Engendering Knowledge: The Politics of Ethnography, Part 1 Author(s): Pat Caplan Source: Anthropology Today, Vol. 4, No. 5 (Oct.

, 1988), pp. 8-12 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3032749 . Accessed: 23/12/2010 13:09
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no.to be concluded) Ethnography A poem written by R.L. I felt surrounded beautiful individuals. Yes it is. This means that his or .others by seemed to offer me the spectacle of a degraded humanity. ready to do them a service. If I study them as a social anthropologist. as contested. hostility felt by one culture towardsanotheris not racism? C. Nothing can authorizeone culture to destroy or even to oppress another. yes. in your eyes.reflexive era: The theoretical and descriptive idiom of much research in social science adopts a stance of apparent 'objective' neutrality. trickster. But we have seen how deceptive this can be.I shall deal with each of these in turn.L. Aside from the fact that. I am a racist'.what is culture itself? Increasingly.I see a couple that seems to be Japanese. Is that racism? D. how do we translateanotherculture through the vehicle of our own language? This in turn takes us back to the oft-debatedquestion . You mean ethnic types? No. if that is racism. the opposite was the case with the Bororo. midwife.L.D. The problem of relationships between cultures is situated on another level. everyone does the same to place an unknown person on the geographic map. others not. transshould we? What is the ethnographer? lator. or equivalent reasons. if it is active hostility.She mentionedRichards's presidential address to the African Studies Association in 1967. You don't like them? C. I set out in 'Race and culture' with as much vigour as in Race and Histoiy. A lot of hypocrisy would be needed to try and outlaw this kind of approximation. They all include sub-types. (in Weaver PAT CAPLAN This article is based on the second Audrey RichardsMemorial Lecturedelivered at Rhodes House. some of which seem attractive to us.. The Nambikwara women seemed to me in general more beautiful than the men. Making such judgments. That is a norm of human behaviour. The choice of syntax and vocabularyis a political act ibes that defines and circunmscr the manner in which facts' are to be experienced.and in the process.I do it with all the objectivity and indeed all the empathy of which I am capable. and intellectual tourist (see various contributors to Clifford 1986) are just some of the recent suggestions. as many have pointed out. it has been seen as manufactured.at one and the same time. We are publishing it in two parts. Dr Caplan started by saying that Audrey Richards(1899-1984) had been a 'livingproof for women studentsof her generation that 'womencould be and were good anthropologists'. QAford. it is something we do/study/use/read/and write (1984:7).E. The quantativelyinterchangeablegrist that goes into the mills of reliability studies and rating scales is the expression of a processing that we do on r-eality not the expression 1973) of the processes of reality. both by informants and anthropologists. but then promptly disappearsfrom the main text.-S. D. following other authorsor at the same time as them. Ethnography lies at the boundary of two systems of meaning and raises the question. the sound of the language. So that. as if to establish the authorityand credibility of having actually 'been there'. writer of fiction. In the same way. But the only valid canons in the circumstancesare those of the people concerned. r We should speak of capta ather than data. That would be saying too much. The theory and the practice are indefensible for a number of reasons which.tual aptitudesand moral dispositions on the other. If in Paris. You know how attractedI am by Japan.behaviour. so that very different culturesdo not attractme automatically. Third: that these groups called 'races' can be hierarchized in terms of the quality of their genetic heritage. can feel more or less affinity with one another.bricoleur. That doesnit prevent certainculturesfrom hitting it off less easily than others with my own. but if you had told me 'I look at them with hatred' I would have replied.-S.L. In daily life. C. one risks playing the enemy's game. while respecting one another. Roy Ellen suggests that it has many meanings .can we? Archivist. If you look at them with sympathy.much attention is currentlyfo- cused upon ethnographyand definitions of it as a form of knowledge. inquisitor. for many naive people will say to themselves 'Well. largely concerned with anthropologyand feminism.E. certainly not. I will look at them with interest and sympathy. The protagonistsin this contest are the ethnographer. The standard monograph which has characterized British and American social anthropologyfor so many years has come in for some heavy criticism. And yet. D.. How do we represent another culture . Second: that this heritage on which the aptitudes and dispositions are held to depend is common to all the members of certain human groups. In denouncing it as racist.-S. Indeed.the subjects/informants. In some Indian communities in Brazil. D. we apply the canons of our culture. in the underground.and the audience/reader. Fourth:that these differences authorize those 'races' held to be superior to command and exploit others. Laing captures the mood of the postmodemist.-S. which recalled what it 8 Within anthropology.E. on 18 May. in a sense it goes further and even creates thefac ts that are studied The 'data' (given) of research are not so much given as taken out of a constantlyelusive matrixof happenings. I belong to a culture which has a distinctive life-style and value-system. will appear in the December issue. it is usually extremely boring. of which the second. Are there physical appearanceswhich generate antipathyin you? C. I based my reaction on physical appearance. it also fails to include the observer in its analysis: the ethnographerappears briefly in the preface. But it is a fact which has always existed that cultures. Engendering knowledge The politics of ethnography(Part 1 . Such negation of other people has inevitably to rely on transcendentreasons: those of racism.E. maybe to destroy them.

and particularlytheir informants. Out of this corpus of critical anthropologyhas come a plea by some for a different way of doing fieldwork. And to whom do we representthis culture? What is our audience? Other anthropologists? Administrators/aid personnel? The lay reader? (do non-anthropologists reallyread ethnographictexts?).1954. Int. 1986. and what is left out. Dr Pat Caplan is principal lecturer in social anthropologyat Goldsmiths'College.g.it was pointed out that ethnographersare of representatives dominantmetropolitancultureswhich may in large part be responsible for the poverty and oppression of their anthropologicalsubjects. of course. culturallymediated and historicallyconstructed(K.1976.' Feminist Review Autumn 17.such representationimplies that whereas the self ('us') is monolithic. Lan 1985. The name of the game now is aesthetics. Asad.Zed P.1984. although goodness knows who would publish let alone read such an account. and relevance. it is striking that some British social anthropology. (Elinore Smith-Bowen) Returnto Laughter. or world system. nation-state. Le Roy Ladurie 1978. but also for their representationof the other.Laura.an approachwhich Ricoeur defines as the comprehension of the self by the detour of the other. 1. Thus. African Inst. It has even been suggested that a 'full account' would include intermediatewritten versions of a text. What about the subjects themselves. since it is. Dr Caplan chose in this lecture to focus on ethnography. unconsciousor conscious. and in the form of a novel. for was example. For a long time it was the only book of its kind until more experiential ethnographicaccounts began to emerge in the mid 1960s. 3. This trend overlapped with another debate about ethics. her own activity is not scrutinized(K. in collecting facts.e. Amos. Thoughthere were many otherfacets of Richards's work that could have been singled out. whether this be region.reflections we demand of our subjects (Rabinow 1977). Questions such as whether anthropology is an art (most often seen as a branch of history) or a science and whether or not it is possible to do truly objective ethnography have been around for a long time (Evans-Pritchard 1961. but to come into it in the right way. and dehumanization. perceive and act possible (Geertz 1977)? The question now is not simply 'what does something mean?' But rather. It has been suggested. as well as the problems of translation. K.the number of those actually writing 'experimental ethnography' (as opposed to an anthropology of ethnography) is even smaller (e. So how do we characterize ethnographers'informants . Macfarlane 1970. 'Girls' puberty and boys' circumcision rites among the Swahili of Mafia Island. dialogue. polyphony/polyvocality.that we should all be practising Anthropology at Home. Caplan. pointing out that its silence on the subject of European expansion has shaped traditional ethnographicdiscourse (see Pratt 1986). essentialist. juxtaposition.engaged with anthropologyas history. for many ethnographers. he sees truth to be found in silence or the spaces between words. Dwyer 1982. accountability.Pat. some of Richards's concerns anticipate those of 'post-modernist'. assist in the collection of data. Forum 7. Bohannan. Amadiume. we would have to expose the self in its widest sense.as authors?collaborators?assistants?colleagues? (Ellen 1984). are we not also changing read- ing itself. Even before the rise of reflexive anthropology. pastiche. Valerie and PratibhaParmar. or analogical. spells the end of exoticism. and are fed back written material for their comment before it is published (Huizer et al.there was a genre of so-called 'confessional' literature. Dwyer 1982).In its turn.female husbands.Maquet 1964). Furthermore. Some would go so far as to argue that for practical and ethical reasons. They themselves often shape our knowledge more than we realize. furthermore. and on the difference between 'weak' and 'strong' languages (K. see also Mead 197 7). sometimes interpreted narrowly as a concern about confidentiality and potential harm to informants.or at the very least. we need to acknowledge. Some anthropologistsare now looking at how texts are constructed. and some ethnographies have become histories (e. Heidegger is reported to have said that what is decisive is not to get out of the circle. 1987.g.which was a long-standinginterest of Richards's: she published an article in 1939 on 'The developmentof field-work methodsin social anthropology'. Atkinson.'How do we know what this means for them?' Many have argued that anthropology is inevitably hermeneutic. 'The concept of cultural translationin British social anthropology'in Clifford and Marcus q. 1986). the self also changes. collage. that Evans-Pritchard forced to use participant observationamong the Nuer because he had no informants(Rosaldo 1986). Dwyer 1982. for in the circle is hidden the possibility of the most primordialkind of knowing. Choice and Constraint in a Swahili OUP for Community. this formed part of the critical theory of the 1960s and 1970s which took anthropologyto task for its links with colonialism. much of which has been inspiredby the work of Paolo Freire. Shostak 1983. such research should or could only be carried out in one's own country . the subjects. the so. as well as the final published versions (Marcus and Cushman 1982). that in making this detour. and this happens but rarely.called 'action-research'. an idea recently revived as some Europeanhistorianshave begun to write more like anthropologists(e. reflexiveanthropology. and our relationshipwith our readers? This currentreflexive movement should not be overestimated: the number of its practitionersis relatively small. let alone scrutinize the self. essentially. Winter. originally published in 1954. We need to take account of the double mediation of data by the very presence of the ethnographerand by the kind of self. 1984. Dwyer 1982. Marcus and Cushman1982) or the newly observed (by anthropologists anyway) westerners? For whom are we writing? And in the process of trying to change what we write and the way we write it. the 9 . like the other. socially and historically) involved with what we claim to know.g. an ethnographyshould not be homological. Taussig 1980). Dwyer 1982). exoticization of the West. and later in her career she reflected on the differencebetween French and British interpretations of African religion. in short. alienation. Harperand Brothers.Ife. how is a knowledge of how they think. Furthermore. But. which of course. But in North America. By adopting a contemplative stance the ethnographershields the self and denies that the other affects the self. framing. Crapanzano1980. 2. Indeed.v. Male daughters. Anthropologists who write standardmonographs are now criticized not only for failing to include. such as Hortense Powdermaker's Strangerand Friend (1966). 1975. who are often ignored as an audience even by the postmodernists (e. Bowles. Yet to understand the other. plagiaristic. Gloria. or perhaps. of which one of the earliest examples is LauraBohannan's Return to Laughter. Jane. In this and other ways. 1979). the other ('them') is specific (Marcus and Cushman 1982). 1982. of the effect of the ethnographer's linguistic competence upon the subjects' responses. .but also more widely in terms of plagiarism. i. This leads to an inevitable inequality of researcher and researched (K. Asad 1986). that we are all intimately (personally. If anthropologistscannot think like natives. This is the hermeneutic circle. 'Review essay: anthropology'Signs 8. which means. in which the subjects both help formulatethe problems. Critical anthropology argued that anthropology often pretends to be apolitical and therebystands accused of defending the status quo. Talal. Nor should we over-estimate its innovativeness: we can find long-standing debates in anthropology which presage these developments. Nash 1979. what goes in. even in the heyday of ahistorical structuralfunctionalism. London. 'The uses of hermeneutics for feminist scholarship'Women's Studies Int. 'ChallengingImperial Feminism. which stresses the element of selection. and the same names recur with almost monotonous regularity. much anthropology has tended to become more introspective and closer to literature:it is perhapsnot insignificant that quite a number of American anthropologists are poets. it ignores the context of the wider scene. Ginzburg 1980).had been like to be an anthropologistin the 1930s. heteroglossia.g.' Africa 46. under an assumed name. positivist.

interested in culture. as well as the effect that they have on the societies they study. and sexual segregation. . critical anthropologygenerally.)Women Property. suggesting as a model the so-called 'subalternstudies' which have come from recent work in Indian history (Guha 1982. and a critical wing on the other. non. FrankCass. I have had new theoretical questions in mind. postmodernist anthropology is somewhat different from action anthropology or indeed. Anthropologyas History.' (ibid:166). Roger Keesing (1987). its basic concern is with interpretationof text.anthropologicalfeminists among you may be wondering what all the fuss is about in considering the hermeneutic turn in ethnography because much of it has a familiarring. Nelson (ed. Furthermore. 1977. CaliforniaP.Jamesand George E. He points out that in the work of Geertz.and in anthropology.S. . 1982. P.'Gender. feminists have long insisted that objectivity is a very relative concept. Scholte beratesits practitioners for their involutional relativism.thus far in the lecture. practised. Vincent. Wilson (eds. 1983). one finds no mention of colonial or even post-colonial violence (1986).1984. and particularlysince it describeda cognatic system. Marcus (eds.confident... not for them. and its shift from observational and empirical methodology to a communicative and dialogical epistemology. though it is dedicated to Audrey Richards. by their responses to my questions. P. I was not particularlysensitive to gender. Symbolic anthropology (and he saw postmodernistsas very much heirs to that tradition) lacks a totalizing concept of context or situation. Dwyer. Ethnographic Research: a guide to general conduct. Academic P. E. I was particularlystruck by Swahili women's sexual autonomy .constantly obtruded themselves upon my notice. disciplines are being turnedinside out. although they might have had a larger slice had I written the thesis at a laterdate. Kemnitzerand D. Face Values. the Politics and Poetics of Ethnography. between domestic and public. Indeed. Paladin. and why particularquestions and ideas occurred when they did. was probablybecause I was coming out it of the debates surroundingsexual freedom current in 10 . meaning and epistemology. and anthropologicaltheories of culture. de Vere Allen and T.particularlyits problematization of language. Paideuma28. both individually. but the processes whereby knowledge is produced(Spender1981). and a poetics of poetics. it has been criticized in its turn for its failure to take sides and its lack of a moral centre. my informants. Strathem:'Out of Context' Current Anthropology28. Using the example of feminist anthropology.E.1986. I steered clear of such 'trivia'. A number of feminist writers have argued that so-called scientific objectivity is actually a version of male subjectivity.He ends his review by accusing practitioners of the genre of descending into preciousness. So is anthropology inevitably split between a symbolic wing on the one hand. Some have gone so far as to reject altogether the notion of objectivity (Bowles 1984).H. for example. The anthropologist's perceptions I have been working in the same area of northernMafia Island off the Tanzanian coast for more than twenty years. Sutherland.an apparent paradox in an Islamic area where virginity was valued. Franz SteinerVerlag. In retrospect. In the course of debates like these.between one discipline and another. between theory and practice. Dolgin.Writing Culture:ThePolitics and Poetics of Ethnography. in similar vein.Croom Helm. like many women anthropologistsof the time. Clifford.M. Geertz.. then much that was previously consideredirrelevantis now seen to be highly relevant. we have a poetics of politics. Fardon. ManchesterU. Ellen. Crapanzano. Kevin 1982. (ed.1981. an attempt to write an ethnography which is 'dialogical'. 'The Swahili of Chole Island. and their blindness to the political consequences of culture as ideologies. Scholte is disappointed to find an almost total dearth of politics in the book. few do the spinning.1987.1986. that in fact. but also at changes in myself. As a recent commentator has expressed it. of U.) q. 'Comment' on M. interestedin politics and ideology? Is the hermeneutic project inherentlyneglectful of power? The observant among you may have noticed two things . Marcus(eds. or to grapple with the fact that discourse is subject to external relations of production. Its concern is with meaning. Cliffordand George E.culture and modes of in production' J. . Clifford. and has an underdevelopedsense of the politics of culture. suggesting rather that we should use feminist thought to become more objective by conceptualizing objectivity as a dialectical process (Keller 1982). Although it also berates traditional ethnographersfor failure to examine themselves and the culturalbaggage which they carrywith them. New Reflexive.I realise that the paradox existed for me. pointing out that cultures are also webs of mystification.I would like to spend a short time consideringmy own fieldwork in East Africa.) AfricanWomen in the Development Process. Clifford. 3. 1980. What one sees or experiences depends upon who one is. I want to suggest that feminism had already raised many of the major issues now preoccupying postmodernist anthropologistsbut that there are major differences between them in the feminists' insertion of power. the essential task for anthropologyat the moment is to bridge the gap between political theories of ideologies.I want to argue that we can be both reflexive and political. Schneider(eds) Symbolic Anthropology. not the productionor maintenanceof culturaltexts. and with an understandingof how ethnographicauthority is constituted. P. socially and historically. depending on one's position. and by the kind of questions they have themselves asked me. Since my subsequentthesis (Caplan 1975) was upon systems of kinship and descent. During my first period of fieldwork between 1965 and 1967.Womenas Property.James. Writing Culture. and looking at how I have engenderedknowledge about it over the last twenty years. and with each field trip. but hardlya politics of politics (Fardon1987). has recently reminded us that texts are read differently. In other words. history and politics. In his review of the recent influential collection edited by James Clifford and George Marcus.Islamiclaw and women's property on the East African coast. P. Elsewhere. and for their failure (with a few honourableexceptions) either to addressthe discourse in other than structuquestion of authoritative ral terms. he also attacks Geertz's notion of culture as a 'web of signification'. The late Bob Scholte suggested that a major reason for this problem is the failure to join Marx and Weber production and meaning. Chicago U. To some extent. Evans-Pritchard.Richard.) 1984. women could scarcely be left out. He argues against a retreatfrom theory. 'Development - policies in Tanzania - - some implications for women' in N. 1986. Indeed. ColumbiaU. Hirschon and (ed. D. saying that 'Where feminists and marxists find oppression. symbolists find meaning. 1961. between expert and non-expert. most just get caught (1984:140).). An importantaim of feminist scholarshiphas been to break down boundaries . from the world into the text. Others are more cautious.B. Waiting:the Whitesof SouthAfrica. and warning of the possibility that an apparent concern with multiple ethnographic voices is actually a disguised concern for the academic career. MoroccanDialogues. I have scarcely mentioned a female name. Baltimore. determined. Tanzania'in Anne ed.L. Secondly. However.1978. 'From the Natives' Point of View. Yet women themselves articulate. 'Cognatic descent.' in R. John Hopkins U. transforming not just knowledge. 'Partialtruths: to Introduction' J. my informants have also shaped the nature of the data gathered. Wiesbaden. He too criticizes writers such as Geertz for their ignoring of power and the way cultural meaning sustains privilege. As he sees it. This is part of a much wider project.BBC Publications.' in J. Roy.) From Zinj to Zanzibar.v. for if the personal is the political. including some veiling. Scholte (1987) applauds the important insights of the hermeneuticapproach. London. Before going on to consider the impact of such ideas upon anthropology. which looks at a period of two decades not merely in terms of historical changes in the society under question.TuhamiPortrait of a Moroccan. a feminist anthropology denies the split between epistemology and politics. and that furthermore.

saw contraception differently. Men. they were not unimportant.Gerrit(ed. only 41% of females fell into that category. food had become increasingly short in the village.. they do not control their own fertility. and the strengthof women.Subaltern Studies vols. seeing them as an asset in terms of future support and prestige. she'll wash your corpse. she'll fetch water for you. 3. 1982). Households are now more dependentupon cash to purchase staple food. since they ate with their fathers. although she does not state what the usual distributionof food between the sexes is. preferring to devote themselves to cash crops. eggs and milk) might go some way to explaining it. Some said that they were afraidof the men's anger if they did not serve them nice food. The health workers cited three causative factors. No contraceptionwas available in the village. and. boys were likely to have a better diet than girls. 1986. From my comparative reading on Africa. a situation which applied equally to domestic eating Even so. RKP.an the West in the 1960s that I was so impressed by the open celebration of women's sexuality which was particularly apparent in women's puberty rituals and at weddings (Caplan 1976. Witchcraftin Tudor and StuartEngland.v. Women explained this in a number of ways. the roots of which go back many decades. 'Anthropology as Interpretive Quest'.the women carriedout the ritual on behalf of the whole village. This is perhaps comparable to Richards' findings for the Bemba where men and women also eat separately. 1984).changes in land tenure. There is a very high fertility rate in this area. Huizer. I had accepted the explanation that it was part of a complex in which women wvere devalued largely because they did not play a significant role in productionand thereforethat such a situation would be out of the question in an area of 'female farming' like Mafia. although many women expressed a wish that it were. 1983.Carlo. 25-69 Mascarenhas. In 1976. 1985. he doesn't do anything.R. but also that they frequently did not get enough to eat. as well as the patternof Islamic laws of inheritancewhich favour men. Richards. or those of society as a whole. One is insufficient nourishment. as can be seen from Richards' early work on food among the Bemba in the 1930s (Richards 1932. Evelyn Fox. A disproportionate number of underweight babies and toddlers were female. Womenin Tanzania. Women too viewed children in this way. 'The persons of women: the first AudreyRichards MemorialLecture.Tavistock Publications.'Contemporary problemsof ethnographyin the modem world system' in Clifford and Marcus q. 1983. Macfarlane.RKP. When I returnedto Mafia for the third time in 1985 to study gender in relation to food.but one informantsuggested that male control of bought food in the household (such as fish. which I consider in a moment. the remainder being underweight. ThePolitics of Mouton. I wanted to show that in spite of the fact that women often inhabitedseparate space to men's. 1977). these ideas were reconfirmed. since less is produced.The Interpretation of Ritual:Essays in Honourof AI. 'improved' housing.an unmarriedwoman in her early twenties. and this was also confirmed at the District hospital. 1987. but they were well aware of the problems of pregnancy and birth. and they thus perceived them as a cost too. When I went back to the field in 1976 to make a film on gender relations with a BBC film crew.) 1972.Roger.Jean (ed.1986b. Keesing. Guha. 'Afterword: ethnographicwriting and anthropological careers' in Clifford and Marcusq. I spent some time at the Mother and Child Health Clinic and took observations on 98 children.I began to reconsider my material.1982. Maquet. Some of the reasons for the situation in northern Mafia are common to those elsewhere. I became interested in feminism. I and II.v. I also realize that the women's determinationto shock me with graphic details was probably one way they had of coping with an anomaly such as myself . for what was striking on my 1985 visit was a realizationthat not only did women often eat after men. Most men said they wanted as many children as possible. women wanted children of both sexes. We returnedto London to make a film which emphasized the complementarityof men's and women's roles. The paramedicand the midwife in the village clinic told me that a very high proportionof women were anaemic. Ladurie. Marcus. A girl will pound for you. of course. I published several articles on this theme (1978.both sexes were breast-fedfor the first two years .1980 (1976).than they were twenty years ago. 1970. I had asked men and women about sex preferences in children: men mainly wanted boys.1985. 1982.Alan. 1982. health and fertility. Guns and Rain: Guerillas and SpiritMediumsin Zimbabwe. however. La Fontaine. maybe he'll dig your grave! and to feasts. (ed. The separateness of husband and wife was brought constantly to my notice as they always insisted on being paid individually when we filmed households or rituals. 1982. like other feminist anthropologists. Current Anthropology 28. Keller. and the increasing emphasis by the state upon a new entity called the 'familia' (1981). and found that not a single man was present . David. This process is intensified by their greater access to a range of occupations in addition to or instead of farming.York. meat. Marcus.1964.George.deciding in the process that gender relations in this area were relatively egalitarian. . with few speaking in favour of it and many opposing it. One is men's reluctance to spend much time and effort on subsistence crops. 1978. In the early 1970s.' (unpub. 'Ethnographies as Text' Annual Review of Anthropology11. She said 'The midwife keeps telling me to get eggs for our underweight daughter but my husband won't buy eggs for this child'.but women will apparently cook for their husbands and their sons. Century London. which result in far greatercontrol of cash by men than women. George and Dick Cushman.James Currey. but it was only in 1985 that I became aware of the consequences of this difference. and anotherwho told us: It is better to have girls than boys. women usually have more pregnanciesthan they want and to this extent. or perhapsbecause of it. she'll go for firewood for you and when you die. It was.1982.). 'Introduction'to Chisungu. and the third is the frequency of pregnancy. 2. even if they are short themselves (1939:122. I was not preparedfor what I found. We filmed the New Year ceremony about which people had constantly talked in the village for days before. Whereas 76% of male children were within the ranges of normality. 1. But a boy! He doesn't pound. Others said that men need more food than women and stated that God had made women better able to endure hunger than men. But in other respects. 1979. 'Objectivityin Anthropology' Curr entAnthropology 5. Ginzburg. as in Tanzania as a whole.Montaillou: the Promised Land of Error.EmmanuelLe Roy.).either in their own eyes.Jacques. Both men and women desire children and I was frequentlyreproachedfor only having two of my own: What's the matter with you? Are you afraid of this work? Never mind. OUP Delhi.Feminismand Science' Signs 7. 135.the second is women's very high work-load. anthropology. although another written around the same time warned of the likely worsening position of women as a consequence of certaindevelopmental policies . This problem is not peculiar to Mafia Island or even Tanzania: much of sub-SaharanAfrica is in the throes of a growing food crisis. Observations in a number of households also revealed that when men and women ate in separategroups. God will send you some more. I had expected to find many of these trendsevident on Mafia Island. he doesn't fetch water. We also filmed a woman who supportedand took care of her aged fatherherself. and that their general morbidity was much greaterthan that of men. Lan. 1939).paper). and of the subsequentburdens in caring for children. The 11 . .GeorgeBraziller. by comparisonwith other societies including my own. These figures surprised me because although I was familiar with a similar situation for parts of India (cf Miller 1981. 1982.Tavistock Publications.Ophelia and MarjorieMbilinyi. 140). The Cheese and the Worms:the Cosmosof a Sixteenth Miller.well. difficult to obtain explanations about this situation.

Feminist anthropologists redefined power and politics and showed that women were involved in these areas. and that this is bound to have repercussionson gender relations. see how changes in my own consciousness feed into the process of constructingethnography. U. From my vantage point at that time. the decade had seen a deteriorationin their position. Reflections on fieldwork in Morocco. for plainly they se not.1987.Dale. otherwise she who eats last eats least.) 1973. a more sombre note was being sounded. Furthermore. JASO 6. some other parts of the coast. then. Foresmanand Company. as can the women themselves. I turn in the concluding part of my Lecture to the question of the relationshipbetween anthropologyand feminism. I realize that some of my perceptions were coloured by my personal circumstances: at the time of my first fieldwork I was single and childless. like their sisters in parts of India. But this explanation is somewhat undermined by looking at the historical records for the last fifty years which show that during this period. would turn me into an honorarymale (see Okely 1975). in addition to being responsible for fetching wood and water. and their own definitions of feminism (Amos and Parmar1984. even as babies. Sequential feeding is less important if there is enough for everyone. Miller. But I can to some extent. at the same time ThirdWorld women themselves had plenty to say about their own oppression. 'African systems of thought. Richards. 1932. and indeed. and also includes talking to friends. even in societies where they might appearto be subordinatebecause of sexual segregation.1981. women maintainedtheir property separatelyfrom their husbands. Rabinow.If we ask differentquestions. certainlynot in a poor Third World country.v.Marjorie.1939. A second way of looking at this situation is to argue that what we find depends on the questions which we ask and on the angle of vision from which we approach our material. as my supervisor often told me. in the mid in 1960s.Audrey. women worked as well as having children. By 1985. P.Current Anthropology25. it was burgeoning.1982. It was increasingly clear that for the vast majority of the world's women. Shankman. 1977. if there were problems associated with my sex.' Critiqueof Anthropology VI. 2. 1. and characteristic of not a few was their insistence that women were actors.'thick description'. At busy times.and these do not always fit together very neatly. The self and scientism. that given the increased economic difficulties in Tanzania. there was no 'feminist anthropology'. occupation. . Scott. their fertility.D. pounding grain and cooking food. 1980. as did Richards among the Bemba over 50 years ago (1939). do I explain this apparent discrepancy? Given the ratherbleak picture I obtained in 1985.Mary Louise. Berkeley.analytical bibliography. . ask the same questions the first time I went into the field. during the whole of this period. 'Field-workin common places' in Clifford and Marcusq. Nonetheless. By the mid 1970s. and indeed elsewhere in the Third World. By the time of my second visit. Comment on 'The thick and the thin' by P. There is thus a significant relationship between women's health. and the value of their actions is respected by men too. and particularlythe drop in food production. Land labour and diet in NorthernRhodesia OUP for IAI. yet they are not passive victims: rather they seek to strategize within the constraints imposed upon them. of North CarolinaP. Mead. Spender. a culture may feature various and mutually contradicting statements about it (Atkinson 1982:248). We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat us. of course. Could it account for the fact that girl babies appear to be suffering. Yet in other areas. the world was my oyster. and control of their fertility. Okely. Michael. Few people are. Judith. The EndangeredSex .both ideologies and practices . areas of their lives where they are subordinate to men. In retrospect. . women work all day in the fields. Lettersfrom the Field.Neglect of Female Childrenin Rural North India. that is for about six months of the year. and it would be surprisingif all the indicators pointed in the same direction. rarely work in the fields for more than half a day.1977. 1. or attending political meetings. Many studies around this time focused upon women. The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in Latin America U. the end of the UN decade for women. Men's studies modified:the impact offeminism on the academic disciplines. they change their clothes. on the other hand. B. as Clifford Geertz has suggested for all ethnography. of course.Uppsala. A further important factor in this situation is their work-load. see also Mascarenhas and Mbilinyi 1983 for an example from Tanzania). Scholte. 1986. One of the difficulties in interpretingthis material is that I did not. we may well get different 'answers'. The picture may be disconcerting and untidy.an Anglo-French dialogue' Man n. fieldwork and a Ph. arrangedmarriages or whatever. 1984. and that in any case. then.s. Given this situation. SIDA Stockholm/Scandinavian Instituteof African Studies. June. playing cards. and their access to food.1967. especially at different points in time. Thomas (ed. Yet these measurableindices of women's worth seemed to be so much at variance with my views of them up to then. are supposed to be able to withstand hunger and not complain. as elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Amadiume 1987. we find that women are disadvantaged in relation to men in terms of economic power. In sum.stuffs. Pergamon Taussig. I cannot be sure how different my findings would have been twenty years ago had I done so. 286-98 Rosaldo. 33-47 Shostak. Renato. Hunger and Workin a Savage Tribe. an activity which can take up the whole afternoon. To See Ourselves. I was marriedwith two small children and had come up against many of the difficulties which this brings for women in western society. 'From the door of his tent: the fieldworkerand the inquisitor' in Clifford and Marcus. P. Men. for gender is a very complex field. 1981. including my own. 1979.q. we cannot claim that they are totally in control of their lives. 1975.RKP.How. To be concluded 12 . and go into the centre of the village 'to do the shopping'. Mafia has never males been self-sufficient in food. we may well find both meaning and oppression as we consider this topic. After returninghome for lunch and a bath. from neglect to the point where more of them are underweight and vulnerable to disease and early death? It is possible. In short.v. . 'The charmedcircle of Geertz's hermeutics:a neo-marxistcritique.customs which previously had little harmful effect change their nature. Penguin. 'Female labour participationand female seclusion in ruralIndia:a regional view. Cornell U. and assumed that.Harperand Row.' Economic Developmentand Cultural Change Nash. Barbara. Thus it is clear that in building up a picture of gender relations. of California P. .1983 (1981) Nisa: the life and words of a !Kungwoman. Margaret.1986. 1925-75. 'The literaryturn in contemporary anthropology:a review article' Critiqueof Anthropology VII. gender relations may well be both asymmetrical and complementary. They are often chronically tired. have outnumbered females on Mafia Island. 'development' has not benefited men and women equally. Furthermore. Yet re-reading some of the material which appeared at that time. one might expect that there would be a higher rate of mortalityfor female than for male children. An apparently similar contradictionwas raised by Jean La Fontaine in her Richards lecture when she considered 'the images of Bemba women provided in ritual and in the reality of their lives' (1985:4). P.Many areasneed to be considered . Weaver. But the third point is that gender relations cannot be characterizedin any simple way. 1986. ColumbiaU. it is tempting to argue that here. women are autonomous. Certainly we can distinguish. other factor is the belief that girls. although I did not find any instances of them being unable to cook because they were too exhausted. but women here do have less elbow room than men. we need. it does sometimes feel as if focusing upon the women's world in this way enabled the very real constraintson their lives to be dismissed. my first visit to this area.and this does indeed seem to be the case. access to food.3 Pratt. rates of health and sickness. veiling. Mafia society appeared to have solved some of the worst problems with which I was grappling: other people helped out with children.

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