simplylogicallyconstituted, not community. of,forexample,Carlos Castaiieda failto satisfy straint.This is not to insist that othersmust be judged untreatsthe dynamicsof anthropological Carrithers accordingto whether or not their actions conformto derstanding a formof pattern as Examining recognition.


2 Art Is Anthropology or Science? 277

an extractfromFirth's account of Tikopia, he argues on thatit is interpretable the basis ofthe commonsense understanding Anglophonereaders: "Yet with them of we can perceivethat somethinghas happenedand very roughlyidentify the characterof that something."His fails because understanding explicationof ethnographic it assimilates complex ethnographicdescriptionto a limited, culture-boundmodel of an idealized anthrocommunityCarpological community.The reference rithers employsis not coextensivewith the community of professionalanthropologists, even of some subor His it constructed. groupof it; rather, is introspectively explication thus shares the weaknesses of analyses of it the scientific processbased solely on introspection: is incomplete and distorting(Rubinsteinet al. I984:88; Piaget I973 : I 2). this explicationrefers anthropological underFurther, to recognition-the processes standing a view ofpattern of which are more complex and active than Carrithers indicates (Neisser I976, Laughlin et al. i986)-that is of cognition. insufficient theunderstanding scientific for Scientific the cognition proceedsthrough construction ofproblems,an activitythatinvolvesmorethanpattern and recognition dependsupon thedynamicsofparticular i982; Rubinsteinet professional communities(Hufford

and Sociology,University DepartmentofAnthropology ofBritishColumbia, Vancouver,B.C., Canada V6T2B2.4 I 90 a Encountering title which queries whetheranthropology is art or science forces all those who have lived discourseto flextheirmusthe post-positivist through cles to do battle yet one more time. I expectedto constateone of two positions: more science-bashing, front ments about the inadequacies of the scientistic paradigm in dealing with the anthropologicalagenda, and pointed argumentsabout the naivete of the scior entificepistemology yet anotherdiatribeagainstthe hermeneutics,or postindulgences of interpretation, modernism-a call to cease, desist,and "get on withthe here. job." These positionsare,however,not resurrected us offers a "modifiedrealism,"a neoInstead Carrithers positivismwith which I have no quarrel.Now that the and science has lain dormantfor issue of anthropology of about a decade,its time has come again in the history intellectualpolitics. the lively takes reflects The position that Carrithers of practicesofthe philosophers science,who fordecades away at theunquestionedclaim that have been chipping science has assertedforitselfas the moral guardiannot only of universal rationalitybut of quality,propriety, Einsteinhimand rigour.As one of these philosophers, selfproposedthatphysicswas merelya "creationofthe human mind" of "freelyinventedideas and concepts" "a aimed at forming pictureof reality"and establishing "its connection with the wide world of sense impressions" (Einsteinand InfeldI938:3 IO). Since theninnumnatureof erable othershave pointedout the contingent scientificknowledge,implyingthat it is politicallydetermined and interactionallyinstituted and directed can be, like and, given enough revealed contingencies, and pracart or music, an interpretive representational tice. In short,it can be merelyanotherdiscourseabout the world. is One of my regrets that,despitethe directiongiven of here and thereto an anthropology knowledge(Crick emerged.There seems to be some advantage to using "knowledge" as the organizingtheme of a criticaldiswould see course. Althoughrigorousdeconstructionists it merely as another essentialism, such an approach would encompass the notion thatknowledgeis nothing more complicated than the stories we tell ourselves about the worldas well as the philosophicaland analytand so on. ical issues about causation, essence, reality, Awaiting consideration are matters such as the anof of thropology descriptionand the anthropology obhave servation. Now that practices like ethnography become "narrativedescription,"we need to examine statistics as numerical description,theorizingas aband so on. We need to ask: to what stractdescription, in conditionsmust culturesand personsconform order to be observableor describable? one can only feel symIn this era of deconstruction



al. I984:6I-84;

includinghistoric upon a varietyof nonlogical factors, circumstance,the trainingof intuition,the social orand community, thepurposeof ganizationofa scientific the investigation. The same subject can, as Carrithers as problems, notes,be constructed a numberofdifferent "each offering the some advantagein manipulating matterat hand" (see also Rubinsteinand LaughlinI977:478; Rubinstein and Pinxten I984; Rubinstein and Perloff thatanthropological understandings i986). This requires the incorporate rule of minimal inclusion: an adequate account of behaviormust include "any and all levels of presentin the interacsystemicorganizationefficiently and the environment tion betweenthe systemoperating of that system" (Rubinsteinet al. i984:93). directsattentionto Science, includinganthropology, different levels of organizationfor different purposes. it This requiresthe recognition that the understanding as gives is incompleteand unstable exceptinsofar it occurs in a particularinvestigativecontext (Rubinstein I 984: I 73 - 78; Hawking I 988 : I 2- I 4). Evaluatingknowledge claims then requiresa metricotherthan truthor Carrithers falsity. proposesthe conceptof "more or less useful" but does not expand on it. For anthropology, such evaluations may be made on the basis of an as amplifiedconcept of isomorphism, applied to the fit and the between scientific,and other, understanding

i980) anddepends through practice (SchonI983, Argyris

struct the develops problemsfrom analysisofexperience

to Rubinstein i989). The ability con-

in development this area has no significant

of et (Rubinstein al. I984:2I-35). phenomena concern

a As White(I 938) pointedout,science is preeminently articlewill way of dealingwith experience.Carrithers's be more ratherthan less useful if it marks a returnin to anthropology the empiricalstudyofscience as human activity.




Volume 3I, Number June 1990 3, In this perspectiveWhittaker'suse of observability and describability seems subtlymisplaced, since such notionsdo not give anyplace to reciprocal interaction in I fieldwork. suggestratherthat we would want to ask, "To what conditionsmust people confronted with mutual unfamiliarity conformin orderto achieve mutual " intelligibility? This is a more general question, no doubt, but it is one that stresses that the activityof fieldwork only one example ofone form is ethnographic of extendedhuman interaction. We know that such interactionoccurs quite apart fromthe practice of ethwar brides,Gastnography-that,forexample, traders, studentsmanage to arbeiter,missionaries,and foreign get along. The general explanation would have to account fortwo extremes:assimilation,on the one hand, and minimum competence,on the other. If we could account forsuch cases we could also give an account of the sheer possibilityof fieldwork-an account that we do not yet possess-and throwsome light on how extendedinteraction works in less testingcircumstances, between people who share a firstlanguage and a great deal of experience. I will indicate where we mightlook foran answerto Whittaker's(rephrased)question by turningto Roth's demand fora closer account of narrativity. remarks He that "it is simply no help to be told that narrativity consists in 'understandingcomplex nets of ever-new deeds and changing attitudes,'" so I will tryto expanda bit.I should first thatby "narrativity" do not mean I say of somethingthat is a property a text or discourse. I mean rathera capacitythat distinguishes humans from othersocial primates.Correspondingly, answerI will the to giveis one thatrelatesnot directly ethnography to but and people in social life in general.Ethnography allied fields of learningare a special case of a more general phenomenon. The sentence that captures the nature of narrativity followsthe one thatRoth criticizes.It says that"human action withina largetempobeingsperceiveany current ral envelope,and withinthatenvelopetheyperceiveany given action not only as a response to the immediate circumstances current or imputedmentalstateofan interlocutor of oneselfbut also as part of an unfolding or story."In the first instance this assertionis directedto who in the recentpast have givena great psychologists, deal ofattention the way in which people understand to each other'sbeliefs,desires,and intentions(forsources see Whiten n.d.). From an anthropologist's perspective the psychologists' experimentsand the explanations that accompanythem are socially and temporally overinsofar actual as simplified (Carrithers n.d.b). Moreover, human lifeis both socially and temporally complex,the temporaland social dimensionsgo hand in hand.I might put it this way: to act reasonablya person must often track many people whose multifarious relationswith each otherare both createdby and understoodin terms of precedingevents and relationships. On reflection thinkit was probably simpleto say I too merelythat any givenaction is perceived"as partof an unfolding story."I do assume that,as Liam Hudson put

pathyforCarrithers's quest fora public face forethnography("How are we to represent anthropology a serias ous activity... ifit is so nebulous?") and a transcendent universality such as he findsin the human experience of recognition plots and characters. of The agenda that he has set himself has points of similarity with ethnomethodological notions such as that of practical knowledgeand its pragmaticoutcome ("could one act appropriately?"). "archiveofimages" is reminiscent His of the notions of indexicality promoted by ethnomethodology the I970s. Whilehe has dealtwithinterin subjectivity consensibility much the same way as and in Gouldner and othersin connectionwith the notion of will he have a different objectivity, answerforthe intertextuality promoted by the post-modernismof the ig80s? Finally, one can only be gratefulthat he has evadedtheplatitudesabout revealing ethnographer's the prejudices,apparently takinga cue fromGadamer and treatingthem as consensibilitiesrevealed and thereby put at risk. As a work in neo-positivismor "modifiedrealism," Carrithers's essay has still to withstandthe deconstruction of realism,essentialism,and otherforms reificaof tion left on our doorstep by Derrida and other postmodernistphilosophers.I look forwardto seeing his developmentof these issues.

Durham, England. 6 II


Whittaker'sintriguing question "To what conditions in to mustculturesand personsconform order be observ" able or describable? points beyond a concern with unconsummatedentermethodtowardsthe perennially human nature. By respondingto prise of constructing the question I hope to reveal somethingmore of the to premisesthat underliemy articleand beginreplying the commentson it. The perspective the articlecould be called mutualof ist (Still, Costall, and Good n.d.), a tag which in this setting pointsto a loose collectionofviewpointssharing in the insightthathuman lifeis constituted interaction and intersubjectivity. Some mutualistnotionsmightbe the following: Human infants alreadyevidencesociality by taking turns. Meaning in speech is achieved by mutual attributions intentions.A sense of oneselfis of others.Symbolshave significance achievedonlythrough in theiruse bypeople as instruments influence, to foster, or exploit each other.Computerscannot be intelligent because they cannot be interlocutors. Knowledge and arise out of mutual engagement.These understanding and many othermutualistviews are consistentwith an especially thoroughcommitmentto sociological apperception: theysuggestthat humans are distinguished by the depthand complexityof theirsociality.


Art Is Anthropology or Science?

2 279

it, "Asleep and awake it is just the same: we are telling ourselvesstoriesall the time" (i 985:85). Butthisprocess need not always be of cognitionand mutual informing wholly self-consistent continuous. For each one of and us thereare many storiesor-to convey a sense of the episodic and ephemeralnature of much of our experience-many brokenpieces of storiestumblingoverone another. For long stretchesof experience there could into someconceivablybe no need to knitthesetogether thing larger.But sometimes an especially puzzling or discordantevent requires elucidation, and when that his Firth, and happens-as it did forPa Rangifuri, father, all the othersinvolved-people set out to explainthemselves and each otherto themselvesand each otherwith a will. The social work of storybegins in earnest. I thinkit important have as fulla sense as possible to oftheworkthatstory mightand mightnot do. We might elements,such expect,forexample,thatsome narrative as that Pa Rangifuri was teke, would be so firmly anas choredin sharedexperienceand public recognition to be incontrovertible. this need not mean that there But has to be a single,mutuallyagreed-upon, canonical verarrive some at sion ofall eventsat which all participants in point. We would expect events and relationships the past to be broughtto bear on presentevents,but there would be no assurance that everyonewould agree on which eventsand relationships wererelevant. would We a but expectall storiesto be told from viewpoint, not all accounts would be equally interestedor biassed. And, finally, would expect storiesor bits of storiesto bewe come the object of further stories;and indeedwe would expect some recountingsto be decisive acts in themacselves, just as the mutual telling of their differing counts helped to constitutethe reconciliationbetween Pa Rangifuri and his father. would say English-speakers even thatthe two of them "came to an understanding," unsaid. thoughmuch was lefttactfully Narrativeunderstanding threefundamental charhas acteristics.First,it shows how intentionsand feelings resultin actions. Second,it shows how actions and happeningsresult in intentionsand feelingsor in changed it such intentions and feelings. And third, can aggregate such thatpersons causal connectionsintolarger patterns as eventsare underare understood havingdispositions, stoodto be partofa courseofcausallylinkedevents,and relationshipsare understoodto be entailed by dispositions and events. Or, to put it anotherway, the core of lies narrativity in its relatingof our mental lifeto what understandhappens to us. Brunerwritesthat narrative and action ing "deals in human or human-likeintention and the vicissitudes and consequences that mark their course" (i986:I3). I think that the concept of intentionhere must be understoodto stand in fora whole series of relatedconcepts as well, such as plans, aspirations,dreams,fears, hopes, and so forth.If we take it that human life is in about our intentions thiswidersense and what largely happens to them, then it is no wonder that we are so richlyequipped with narrativity. Indeed, the example that Roth elsewhere(i989) gives of a narrative explana-

is tion,namely,Geertz on the Balinese cockfight, a narrativeexplanationpreciselybecause it shows the cockfightto be a matter of the cocks' owners' intentions (aspirations,fears) and the fate of those intentions. Again, consider the fate of intentionsjust in this one story.Pa Rangifuri intended brief part of Pa Rangifuri's funeralas soon (hoped,yearned)to give his son a proper as possible, and so he asked his fatherforpermission. His father intended(wished,planned)to avoid deciding betweenhis sons and betweenalternative uses ofscarce foundhis inresources,so he temporized.Pa Rangifuri tentionsthwarted,so he reacted. His fatherfoundhis intentionsthwartedas well-and so events carriedon. has the Firthtells a betterversion,but this re-telling virtueof revealingsome of the workingsof narrativity. of From this it seems to follow that the discernment human patternsI identifiedearlier,those of the Gnau would also hangingaroundand ofthe Dinka sacrificing, understanding. That is so have to be countedas narrative because the sociologicaland evolutionary significance of the narrativity in its capacityto integrate manydislies tinctoccurrences formed data thatconstitute and partly social lifeinto a largercomprehension and a larger comthe petence. Hence foranthropologists stresswould lie on a "top-down"view, on explainingthe finerscale of experienceby the larger(while cognitiveor individual psychologists mighttake a "bottom-up"view). And so we would want to accept even the brokenbitsofstory as in narrative nature. essentially,constitutively and I verybriefly Againstthis background can return to verytentatively the question ofhow mutual unfamilI iaritymightturn into mutual intelligibility. suppose thatwe mightstartto answer the question by thinking of the primalethnographic scene: two strangers, utterly in different experience,appearance,and language,sharing no knowledgethat each other'ssortexists,meet on, say, a jungle path. They gaze at each otherin wild surmise, surmise that has much of imaginationin it and much of conventionalexpectationas well. They attribto ute intentions each otherand theyact (even silence is an act, even involuntarymovement a gesture); they react and attributefurther intentions,and so it goes. They soon sharea past,so theysharematerialforagreedto They begin,in short, conupon or disputednarratives. coct storiesabout each other. It might appear that Keesing is less hopeful than I about the outcome ofsuch a primevalscene. He remarks that "the path to cultural translationis more difficult seems to believe," and treacherous. . . than Carrithers but I wonderwhetherwe share enoughinformation yet to know whetherwe agreeor disagree.I did not directly address the issue of cultural translationor, to put it a weave evidifferent way,theissue ofhow ethnographers into elaboratedarguments. stressedalI dence together most completelythe issue of evidence alone. To show how ethnographers develop arguments using evidence would require analyzing a relativelylengthy passage. One ofthe clearestsamplesI know can be found in five pages of Schieffelin (I976:46-52). He begins by settingout the assertion that, forthe Kaluli of Papua




Volume 3I, Number 3, JuneI990

New Guinea, "food is important because it is a vehicle ticular resolutionsof culture,no matterhow transient of social relationship."The argumentthen ranges be- theyare in the long run." to tween more specificbut still abstractedassertionsthat It would seem therefore follow-as Rubinsteinand expand on this openingstatement(e.g., "the givingand Barrysay forcefully othersimply-that anthropoland of it sharing food. .. communicatessentiment; conveys ogy too would be open-ended,not a monolithicenterPerhapseven by familiarity, good will") and anecdotesand priseor constituted a singlesensibility. and affection, habitual actions that illustratethe assertions.As the the image of anthropology a conversationdoes not as argumentdevelops the abstractedassertions are con- quite reach: it is more like one long argument-and oftenarnected to one anotherjust as each of them is connected even that is not enough,since anthropologists in turnwith some anecdote or customarypiece of be- gue but not about the same things.Maybe the onlycomis haviour. If, as I have suggested,the anecdotal slices of mon thread joining anthropologists an only partly interlists of significant then the pas- overlapping evidence are best understoodas patterns, series of different as sage-and indeed the ethnography a whole, and with locutors, lists thatwould includemany,bothwithinand who are not anthroit the culturaltranslation-is best understoodas a pat- without the learned professions, whose larger pologists. ternofpatterns.It is a second-order pattern design is fashionedof abstractedassertionsand whose But I still thinkI can save some ofthe sense of collecmy article.I finerdetail comprises the anecdotes. The design as a tive purpose and of morale that informed whole has a great deal in common with Ziman's "ar- arguedin a largelyahistoricalstyle,and the comments chive" or "lacework" ofpatterns withtheir"messages." are made in that spirit.If, however,we were to ask a not I take it that Keesing's remarks, and his examples,refer historicalquestion,one concerning so much anthroto chiefly flaws in the largerdesign,and if so we might pology in general but ratherthe characterof ethnogthan the perhaps agree on what stricturesshould apply to the raphy,then we could discernmore uniformity makingof such designs. ahistorical view might suggest. The raw material for would consistin the ethnoWe might, however,still disagreebecause we have dif- such a view of ethnography and theirsoferentviews about the sources of understanding and graphicprojectsthathave been undertaken and misunderstanding ofthe balance ofthe two. Keesing cial setting.They would be seen to be constituted-and has can increasingly quotes Rosaldo's observationthat an ethnographer constitutedas ethnography continued on fail by taking assumptions to be shared that are not so far-in an insistence on fieldwork, the value of and on the nacan shared; but I suggestthat an ethnographer also fail interactionwith those ethnographized, than"documenby looking for the exotic where none exists. Keesing tureofevidenceas "illustration"rather worriesthat briefacquaintance with a ceremonymight tation" (to use Evans-Pritchard's [I940:261 distinction). yield a clearerpatternthan extendedacquaintance; but This core of practiceshas sometimes assortedill with that otherpracticesthat we have fromtime to time associit is quite possible, and not only in ethnography, I987), but it does briefacquaintance could be a reliable guide. Moreover, ated with anthropology (see Strathern an ethnographer con- have integrity a discerniblydistinctand still living as greater mightfindin an informant sonance of interests, viewpoints,life projects,or even collective enterprise. are techniquesthan in some colleagues. Ethnographers conscious,forexample,ofthe qualis work and tryto equal or surThough each of Keesing's strictures reasonable in ityof otherethnographers' and exof itself,togetherthey point to a view of culture that is pass it. The institutions doctoralsupervision foundedin culturaldifferences, indeed the veryno- amination enshrinethis value in social practice,as do and tion of cultural translationenshrinesthat view, along the processesofreviewin publication.There is a shared withthe view thatthe set ofdifferences we describe sense, and a sharedexperience, that thatany one whole projmade up of as "cultural" is especiallyproductive misunderstand- ect ofethnography an effortful of is undertaking thatthereare otherdiffer- many challenges and, if successful,of many achievefirst, ing.But I would suggest, overof such as writing, thatare at least as ments.Some ofthe achievements, ences, such as differences interests, and productiveof misunderstanding; second,that there lap in character and even to an extentin stylewiththose are commonalitiesthatoftengo unremarked ethnog- ofotherdisciplines,but the enterprise a whole has its as by but allow fora fruitful connectionamong infor- own complex character, social and culturalhistorical its raphers and mant,ethnographer, reader.A candidateforsuch a basis, and its own peculiar and changingaspirations. I988) ofGeertz's Works commonality mightbe the assumptionof intendedeffi- Writing elsewhere(Carrithers about cacy ofcommunication(Brownand Levinson i987). And and Lives, I have said that the book is not largely the greatestcommonalitymightbe the shareddisposi- ethnography. have also said that to the extentthat it I tion to understand way. does concernethnography misrepresents as it also it, people and eventsin a narrative it I the nature of writingin ethnography. a thatmightgrowfrom misrepresents So the ethnographic sensibility sketchedhow one mightbemutualist perspectivewould be a bit less insistenton have suggestedand briefly and ethnography, writingin ethnograand culturaldifferences perhaps-though I do not know gin to represent of The of Keesing'sview on this-more perceptive change.This phy,morefaithfully. representation ethnography because on the answer dependshow many mutualist view is captured neatly by Bradywhen he is important how much credence,and how much spiritare of writesof"the open-ended patterns social life"but also resources, in of "the closurein patterns thatcan be discovered par- spent on it.


Is Anthropology or Science? | Art


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