A side note on anthropologists in Bali

I think I might have across a bit snide to anthropologists in the previous post. I’ve known several anthropologists in Bali (in 1953 or thereabouts, Clifford and Hildred Geertz paid an affable social call on my parents, then newly settled in Klungkung–in the anthropological world, this is akin to saying that the Queen of England stopped in for a spot of tea, and even though I wasn’t born, I bask in the glow). I’ve done a bit of layman’s reading in the field over the years. The good anthropologist is genuinely curious about people and their culture (whether it’s the culture of the Balinese, the culture of the scientist in the laboratory, the culture of anthropologists themselves in academia). Much of their ethnographic work –of real people in real situations—is quite interesting reading, at times as riveting as a good drama, drug lords in an inner-city trying to work out a territorial treaty of who-gets-to-deal-where, or what should the anthropologist do when she learns that a young girl in the village is going to suffer mutilating circumcision. (Their scholarly work is not so accessible, with an awful lot of ten dollar words and a jargon you have to learn—case in point, Clifford Geertz’s famed paper on the Balinese cockfight—the first half starts with highly entertaining account of a cockfight that is well worth anybody’s reading, and the second is an analysis that drinks deep from the fountain of intellectual thought).

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that professional anthropologists have a certain worldview or theoretical framework they impose (and that is a far word to use, I reckon) on what they are studying. Some of these schools of thought can be radically different, down to fighting words and spitballs and public vitriol, kind of like shortboarders and SUPS. The good anthropologist studying Balinese culture almost assuredly does not believe in the unseen world the Balinese most assuredly do believe in, but allows the Balinese narrative space for their own discourse (and I am lapsing into postmodern jargon).

Anyhow, what’s up with the sewage project? They keep going down the same manhole covers with the same buckets of cement. Not a real positive sign for when sewage actually starts flowing–where is it going to flow to?

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