Thinking Sex: Different Languages Forum


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stories: a process of expansion and contraction?
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-03 08:44:17
Link to this Comment: 7087

We circle back, this week, to the languages of social and natural science. Record here your impressions of them both, thinking especially about Steven Feld's inquiry (in "They Repeatedly Lick Their Own Things"):

"how a story's temporal patterning, its sequential revelation of events, can create a figure and ground of deeper and shallower slippages in everyday meanings. How...do stories live lives of reinvention? How, as recyclable goods, are they always in the process of expansion and contraction?"

How does the language of anthropology accomplish this differently than the language of biology, as represented by the various essays you'll find in your packet this week on the evolutionary theory of sexual attraction? Or do the stories of biology NOT "live lives of reinvention"?


public interest anthropology: methods for intervie
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-03 10:26:21
Link to this Comment: 7091

I had promised Ro.'s research group that I'd dig out some guidelines from the field of anthropology (these were actually designed by/for the Center for Public Interest Anthropology @ Penn) for doing fieldwork interviews. I think they may be of general interest to you all, both in providing guidelines for the work you are doing @ your fieldsites, and as background/ context for tomorrow's particular reading in anthropology. See Public Interest Anthropology at Penn: Methods/Interviews.

Anne


uses and limits of the language of anthropology
Name: Anne Dalke
Date: 2003-11-05 10:13:05
Link to this Comment: 7118

During our SO-interesting discussion of the (uses and limits of the) language of anthropology yesterday, I made mention of the work of Renato Rosaldo, who in Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis describes the "metholodological caution" of anthropologists against recklessly attributing their "own categories and experiences to members of other cultures"--a caution that can prevent the insight that they might gain by drawing on their own experiences to understand those of others. Rosaldo's own account, which I'll bring to class tomorrow, is about his years-long inability to understand "that Ilongot older men mean precisely what they say when they describe the anger in bereavement as the source of their desire to cut off human heads," a claim he could only understand after being "repositioned through a devastating loss of his own"--that is, after he became enraged by the sudden death of his wife.


where do our desires come from?
Name: Sarah
Date: 2003-11-06 18:29:40
Link to this Comment: 7142

During our discussion today I was thinking that the biology articles we read worked similarly for me to the one we read weeks ago (the one on the sun and laws of thermodynamics) in that it forced me out of an individual or societal mindset into a much larger one. I'm used to thinking of the various attractions I have to people in terms of my own individual psychology...for example, what does it say about me personally that I like a little "meat" on a guy's bones (yes, I admit it!)? What does it mean when I occasionally have a twinge of arousal over something that rationally I don't think should be arousing me? I tend to wonder whether it's something in my childhood, or something my culture has ingrained in me...I resist biological explanations because then I feel like my biology is something that I can't change--very limiting. (Perhaps also because I'm just not a science person.) But then it seems like some of my desires must be inscribed on my genes because I've had some of them as long as I can remember. I guess the question becomes, Why do the reasons for attraction matter? Does this bring us back to norms again? If we know what our biological urges are (supposedly), then we can criticize anyone who falls outside of that norm?

I also think it's interesting that we got so much better of a discussion from the science articles than the anthro one on Tuesday...is this just because today's were more straightforward, or more relevant to our daily lives?

Ooh, this is a funny coincidence: I went to check my hotmail and found this article, basically on all the stuff we talked about today. http://msnbc.com/news/988110.asp?cp1=1


Predisposition and Control
Name: Megan
Date: 2003-11-06 19:02:38
Link to this Comment: 7143

I was intrigued by Catherine's comment about how if attraction is purely biological, it excuses our irrational(??) behavior. It made me think of research that has come out on criminals having a sort of biological predisposition to violence and whether or not that should excuse their behavior. If we have a predisposition or biological drive that attracts us to certain types of people, does that mean it's beyond our control what we do with that attraction? When does the biology end and human nature start?


As I was reading the articles and thinking about my partner I was kicking myself because I fall into the stereotypical female the authors spoke of. My boyfriend fit the description of what females are attracted to: older, intelligent, financially secure....etc. Ugh! Am I attracted to him because of these biological preferences or because of who he is as a person? It seems to take away some of the legitimacy of my attraction. If these biological preferences didn't exist, would I have still fallen for him? Does it matter who we are attracted to?



Name: Ro
Date: 2003-11-06 22:15:34
Link to this Comment: 7147

My first thought was that the revelations of the biologists regarding pheremones, hormones, brain chemicals and the like playing a prime role in selection of mates (casual or long-term) was somewhat liberating...because it explained away the often illogical, sometimes hilarious things we do when we're "in love" or "in lust" as the case may be. My thinking was that, if we know we're all wired to be mate-seeking missiles during certain ages/stages/times of the month, then it doesn't seem so magical and unique and breath-taking all of a sudden. We can even laugh at our antics.

My second thought was that, if Rush Limbaugh and his buddies get hold of this information, the feminists are going to suffer another serious setback. These bio-findings read like one more round of excuses that wind up putting women in their place, with the men "on top." ...which is why I was trying to imagine the intentions of the sponsors of these articles and research projects. Just my suspicious, "bottom-line" nature....especially given the broad strokes they use to extrapolate from their "findings."

Don't get me wrong--smelling can be pleasurable. But why does our sniffer have to be linked to our ovaries? As Laurel said, can't sex just be pleasurable?...And I will add...even if the theories of these biologists are correct? It's curious that they have linked their findings to some imperative to reproduce...and all the baggage that brings along. They could just as easily have concluded that female guppies ...or humans show physiological selection patterns for the purpose of...well...better sex! What I'm saying is that it is one thing to prove/purport that physiology is involved, and quite another to explain why by leaping to notions that support heterosexual, narrowly defined "norms". It's too slick.


Sex and the City
Name: KB
Date: 2003-11-07 12:27:49
Link to this Comment: 7148

When Megan commented in class that she could not help but think of the TV show "Joe Average" during our discussion of biological reasons for why people have sex, I personally kept thinking about "Sex and the City." Here is a show that took one of the first leaps into the realm of women having sex for pleasure or to put it more bluntly, for sex's sake. Perhaps biologists could argue that the show represents the classic case of beautiful people on the prowl for equally beautiful mates, but at the same time, some of the characters are not looking to reproduce or to get married, but to just have fun.

On a different note, I have say that I was also struck by the ease in which we, as a class, were able to discuss the biology reading, after struggling to comprehend the anthropological reading on Tuesday. Is this limiting concept of biology as the basis for our mate/partner choices perhaps subconsiously ingrained in us? Both readings for Tuesday and Thursday used animals, so why was Thursday's so much simpler? Does biology always over-simplify things?

Speaking of over-simplifying, I still feel like for me this reading was less bothersome in terms of how I choose sex-partners, but instead was troubling in terms of how they choose me. Am I just a womb? I'd like to think that I have unique qualities aside from the basic biological ones that supposedly attract my partners to me. Who doesn't enjoy hearing from their partner that they're different from their past partners? Aren't we all unique and special? According to these articles, I guess we're not.


anthro difficulty and animals
Name: Garron
Date: 2003-11-07 12:51:08
Link to this Comment: 7149

Hi. Anne mentioned in class on Tuesday that she wasn't sure that the anthro reading had "worked," and others, in their postings, commented on the difficulty we had in disucssing the anthro reading. When I read the anthro reading last weekend, I also didn't understand the why we read it and how it applied to Thinking Sex. I too, felt the difficulty that we had discussing the Feld article. But now I feel that it is important to stress that I think that the Feld article is a good article to read for Thinking Sex, precisely because it made me think about sex in a new/different way, well it did so after Anne helped us decode the meaning of the piece. Without the decoding help from Anne, I'm not sure if I would have seen much, if anything, the Feld is trying to say through the piece we read.

I lack experience in the field of anthro. Are most anthro readings constructed similarly to Feld's. Did we have trouble with the reading because it is anthro or because of Feld's particular writing style?

On a different note, why do so many cultures use animals to explain human phenomena? Feld does it, the Bosavi do it, we did it when we constructed our sex ed curriculum for children in class last month. What's going on here? What is it about animals?



Name: Ro.
Date: 2003-11-08 11:11:52
Link to this Comment: 7153

Garron,
I'm so relieved that you posted what you did about the Feld article, because I was having a really opaque moment with it...and missed Anne's unriddling--which is often important, but --in this case, it sounds as though it was critical.

I had another flash of insight--or maybe just bizarre thinking-- regarding the biology readings. Over the years, I've been involved in animal breeding (dogs, cats, horses--that sort of thing) and my step-son's a vet, so there's more input...anyhow, dogs, cats, horses do not exhibit any interest in sex after they've been spayed or neutered (with rare exception among male cats). They go from being intense about it--to the point of weight loss for being pre-occupied--to being totally clueless.

No so with humans. For example, women who are past menopause and/or a hysterectomy,oopherectomy, tubal ligation or whatever else nature or science has developed that physically disables reproductive abilities still can and do have very active sex drives. And this seems to be the same for men after vascectomies. In fact, for either sex, it can be elective surgery to enable sex for pleasure without the risk of reproduction. So, aren't we markedly different from animals? Can we be compared to, extrapolated from their behaviors in this regard?

For me, it's even more interesting that the articles we read did not highlight this particular difference.



Name: Catherine
Date: 2003-11-08 11:22:20
Link to this Comment: 7154

Hello,

This week I wanted to talk about the readings we had for Thursday's class. Biology (or science, in general) has never been my strong suit. It seems as if most of the people in our class feel the same way. But for some reason, these articles which somewhat violated the boundaries which humanities subjects has created for thought did not bother me. Instead, I was intrigued by the researchers' findings, no matter how minutely factual they are.
What bothered me when I read these articles, as I may have mentioned in class, was that I went into them expecting to come out with some finding that would aid me in my pursuit of relationships. Instead, I felt just as confused, if not more, than before. In the end, this experience was similar to browsing through magazines with unbelievable stories.
These stories, although informative and entertaining, were difficult to believe. Although I do not reject the authors' ideas and findings, I realize that they leave out many details.
Hopefully, I will have more to post after more readings.



Name: Heather
Date: 2003-11-09 16:27:39
Link to this Comment: 7158

First I wanted to respond to Ro's comment about the difference between animals and humans. I found the point interesting and worth further looking into-why do we so often try to explain human experiences with animals?...maybe because we see animals as completely "natural", without culture, and if we see similar characteristics in us, that means(?) it is natural, and like Catherine mentioned in class, that we can excuse our feelings or actions....in regards to using animals to explain sex to children, I think there is more going on. Children, I think, find the idea of having sex very wierd, much like death (maybe I'm making an assumption), and by using animals to explain it many things could be going on, both to naturalize and universalize it, and also to dumb it down. Is animal sex really like human sex at all? I really liked Anne's comment in class that scientists are just telling a story too. That made the reading much easier to relate to- it didn't have to define the limits of human sex but only explain an aspect of it, and one way to look at it.
On a side note, all of my dogs have been neutered, and all of them afterward still want to have sex...well, at least they still hump things.
I also wanted to mention that I don't think that the idea of sex for reproduction and sex for pleasure are mutually exclusive. I definitely don't want to have reproductive sex anytime soon, but the idea fascinates and excites me, and is something I think about now-it adds to pleasure. And because we are evolutionarily programmed to choose a mate for his/her genes(in theory), doesn't exclude the fact that we are choosing a mate for good sex or companionship, it just helps to define the people we are attracted to.
Another thing I was thinking about while reading the biological essays and in class- by defining attraction in terms of stable characteristics such as the way people look and smell- are things left out? I think other things define what is naturally attractive. For example, I worked with this guy and did not find him particularly attractive until I saw him singing and playing his guitar-sparks went off. Then a couple weeks later he had to do an activity with a group of students, a task he agreed to, and got in front of the group and couldn't do it. Someone else had to take over, and my attraction completely dived. This had nothing to do with his personality or whether I "liked" him or not. I couln't even try, the attraction was gone. But the way he looked or smelled had not changed at all. Attraction to a person doesn't have to be a static thing and, in response to what Katie posted, natural attraction doesn't exclude things unique to your person.... I thought that this contradicted the essays we read, but now that I think about it, the guppies that went ahead to inspect the enemy were attractive to the females.


science, culture, and blame
Name: Jessie
Date: 2003-11-09 17:50:14
Link to this Comment: 7163

I found the articles' conclusions largely insufficient. The articles did not take into account cultural influences on our biological genetics. I can buy their argument that people are universally attracted to people they consider healthy (although I think this fact is pretty much self-explanatory). However, what exactly someone considers "healthy" changes according to culture. For example, Marilyn Monroe was the ideal woman of the 1950s now, however, a woman in a size 14 dress may not connote health so much as a thinner figure. I know that some people will disagree, but standards of beauty DO change over time and across cultures. Just look at the way women are dressed how our societies shape women's bodies and the differences of ideal shape/weight are apparent. Like Ro said in class, magazines such as Vogue featuring thin supermodels are marketed to women but the idealized slender women shown attract women consumers only because they represent what women should look like to attract men. So, as much as evolution and biology may account for some human sexual behavior, accounts of just that genetic behavior are incomplete without taking into account the effects of culturally learned behaviors as well.

I think the quest for biological explanations of sexual behavior is (regardless of its veracity) a manifestation of our culture's fear of sexuality. If our sex drives are all tied down and determined by biologically ingrained mechanisms, we can't escape them, so it's not our fault that we want to have sex. We can still consider sex a nasty, animalistic, "irrational" (as the articles repeatedly stated) event; and moreover, we can scapegoat it on genetics rather than personal choice. Scientific explanations take away the guilt that our culture has infused with sex. This is why the articles consistently did not address that humans, unlike most other animals, like having sex. If we ignore our pleasure, our cognitive abilities, and our difference from other animals and instead think that we're just evolutionarily trapped then we're not to blame for our sexual desires.


sex
Name: Ali
Date: 2003-11-10 23:19:13
Link to this Comment: 7189

"I think the quest for biological explanations of sexual behavior is (regardless of its veracity) a manifestation of our culture's fear of sexuality. If our sex drives are all tied down and determined by biologically ingrained mechanisms, we can't escape them, so it's not our fault that we want to have sex. We can still consider sex a nasty, animalistic, "irrational" (as the articles repeatedly stated) event; and moreover, we can scapegoat it on genetics rather than personal choice. Scientific explanations take away the guilt that our culture has infused with sex. This is why the articles consistently did not address that humans, unlike most other animals, like having sex. If we ignore our pleasure, our cognitive abilities, and our difference from other animals and instead think that we're just evolutionarily trapped then we're not to blame for our sexual desires." (Jesse's post)

EXACTLY! And let's remember that science is only as objective as the scientists behind it. Consider the implications that morality (particularly the rigid religious kinds) that are subconsciously working in the minds of scientists themselves (and those who fund scientific research). Human sexuality is constantly being "supported scientifically" as reproductively driven because of ingrained social ideas/fears about sex. Why not sexuality for pleasure, self-fulfillment, employment?

On another note, I read the articles as total bullshit. But what infuriated me more was our classroom discussion. Did we seriously consider homosexuality as an evolutionary trait, or as a dysfunctional hypothalmus?! Think about "crazy" medical theories you've heard of in the past, such as the size of a man's brain being larger than a woman's so therefore women are not capable of the levels of intelligence that men are capable of. Science proves NOTHING because it is absolutely NOT objective! If someone has a theory, one can easily maniulate data and statistics to support it. I could support that latino children are not as intelligent as white children based on standardized intelligence tests by ignoring the socio-cultural implications of having the test be in english, or that the white children were in private school (or whatever else could discredit my cold, hard, factual statistics).

I have become increasingly frustrated by our discussions in class. We are not challenging ourselves! We are making sweeping generalizations to convince ourselves we already know everything, instead of probing deeper into uncomfortable questions and actually learning something. I'm sick of the verbal masturbation that occurs in our class - let's think deeper! Let's listen to each other before responding and not talk just to hear ourselves participate in class because we earn participation points towards our grade. Let's ask why behind why behind why until we're heatedly debating with one another. I know it's an early class and sometimes I just want to go back to bed, too, but why are we wasting our time talking about what we already know? Let's spend our (parents') money well!!! =)

out of love and respect for true learning,
ali


languages of sex
Name: Grannis
Date: 2003-11-11 09:00:46
Link to this Comment: 7195

After reading the smattering of articles from last week, I have come to a conclusion of personal opinion: both the anthropological and biological languages that were used in the pieces seemed deficient to me in some way. Why? I don't know- but I do know that, while reading the anthropology article and the "guppie" article, I couldn't get over how shallow the representation of sex and sexual customs was. I believe that in all the articles (especially the biological ones) a vast number of sweeping statements were made, and that the driving forces behind sexual practice in nature were oversimplified. This left me frustrated and empty-feeling, which in my opinion is just the opposite of what science is supposed to do. Usually, when I read scientific reports and/or theories, I feel intellectually satiated due to the objectivity and rationality of the explanations (i.e., 4 mols of nitrous oxide yields blah blah blah :-) ). However, sex in my mind is the epitome of subjectivity in human nature; thus, it is no surprise to me that these articles were hard for me to relate to and "draw conclusions"/ learn from.

In response to Ali's posting: I too was greatly frustrated by the fact that these articles seemed to completely IGNORE the existence of homosexuality. Actually, they went beyond ignoring it- they started examining the pathology of it. Heterosexuality was explained in terms of NORMAL biobehavioral motivations, while homosexuality was backed with the statement that some individuals have a "malfunctioning" hypothalamus that knocks the pattern of normal heterosexual attraction off-kilter. Once again, we're back to norms--- and my question is, what right do the authors of these articles have to not only assume heterosexuality as the norm, but moreover look at homosexuality as some sort of pathology or deviation? My hypothalamus is just fine, thank you very much.

If the authors of these articles had wanted to do a more thorough job in examining the driving forces behind sex and sexual attraction, they would have taken into account the fact that homosexuality is indeed evident in animal populations (YES, it appears to be a natural phenomenon--- NOT some "illness" or deviation constructed by society). Here is a link to a great page about homosexuality in animals--- I urge you to take a look at it:

http://blue.butler.edu/~bwoodruf/alliance/misc/homosexanimals.htm

Just some food (or sex?) for thought....-Grannis


doesn't bother me
Name: Tia
Date: 2003-11-11 20:51:28
Link to this Comment: 7217

what stood out for me in thursday's class was that i noticed alot of people said they were appalled and upset at the idea that biology controls who they are atracted to and who arouses them. while i can understand how this can be disturbing, i think that we need to realize that biology plays a part in everything in our lives.
we've all walked down the street and just seem someone who has aroused us. how can this be explained? surely, since we know nothing about the person we cannot say it wa our free will to be attrated to them, because our minda did not operate in the attraction. so what is it?
we have to remeber that while we do have the ability to reason, we are still animals and we still have instincts. sex is biological. sex isnt something the mind constructs. sex can stimulate the mind, but it is only because the body is being stimulating, sending a message that the physical stimulation feels good.
and yes we do have free will. thats what keeps us from humping every person we are physically attracted to, unlike my un-neutered dog.
so they go hand-in-hand. thats part of being human, understanding that we have these instincts that we cannot control, but the rationality that guides are decisions


Usefulness
Name: Laurel
Date: 2003-11-11 23:28:33
Link to this Comment: 7219

We ended this class discussing what was useful in the essays for each of us. My reaction to the essays was most useful to me, because it made me realize how sharply I reject any implication that my sexual desires could be linked to reproduction or biological urges I cannot control. Even if the essays weren't explicitly claiming that guppy behavior = human behavior, I was immediately put on my guard. Why am I so quick to distance myself from my reproductive capabilities? Is it something about the way women and reproduction are presented in society (what ever 'sociey' means)? Reproduction is not empowering to me, it's scary, perhaps because I have this anxiety about only being seen for that power. What does that say about the messages I've been sent so far in my life? Is this a statement about the way feminism perceives reproduction...or the mysterious norm-controlling "they"? I've ended with questions and no answers. Ohhhh well.



Name: Anjali
Date: 2003-11-19 15:12:06
Link to this Comment: 7337

Wow...I finally am seeing hugely how people interpret things really really affects how they interpret discussion. Can I just say that I for one DO think I'm challenging myself because everytime I say something and someone disagrees (which, by the way, I LOVE), I'm learning more about the way other people think and see the world and how I think and see the world. I do want to defend the hypothalamus thing saying that no one said it was DYSFUNTIONAL...I said that it is a fact that a woman's is smaller than a man (ON AVERAGE) and that so what if this is true or not true...so what if a man who is interested more in guys than girls has a smaller hypothalamus than a man who is more interested in women then men, SO WHAT! Facts are fine, they don't HAVE to prove anything and they don't HAVE to be read at face value and if you are...then you're making just as big of a mistake as the person using them to back up a thesis that really is just a generalization. Facts, like anything else, can be argued and discussed and debated.

When someone writes about something they use facts that help their point along...meanwhile there could be millions of facts that don't help their point and conveniently they ignore them. This is not a smart way to write something, but it is a technique often employed. My point? That one fact shouldn't set people off...its just one more way of seeing the world and MORE IMPORTANTLY, its a point of view that DOES EXIST, so you better learn it, because the BEST way to ever argue a point is to know the other side and its weaknesses and address them in your arguement before the other person can bring them up to shoot you down.

My actual point is this: In this class people say they want to be challengend, but the second someone brings up something controversial (i.e. women claiming rape who may be falsely accusing, knowingly or not)the whole class jumps to defend the NORMAL point of view or what they view as NORMAL. I'm sorry, but if you're not willing to admit that other points may be true or may have some truth and if you're constantly telling the other side they're wrong, you're never going to get your point across. Just saying someone is wrong is not helpful, but searching for WHY people think this way (past the patriarchy, which, I'm sorry, but has gotten so old for me and can be such a cop out nowadays) and what we can do to CHANGE their thinking or EXPAND their thinking is as important as constantly defending, in the most extreme way possible, a certain point of view.

I'm glad there are so many people with such strong beliefs in the class, but sometimes you have to challenge YOURSELF and think on the other side of the fence for awhile. THAT is really challenging oneself. Not constantly thinking the same thought and applying it to everything. I think this class challenges me a lot...maybe because I don't have the same background as other people...maybe because I don't always think in the most extreme way possible and because I'm not hyper-feminist. So what, I think they different personalities are EXACTLY why the class challenges, but we're all (myself included) so busy trying to defend our own positions that we don't even give another position a chance. That's all I have to say. I had other things, but my brain is saying let it go.


the "Thinking Aloud" challenge
Name: Laura
Date: 2003-11-22 23:59:21
Link to this Comment: 7368

"welcome to something like elation when you first open your eyes... just cause it means, you must have finally got to sleep last night..."
ani difranco

this stanza is what launched me into another trip to the library, this time intent on carrying through with a posting. I've come to realize something, we mute ourselves way too often. I very frequently gather up all of my books that inspire me, my class notes and the thoughts that bombard me after each class that I end up furiously scribbling down while waiting for the train to take me back to campus, and I walk the five blocks to the library. each time, I am bent on putting up my posting. and all too often, I only end up sitting here reading the latest postings and writing none of my own. anne commented that I had gone silent in her class and asked me why. I had no answer.

I am taking another English class at my school. I have only ever made one comment in the class earlier on in the semester. since then, I only attend class and I do not participate verbally. as a result, I also no longer engage mentally. a few weeks ago, I was supposed to write a paper for this class but I never handed one in. I couldn't get what my problem was...

I realize now that I had been silencing myself so effectively, that I'd gradually erased myself right out of the class and engaging in the texts. I started to do the same in our class. by saying that I had nothing to say, or chose not to participate in the discussion because I felt offended by what was being discussed or by the texts I was reading, I was silencing myself and 'coping out'. I acknowledge that I've actually been doing this all along, with my disclaimers or apologies for "possible incoherence" in my previous postings. and this disturbs me. I am rediscovering the observations that we read about in our very first essay by Hannah Chang, "Thinking Aloud". she too spoke about the importance of learning how to speak in class and 'give' herself a valid voice. it's actually pretty astonishing to reread her essay on learning how to participate.

something that struck my unknowing subconscious when I first read our syllabus was anne's reflections upon what class participation should entail. she urged us to "contribute to our class discussion (this doesn't mean dominating discussion w/ your thoroughly-thought-through ideas; it means facilitating the learning of us all by being willing to think out loud each week in this playground of ideas). that encouragement has really come to mean a lot to me. I use each of you as sounding boards for my own thinking process. it has turned out to be an amazing class as a result. and I now possess this image of bryn mawr as being a potluck of spontaneous ideas being upended on the table and used as a muse to facilitate the learning process for everyone. Catherine said that she finds herself in a different place than she was in the beginning and I have come to realize the same.

why did the lyrics to a song bring all of this on? I'm not entirely sure... I was just mulling over the idea that someone could be elated by the act of waking up not because it signified a new day, a good dream or whatever, but because it meant that you'd finally fallen asleep last night. that thought just tickles me. how amazingly and beautifully simple. the most important thing that I've gleaned from this class is not some breakthrough in understanding material (foreign or familiar), not because of some of the fabulous people and minds that I've met... realizing that I silence myself, and others do the same, and coming to know the beauty that can result from playing with our own off-the-cuff thoughts in our playground that we call a classroom has been the most powerful learning that I've gained from our class. this is my realization that I am elated because I must have finally got to sleep last night.

I pose the challenge that we not look forward in our class discussions or posting, as in heatedly debating what is said/not said, materially learned, or whatever. instead of being frustrated or feeling stumped by not being able to get ahead, or being able to mark our learning with mile markers, let's look back or dig to get at what's underneath. let us use each other as sounding boards and throw whatever we've got swirling in our heads out on the table, knowing that we'll come away with much more. let's be elated when we wake up, not because of what awaits us or what's there or what's possible, but because of what is behind us. we finally got some sleep last night...


the slippage of stories that lick their own things
Name: Laura
Date: 2003-11-23 01:20:10
Link to this Comment: 7369

I'm throwing out the idea of perfection because I've come to realize that it does not exist. searching for the perfect or right thing to say is absurd. what's important is the give and take of our dialogue. by the way, I forgot to say thank you to you all for the dialogue that we've constructed. it's been such a rich source of inspiration for me.

I was interested in what Anjali said, "Facts are fine, they don't HAVE to prove anything and they don't HAVE to be read at face value... Facts, like anything else, can be argued and discussed and debated" Are facts just as nonexistent as I believe perfection to be? if a fact can be altered, does that dispute its validity as being a 'fact' in the first place? I also like the thought that scientists are just telling a story too. that's pretty empowering...

I actually liked Feld's reading best out of the reading we had to do for this week. "stories repeatedly lick their own things." I liked his observation that an anthropologist becomes engaged through 'seductive participation' and he acknowledges the "participatory complicity that arises from an intimate collision of biographies and sensibilities". I feel that science pretends to evade this participatory complicity. anne asked: "Or do the stories of biology NOT "live lives of reinvention"?" and my answer would be that they do. science and what we believe to be 'facts' are constantly evolving into new stories. and those stories have no substance if they do not pertain to our daily lives. the story of science, as well as the story of anthropology, must hold some relevance to us, our thoughts, and our lives.

"in Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis describes the "metholodological caution" of anthropologists against recklessly attributing their "own categories and experiences to members of other cultures"--a caution that can prevent the insight that they might gain by drawing on their own experiences to understand those of others."

I do not believe that it is possible to maintain an objective standpoint when you are an anthropologist. it is human nature to only be able to understand something as it is relative to you. Feld's got a point when he remarks upon the "secret pleasure of being behind the scene" (when (re)telling a story). stories, whether they be scientific, literary, or whatever, live lives of reinvention through us. stories cannot be untouchable, living some place outside of ourselves. we keep them alive. in the process they are altered, expanded, or evolve, in accordance to how we change or interpret them. that is what I call the story of life. we can never 'know' the past (our own or others') but rather we can only know '(hi)story'. and that is always changing. this is where some of the stickiness of testifying in court comes into play...

the Methods/Interview article from the Public Interest Anthropology at Penn that anne provided a link for stated: "interviews provide a chance to learn how people reflect directly on behavior, circumstances, identity, events, and other things. This can be very valuable in fulfilling the main goal of ethnography: gaining an insider's perspective... Before interviewing, we should ask ourselves what we want to learn from the interview" all of this has to do with our reflections of another's story and how it relates to ourselves. what do WE want to learn from the interview? how is it possible to gain an insider's perspective? there is no ultimate truth that exists for an anthropologist to discover. rather, their job is simply to reconstruct someone else's story...

we are all doing the same with our work at our praxis placements. in our class, stories live lives of reinvention.





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