Monday, March 06, 2006

Working with Wording


I've been working to pin down my research topic for Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj. This is a quick attempt to summarize my topic, hypotheses, and theoretical approach. I'm taking a sort of materialist look at the concept of home in displaced persons, and how that displacement might affect relationships and interpersonal behaviors in the family. Let me expand on that a little bit.


I'm working with the idea that a displaced population like the Tibetans in Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj (or New Orleans refugees in Chicago, or Northeastern Brazilians in Sao Paulo) would struggle with the newness of the physical world around them - towns, road, trees, houses, foods, etc. In the case of Tibetans in India, that world is, as far as I know, considered temporary to some degree because of their desire to return to Tibet. What then does that mean about how they think about their homes? If their homes are temporary, do they become less important to their residents somehow, and if so, does that spill over to how they think of the other people living within that space, within those walls? Does the temporariness of living in a space cause (or correspond with) a disregard for the futures people will have with the members of their families? Or, given the Tibetans' attempt to maintain cultural permanence by settling outside of Chinese Tibet, do those attempts at permanence override any effects of material temporariness? Those are the core questions I want to answer.

And here's a new note that I'll have to consider: What about the Buddhist attempt to eliminate attachment and thus eliminate suffering? Maybe, just maybe, their philosophical and religious beliefs inform their culture in a way that actually reduces any differences in behavior towards their family. That's a question I'll need to consider.

If anyone has any feedback on any of this, let me know. What am I missing? What should I read? I'm liking what I'm hearing about Lévi-Strauss, so I'll have to take a look at him. I'm new to this anthropology thing, so I need all the help I can get.

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