To me the world of poetry is a house with thousands of glittering windows. Our words and images, land to land, era to era, shed light on one another. Our words dissolve the shadows we imagine fall between.
Naomi Shihab Nye, Poet (1952~)
The same can be said about a great ethnography.
We have to study man, and we must study what concerns him most intimately, that is, the hold which life has on him. In each culture, the values are slightly different; people aspire after different aims, follow different impulses, yearn after a different form of happiness. In each culture, we find different institutions in which man pursues his life-interest, different customs by which he satisfies his aspirations, different codes of law and morality which reward his virtues or punish his defections. To study the institutions, customs, and codes or to study the behaviour and mentality without the subjective desire of feeling by what these people live, of realising the substance of their happiness—is, in my opinion, to miss the greatest reward which we can hope to obtain from the study of man.
Bronislaw Malinowski (via kayburry)
It is [the anthropologist’s] task to inquire into the causes that have brought about the observed differentiation, and to investigate the sequence of events that have led to the establishment of the multifarious forms of human life.
Franz Boas (1858-1942)
The psychological consequences of th[e] spread of white culture have been out of all proportion to the materialistic. This world-wide cultural diffusion has protected us as man had never been protected before from having to take seriously the civilizations of other peoples; it has given to our culture a massive universality that we have long ceased to account for historically…
Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture, 1934
My whole outlook upon life is determined by one question: ‘How can we recognize the shackles that tradition has laid upon us?’ For when we recognize them, we are also able to break them.
Franz Boas, The Shackles of Tradition (via drinking-ink)
[The Ethnosphere is] the sum total of all thoughts, dreams, ideas, beliefs, myths, intuitions and inspirations, brought into being by the human imagination since the dawn of consciousness. It’s a symbol of all that we’ve accomplished and all that we can accomplish.
Anthropologist Wade Davis on the “Ethnosphere,” from a 2007 interview with Davis: (http://www.ascentmagazine.com/articles.aspx?articleID=59&issueID=19)
No man ever looks at the world with pristine eyes. He sees it edited by a definite set of customs and institutions and ways of thinking.
The culture of a people is an ensemble of texts, themselves ensembles, which the anthropologist strains to read over the shoulders of those to whom they properly belong.
Clifford Geertz, from “Deep Play” in 1973