Daniel Lende offers a provocative take on Tim Ingold's Radcliffe-Brown lecture.. He notes Ingold's observation that for anthropologists, who are just getting used to the idea of informants as collaborators, to exclude students from a similar status is a scandal. How do you feel about this?

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John, thanks for the link. For me, it is this idea that we treat them similarly to how we once treated "natives" - not part of the process of doing anthropology, and that they have to go through the ritualistic initiation before they can start being anthropologists. As Ingold writes, we do spend a large amount of time with our students, but we don't really do anthropology with them. Here's one Ingold quote:

"Yet students remain excluded, and the inspiration and ideas that flow from our dialogue with them unrecognized. I believe this is a scandal, one of the malign consequences of the institutionalized division between research and teaching that has so blighted the practice of scholarship. For indeed, the epistemology that constructs the student as the mere recipient of anthropological knowledge—rather than as a participant in its ongoing creative crafting—is the very same that constructs the native as an informant. And it is no more defensible."

But I also quite liked the comment you left over on Neuroanthropology. I do believe that going to the "field," to somewhere different, is an important step in grasping what it is to be an anthropologist. But not all students can do that, particularly at the undergraduate level. And in today's globalized world, that sort of "field" experience can often be had rather locally. Still, if I had to choose, it would be somewhere they haven't lived, if only to get the cognitive distance, that sense of unfamiliarity and how to negotiate that. But in any case, I wanted to post your comment too in light of the conversation:

"There is no question about it that anthropology is a great way of engaging the world, both in the field and back at home. It is also a great idea to engage students in doing anthropology, to acquire the practice and not just the head trip that comes from reading books and writing papers about them. That said, and here I project my personal experience, there is something to be said for the idea that fieldwork in an alien place is hugely educational. Where else does a young, or not so young, adult get to re-experience having less street smarts than the average two year old while conscious of what’s going on? There is something to this initiation that no amount of qualitative research in an already familiar setting provides. Can it be simulated? Perhaps if every Anthro BA included a total immersion field school in some place very different from that where the graduates grew up…."
Keith Hart, who kicked off the Open Anth Co-op, commented on teaching and Tim Ingold in another thread started by Jeremy Trombley, .Toward an Anthropological Pedagody. Keith wrote:


"Tim Ingold was my first ever student in Cambridge. I was a graduate student just back from the field and he was a second year undergraduate. I was asked to give him some one-on-one supervisions. He blew me away. He knew far more anthropology than I did (which wasn't difficult since I had been a classicist).maybe that persuaded me that students should lead teachers rather than the other way round."

Keith also expanded in depth on how he thinks about teaching, which I definitely appreciated:

"I care more about getting the education right than whether or not we would attach to the principles involved a Greek tag of six syllables. It is important to go back to fundamentals.

Education as we know it is the camera obscura of ideology in Marx's sense, an attempt to persuade people that ideas (as packaged by experts) come before life. This reflects a social order whose priority is to secure compliance to what already exists rather than explore something new. The result is a 'hose in a bucket' approach. The student is expected to discard any personal experience in order to be filled with prepackaged 'knowledge'. Content in this sense, as you say, is useless to anyone who would learn to think for themselves.

You can lecture for knowledge or lecture for belief. I lecture for belief which is to say I want the students to believe that ideas come from life, from my life and implicitly from their own in the context of the long human conversation about a better world. I don't want to impose my thoughts on theirs, but to help them discover their own. I resist the idea that they should become like me, wishing rather to hitch a ride on their lives, since they will be going places I could never imagine. This principle applies to parenthood with even greater force.

My master in all this is Jean-Jacques Rousseau whose Emile: or on education is my all-time favourite book. It is so revolutionary that the Archbishop of Paris unleashed the hit squads on its author by issuing a fatwah under which Rousseau's killers would receive the benediction of the church. Essentially he was saying that we are normally in too much of a hurry to make children like oursleves. We reward the speed with which they acquire familiar habits. Any child can learn to entertain dinner guests with a Mozart violin sonata at the age of five if they sacrfice all other activities to that end. Rousseau's revolutionary idea was that children should be allowed to enjoy doing whatever they are suited for especially at a given age. His book is a fictitious accopunt of hmself as tutor to the boy, Emile, and his girlfriend Sophie, according to what J-J considered to be natural principles of self-development. The goal of his educational system was to help someone become the best person they are capable of, without concern for how this might fit him for contemporary society. At least he went to the root of the problem rather than complain about some of the surface manifestations.

It is worth noting that Immanuel Kant's Anthropology from a pragmatic point of view (1798) was likewise designed as a primer for self-development. The romantic movement as a whole dumped the idea of education as a means of adapting to existing social structure in favour of equipping individuals to do the best they could by relying on what was between their own ears. Renaissance humanism and 20th century existentialism shared some elements of this philosophy and I would prefer to found 21st century anthropology on something similar.

What we take for grantedpo as 'education' is based on a formula first articulated by Hegel in The philosophy of right (1821). He prosed states to manage the unequal excesses of capitalism and the latter to discipline the abuse of power by politicians. The common interest would be addressed by a class of university-trained bureaucrats. This programme was realised in stages after the first world war and it is unravelling now. The emphasis on academic research rather than teaching was exclusively a Cold War phenomenon. From now on in we can expect the focus to shift back to bums on seats, teaching in other words. Universities have been around for a millennium, but what we think they are was only established in the 1960s and has been running out of juice ever since. I will leave it there, but at this point I am clearly seguing into the discussion on Ingold and students are natives. This overlap is hardly accidental, since we need to rethink social models and anthropology offers an off-centre vantage point for doing so."
Daniel Lende said:
Keith Hart, who kicked off the Open Anth Co-op, commented on teaching and Tim Ingold in another thread started by Jeremy Trombley, .Toward an Anthropological Pedagody. My master in all this is Jean-Jacques Rousseau whose Emile: or on education is my all-time favourite book. It is so revolutionary that the Archbishop of Paris unleashed the hit squads on its author by issuing a fatwah under which Rousseau's killers would receive the benediction of the church. Essentially he was saying that we are normally in too much of a hurry to make children like oursleves. We reward the speed with which they acquire familiar habits. Any child can learn to entertain dinner guests with a Mozart violin sonata at the age of five if they sacrfice all other activities to that end. Rousseau's revolutionary idea was that children should be allowed to enjoy doing whatever they are suited for especially at a given age. His book is a fictitious accopunt of hmself as tutor to the boy, Emile, and his girlfriend Sophie, according to what J-J considered to be natural principles of self-development. The goal of his educational system was to help someone become the best person they are capable of, without concern for how this might fit him for contemporary society. At least he went to the root of the problem rather than complain about some of the surface manifestations.

It is worth noting that Immanuel Kant's Anthropology from a pragmatic point of view (1798) was likewise designed as a primer for self-development. The romantic movement as a whole dumped the idea of education as a means of adapting to existing social structure in favour of equipping individuals to do the best they could by relying on what was between their own ears. Renaissance humanism and 20th century existentialism shared some elements of this philosophy and I would prefer to found 21st century anthropology on something similar.

What we take for grantedpo as 'education' is based on a formula first articulated by Hegel in The philosophy of right (1821). He prosed states to manage the unequal excesses of capitalism and the latter to discipline the abuse of power by politicians. The common interest would be addressed by a class of university-trained bureaucrats. This programme was realised in stages after the first world war and it is unravelling now. The emphasis on academic research rather than teaching was exclusively a Cold War phenomenon. From now on in we can expect the focus to shift back to bums on seats, teaching in other words. Universities have been around for a millennium, but what we think they are was only established in the 1960s and has been running out of juice ever since. I will leave it there, but at this point I am clearly seguing into the discussion on Ingold and students are natives. This overlap is hardly accidental, since we need to rethink social models and anthropology offers an off-centre vantage point for doing so."
Whoops. That last message wasn't the message I created when I tried to respond to what Daniel Lende so eloquently wrote. Let me try again.

There is so much in Daniel's message; it reminds me of a banana split with three flavors of ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauce. Delicious but where to begin. I proceed from silly to serious.

Re Hegel: I recall Hal Walsh, a philosophy professor at Michigan State (the time was circa 1963) that, "Hegel was the first great philosopher who was both a university professor and a married man. It's been downhill ever since."

Re Rousseau and Kant: Don't both assume a universal goodness/rationality that is bound to emerge once human beings are freed from the distortions and corruptions of society, an idea that reaches its apotheosis in rational choice theory and market fundamentalism, in which all human beings are assumed to behave rationally in pursuit of their own interests? How does this square with the anthropological observation that human infants take a long time to be socialized into some particular kind of human being, and Clifford Geertz's assertion that there is no universal actor behind the lines and costumes some particular culture provides?

Re the notion of teaching as pouring water into empty buckets: When I was teaching seminars on advertising and marketing, I proposed to my students that knowledge creation is picture making. There are, however, two kinds of pictures, those found in jigsaw puzzles and those created when an artist confronts a blank canvas. The former are convenient for both students and teachers; the object of the exercise and the measure of its success are getting all the pieces and getting them in the right places. This exercise is easy to grade. The latter are inconvenient. As in art school, the teacher introduces materials and techniques, requires exercises that put them to work, offer hints as the students' projects develop. But how are the results to be graded? Who decides when a work of art is finished? Who decides whether the work is impressive or dull or tasteless? These judgments are inevitably subjective.

I then offer a word of advice that I was given at the start of the thirteen years I spent as a copywriter and creative director at a large Japanese advertising agency. A wise woman named Alice Buzzarte told me, "John, to succeed in this business you will need a thick skin. You have to realize that three out of four of your brilliant ideas are going straight into the trash can." I follow by observing that in all the time I spent at the agency, I never saw anyone paid big bucks for repeating what others had already done. A creator might start with something "like that," having in mind an ad seen in another context, but no comment was more damning than "already been done." Without some new angle or twist, that idea was dead.

Now the ad industry takes to an extreme the endless pursuit of the new and different that everyone talks about these days (including, I note, academics trying to get things published). There are still plenty of industries where repetitive physical labor is needed. But given these two extremes, knowledge-creation and mass-production, it is, advanced business thinkers believe, the former that is now the primary source of value in the postmodern, post-industrial global economy. How to educate knowledge workers is a hot topic for politicians as well as business leaders. I wonder what anthropologists can contribute to this debate.
I would be interested to hear how people hear respond to this presentation on 21st century literacies by Howard Rheingold. Be warned, it's forty minutes long, but I found it fascinating. Highly recommended.
John McCreery said:
There is so much in Daniel's message; it reminds me of a banana split with three flavors of ice cream, chocolate and caramel sauce. Delicious but where to begin. I proceed from silly to serious. Re Hegel: I recall Hal Walsh, a philosophy professor at Michigan State (the time was circa 1963) that, "Hegel was the first great philosopher who was both a university professor and a married man. It's been downhill ever since." Re Rousseau and Kant: Don't both assume a universal goodness/rationality that is bound to emerge once human beings are freed from the distortions and corruptions of society, an idea that reaches its apotheosis in rational choice theory and market fundamentalism, in which all human beings are assumed to behave rationally in pursuit of their own interests? How does this square with the anthropological observation that human infants take a long time to be socialized into some particular kind of human being, and Clifford Geertz's assertion that there is no universal actor behind the lines and costumes some particular culture provides?

John and I have met before on the OAC and, given our proclivities, we will meet again. So I feel it is worth examining the form of this exchange. I have long felt that people often talk past each other because of unexamined binary metaphysical assumptions where each holds to the opposite side. Indeed I have a structuralist fantasy of compliling a list of ten basic questions whose paired answers would would yield all possible variations of intellectual personality. Thus: Are human beings good or bad? Is life an order or movement? Is there an afterlife? Is truth a beautiful idea or what we find out there? Do we inhabit societies or cultures? And so on. Supply your own list.

In any case, Rousseau, Kant and Hegel are the indispensable link between Hobbes and Locke and Marx, Weber and Durkheim, from whom we claim descent for our modern discipline. In a way we are all Kant's children and the fact that we generally ignore his part in establishing that discipline is interesting, to say the least. I am an avowed classicist. I like to frame my own thinking through the giants of the past. It is perfectly acceptable not to share this proclivity. I did not import the current reflection to this thread because I thought it deserved to be more directly about Ingold and Daniel's commentary on him.

But John's comments above seem more about reproducing personal prejudice than serious argument, as he admits. Hegel is a joke and Rousseau/Kant subscribed to the same philosophy as the market fundamentalists today. They have been superceded by Geertzian anthropology. This made me wonder which of my universal list of questions might account for such an apparent gulf between us. It reminded me of another joke: The Rev. Sidney Smith saw two women haranging each other across the street from the front windows of their respective houses. "I am afraid that those ladies will never reach agreement", he said,"since they are arguing from different premises".

Why do I insist on the value of revisiting some of these old thinkers, when the world of contemporary anthropology is so full of exciting new developments? Because we can still learn from them, not by buying their ideas wholesale, but by revisiting their questions and some of their answers. John has summarized Rousseau's basic position here, but, not content with that, he wants to assimilate Kant to it (and both to economic liberalism). Kant's anthropology is too important to be sidelined in that way. He did not think we are naturally good. But he did believe that argument about what is good might be a way of overcoming cultural differences. That is why he found the possibility of reason in the history of all the judgments we each make, certainly not in anything recognizable as rational choice theory.

The original premise of this thread is still a good one and I am sorry for having taken it away from its substance. Back to students and natives!
Keith Hart writes,

Hegel is a joke and Rousseau/Kant subscribed to the same philosophy as the market fundamentalists today. They have been superceded by Geertzian anthropology.

Keith, I do believe that with a bit more careful reading you will realize that you have misconstrued what I was saying. Please note (1) that I did say I was proceeding from silly to serious -- Hal Walsh's remark about Hegel falls into the silly category -- and (2) that I did not equate Rousseau and Kant with rational-choice theory; I said, instead, that rational choice theory is an apotheosis of a notion that Rousseau and Kant appear to share, that individuals will, if freed of society's distortions and corruptions, arrive at something (could be between their ears, but I'm not saying that) universal, a goodness or reason that all uncorrupted humans share. Rational-choice theory pushes that notion to an extreme (the apotheosis I mentioned), in which it is impossible for individuals to choose anything that is not in their rational best interest and, through the accumulation of such choices, create the best of all possible worlds in whatever material circumstances in which they find themselves. I asked how that notion might be squared with the length of human socialization and the Geertzian proposition that there is no rational actor who only speaks the lines and wears the costumes that his culture requires of him when it is rational to do so.

One possible answer is that there is no problem here since whatever a culture requires at a particular time and place is, in fact, the rational choice for the circumstances in which it evolved. Thus, any actor acting in accord with his culture's norms will be, ipso facto, rational. This answer, however, I take to be silly. I am endlessly amused by the contortions of rational choice theorists attempting to account for institutions as crystallizations of rational choices without paying attention to the spatial and temporal dimensions of the choices in question. Here I refer to the commonplace that choices that appear to be rational in the short term may turn out to be irrational from a longer or broader perspective.

So, the question remains for me a real one.

That said, I perceive that the greatest difference between us is that you take the use of a name, e.g., "Rousseau," "Kant," or "Geertz," to imply an allegiance to a whole system of thought. I, on the other hand, follow the lead of Victor Turner, only seeing these names as pointers to ideas that may be useful, and happily extract them from "the logical sludge in which we find them embedded" to see if they illuminate whatever topic we are talking about. If they do, it may be useful to re-examine the systems from which we have taken them to see what other useful nuggets we may find. My attitude is, however, thoroughly pragmatic. And qua anthropologist I don't have a lot of time to spend debating whether Rousseau, or Kant, or Geertz, or the Brothers Grimm really meant the meaning I take from my reading of them. That may be an interesting question for intellectual historians; but unless it has some direct bearing on the current utility of the idea and its application to the subject at hand, I don't feel a need to go there.

Why do you?

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