Anthropologists in the field by Deuwe G. Jongmans & Peter Claus Wolfgang Gutkind

By Deuwe G. Jongmans & Peter Claus Wolfgang Gutkind

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But social scientists cannot claim to be, as Mannheim (1936: 143) hoped intellectuals would be, 'watchmen in what otherwise would be a pitch-black night', for their candles are feeble and flickering. In any case, the night is not pitch-black; there are other candles held by artists and poets, and most of the laity know their way around, despite the poor lighting. For I assume that actors are at least partially correct in their perception of their own actions; as a methodological principle I assume that they are as muddled as I know myself to be about what I do, but not much more muddled.

But this apparent paradox can be quickly disposed of by referring to his book on American kinship, where he makes a fourfold contrast between (1) what he calls biological facts, (2) formal science, (3) informal ethnoscience and (4) 'certain cultural notions which are put, phrased, expressed, symbolized by cultural notions depicting biological facts, or what purport to be biological facts' (Schneider 1968: 114-15). I find it confusing to use 'biology', the name of a science, for phenomena that exist independently of efforts to study them, and therefore re-label (1) nature.

In Pike's (1967: 37-72) formulation the etic-emic contrast is unashamedly positivist. The scientific linguist observer, with his objective categories, is contrasted with the speaking actor who uses subjective categories to produce and decipher meaningful utterances. Inter-language comparison is implicit in Pike's scheme. As used in anthropology the cross-cultural and cross-societal emphasis has been retained but the positivist implication of the contrast has been played down. Instead we have the emic categories of thought of the actors contrasted with the etic categories of analysis of the observer, neither set necessarily more real or true than the other.

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