I was particularly moved by one of our readings this week. The excerpts from Rosaldo’s text, Culture and Truth: The remaking of social analysis struck me with a few insights (1994). I was really surprised by a comment that one of Rosaldo’s colleagues had made in regards to one of Frantz Fanon’s anecdotes. Rosaldo’s colleague discounted the account and its perspective because of the participatory narrative of the incident, “it just says that it takes one to know
one” (pg 188). This entire text has helped me understand the history and range of types of stances that one must consider and take when capturing an ethnography, but I must say that I was so surprised to see devalued or undervalued the ethnographies of individuals from within an subaltern group.
I personally connected it to how historical museums are set up or even historical documentaries. That the “unemotional” fact telling narrator is one important way to convey information but the individual, connected storylines or first person accounts are what help us relate our humanity to the humans who experienced the events.
I think that one thing I’ve really begun to pull from our readings and discussions is the awareness that we can never truly “divorce” ourselves from our research or “storytelling” and therefore if we’re forcing ourselves to be “unemotional” and detached in our writing, why is that? Why am I involved in this research in the first place? Can I acknowledge my position, historical context, and perspective and incorporate that transparently and wisely into my work?
One other glaring moment from this text and author comes after he shares and analogy to the interplay of power and position and the oppressed in telling their own story. In contradiction to his colleague’s dismissal of the concept of the oppressed analyzing and writing about their own state, Rosaldo states that in fact our field and peers miss out on something essential if the oppressed don’t write about their own situation (pg 189). He uses the analogy of a master to slave relationship to cue us into who may have the more difficult time truly encompassing all of the perspectives in a situation. The slave or oppressed gambles their daily survival on analyzing and interpreting the mind of the master. It however, seems to be that the one in power never has to engage in the analysis and interpretation of mind of the oppressed. They are engaged in merely ensuring that their own needs are met and how to keep those needs being met. Therefore, as Rosaldo states, it takes a more “imaginative leap to discover slave consciousness” (pg 189). This caveat helps establish the importance of gathering multiple accounts and perspectives in situational ethnographies and having an awareness of our historical, societal positionality.
I will say, that in general, this week’s readings on indigenous epistemologies and struggles with linguicide has highlighted one of my own personal passions around dual language immersion schooling. Some of my passions arise out of my own life experiences with racism and societal shame that is built up in the USA around speaking languages other than English. I think if I had a choice of what area of inquiry I could follow and it not be tied to my current work, it would be dual language immersion or bilingual education. I personally feel heartened by these last two weeks of readings because I sometimes feel battered down by local or national politics and propaganda that really belittle people, heritages, cultures and language and for either purposes of hidden agendas, ignorance or fear. I was about to say misplaced fear, and though I do think there isn’t a fear in honoring people, their history and language, I do think that people who oppress should be fearful of the oppressed. Time and time again, it has been these marginalized communities who have demonstrated centuries of hearty resistance and persistence and they have yet to be crushed.
Rosaldo, R. (1994). Culture & Truth: The remaking of social analysis. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.