More and more I’ve been trapped into thinking about power in overly simple, generalized ways. Ie: my previous attempt at a more creative/informal/free expression on how I felt doing a Masters degree. Having some experience now working as a TA, I have felt first hand the effects of “power”. When I speak with people in the class, they do treat me a bit differently – or I act a bit differently – or something in between. I don’t want people to act differently with me, but it happens anyways. If I was teaching the class, what would I expect? How would this transform the way I see things?
I am someone who shrugged off responsibility as much as he possibly could. I left a great job as a web developer to go study anthropology – the office life didn’t cut it. Traveling the world certainly contributed to my feeling of being trapped – some say traveling is something good to get out of your system early, but in my experience I have had a hard time staying put ever since my first trip backpacking in Mexico. I suffer perpetual wander lust. Responsibility is a big challenge!
I’m hesitant to embrace but i am enjoying, the roles provided to me at the university. So is anthropology really a “game of power”? Yes and no. I’ve applied concepts from readings on colonialism and decolonizing anthropology. When you look at it in this light, its easy to see how anthropology was established within very particular, and very dominating relationships.
But now I see domination everywhere and there is so much more going on outside of this framework of power relations. By looking at anthropology within this power structure context, I have been a bit negative, and narrow minded. It lead me to a particular line of logic – ie: blogs vs journals, traditional vs contemporary, aka everything is “versus”. oh did I mention “teachers vs students” :P
I think this touches on the idea Wacquant discusses in “Shadowboxing with Ethnographic Ghosts: A Rejoinder” (2005) – where he argues that his book “Body & Soul” contained “praxeological” rather than “logocentric” theory. Is he talking about a kind of theory that gets away from this generalizing tendency?
I particularly enjoy his discussion of apprenticeship as a method rather than participant-observation. It fits into my own research project. I am an apprentice, I am learning about anthropology, I might even end up a professional anthropologist someday. I’ve also fully engaged myself in blogging and become quite drawn into it. As Wacquant describes, it has led to ““… moral and
sensual conversion to the cosmos under investigation” (Wacquant 2004:vii in Wacquant 2005).
I found this next quote in his conclusion to be quite inspiring:
“We should all be concerned with properly relating data and theory; with knowing where our concepts come from; with not overloading our analyses with extraneous moral baggage; and with the perils of projecting our social unconscious onto our object.” (Wacquant 2005)
It’s too easy to project theory. It can be blinding.