I’ve just uploaded a copy of the syllabus for a new class I’ll be teaching the second half of this semester, “Ethnographies of Police”. I’m pretty psyched about it. You can find a pdf version here, or go to the “Teaching” page of my blog and see it amongst the other syllabi uploaded there.
Some of you might remember a panel I organized, along with Chris Vasantkumar and Mattais Viktorin, at the 2008 annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association called “How Is Anthropology Going? An Inquiry into Movement, Mode and Method in the Contemporary World” (if not, you can read a bit more about it in an earlier post).
We were lucky enough to have a stellar lineup of people agree to be a part and, slowly, that luck is bearing fruit: this last Spring one of the panel’s participants, Nadezhda Dimitrova Savova, published a version of her paper in the journal Anthropological Quarterly. Now another participant, Jane Guyer of Johns Hopkins, has gone on to publish a revised version of her own commentary.
Guyer’s article appears in the current issue of Anthropological Theory, and uses the questions we raised in the panel to try to think through the use of “possibility” in anthropological theory and ethnographic representation. Good stuff.
Bonus: for all of you in Berkeley, Dr. Guyer will be coming through some time this semester and is looking for an opportunity to discuss the article… more details as they become available
Guyer, J. (2010). On ‘possibility’: A response to ‘How Is Anthropology Going?’ Anthropological Theory, 9 (4), 355-370 DOI: 10.1177/1463499609358143
Nadezhda Dimitrova Savova, . (2009). Heritage Kinaesthetics: Local Constructivism and UNESCO’s Intangible-Tangible Politics at a Favela Museum Anthropological Quarterly, 82 (2), 547-585 DOI: 10.1353/anq.0.0066
In the world of lucha libre, the story is always under construction. Even if “everybody knows” that the matches are fixed, that does not excuse wrestlers from presenting an alibi, from constantly recreating a story of what is really going on. And the question of what is “really” going on is complicated. Some fans and commentators (for example, Nonini and Teraoka 1992) point to the list of injuries suffered by wrestlers as evidence that it is not fixed. The real damage to real bodies is represented as an indication of the reality of the contest. That was my assumption when I smelled Seminarista’s blood in Puebla. Yet, in that instance, as in others, the status of “realness” was complicated. Wrestlers are sometimes paid extra to bleed. Before the wrestler is supposed to bleed, someone (the wrestler, or sometimes the referee) makes small incisions on the wrestler’s forehead. At the proper moment, the opposing wrestler hits the cuts to reopen them, and the victim appears to bleed from the blow. A trick? Sure, but it is their real blood. Perhaps that is the real secret—that there is no blood capsule, no ketchup, no chicken blood: just the real human blood of the wrestler.
Lucha libre is thus constructed around the public secret of the fixed ending. Yet the secret of the fixed ending is only one of a number of back secrets, of stories told and stories hidden, of secrets revealed to conceal still others. The secrecy of the fix stands for a series of dissimulations, for the mystery that animates the genre
Now, if that doesn’t make you want to go out and read ethnography I don’t know what will…
Part of my interest in movie scores, as a few of you will know, is that I think of ethnographic writing, or composition, in terms of movie soundtracks… an insight that only starts the conversation, in that there are so many ways to score a film.
In light of the recent hullabaloo over the use of music in the new The Watchmen movie, and of my own re-discovery of both Wicker Park soundtracks, I’ve been thinking about the ways soundtracks can be sometimes overly dissonant with the movies themselves: there can be bad movies with good soundtracks, bad soundtracks for good movies, and instances where music and movie just don’t “fit”.
Maybe we can use this “bad” examples to think about the ethnographic composition. So I guess I’m asking: what would be on your top 10 list of “dissonant” movie soundtracks, and why? What, if anything, can we learn from this “dissonance”?