Thursday, April 27, 2006

Done and Done... Now the Real Fun Begins.

Good news, all. I'm finally done, and that's meant a little bit of relaxation time - in between all my preparations for India. Today I went and picked up a couple books (this and this) for my summer-term coursework over there, and then bought some Chacos (which came at an exorbitant price but from what I've heard will last me years). Later on I met with Lily and Ben (who are going to Dharamsala with me) and Autumn (who isn't - she's staying in Chavadi down south, close to Coimbatore for her research), and we talked logistics. We're renting a car to get from Provo to LAX, and Autumn finally got her car sold and is flying out about 24 hours before Lily, Ben, and me, so we three who were originally driving down together had to shift our plans to about 24 hours earlier. Which is fine: our friend Ali (also going to Chavadi for research) is from San Diego, so we'll just go down there and crash for the night before returning to LA and flying.

Now I've gotta get a mic, a cable, another battery, tape, and a tripod. And a backpack, a laptop, notebooks and pencils, and some extra underwear. And one more vaccination shot. And pack up everything I own for the summer. And then pay for tuition. Man, is it just me or is the room spinning a bit? I'd better sit down...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Just 5.5 Hours Left...

If you've been checking back regularly and can't figure out why I'm not updating (this means you, Jooj), be relieved to know that, yes, this is the last day of finals here at BYU, and that I'm just working on a paper that's due by midnight. (I've been going nonstop, kids, for about two weeks now - and I can't wait to be done! At this point I'm just willing to take whatever grade they give me and accept it as my very best, because I really feel that's what I've given it this semester.)

As I leave for India in just a week, I'll be posting a lot of stuff soon, including some links to these anthro papers I've been working on, and especially to my newly updated research proposal. (Majorly updated twice in under two weeks, by the way. That's the reason I've been in the library so much...)

By the way, Invisible Children's site has been acting goofy today. Is it just receiving a mess of traffic because of the Oprah broadcast?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Oprah to Discuss Invisible Children Wednesday?

One more thing about Invisible Children. I just discovered from another blog that Oprah is doing at least a short segment on Northern Uganda this Wednesday, April 26. I also see from the listing on her website that George Clooney's going to be on. Will he be championing the cause for Uganda's kids?

I hope this helps us recruit even more. Celebrities have been getting really big in the political scene for a few years now...

Invisible Children - Full Video

You can now watch the whole Invisible Children rough cut video on line; I just found this out from Ann Arbor's Invisible Children MySpace site. (My brother Jordan's at UMich in Ann Arbor, so I check every once in a while to see if he's signed up for the Global Night Commute.) It's about 55 minutes, and when they say it's a crappy rock-n-roll documentary, they're being really honest. Just watch it and - please - sign up for the Global Night Commute.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Invisible Children

All right, this doesn't have to do with my research or even with India. But we've got almost 31,000 people (at last count) across the country who are trying to raise public awareness of what's going on in Uganda. Our thought is, isn't there some way to stop war crimes and genocide from our side of the pond? It seems like government involvement (i.e., pressure) has been the only effective tool, but in the case of Uganda and the kids being kidnapped and killed there, practically no one here knows. So our national representatives have no reason to even think about the issue.

Well, we're forcing the issue. Go to to find out about the Global Night Commute (GNC). Each night kids in Uganda walk for hours to find a place to sleep in the hopes of avoiding being kidnapped by the rebel army there, taken into the bush, and turned into hard, mindless, heartless soldiers. Kids are disappearing from Ugandan towns. Many are killed by the rebels in front of the others to harden them into warriors. And nobody here knows.

We're taking this lying down. On April 29 we're doing our own night commute. In the country's major population centers we're all walking to a local central spot in the name of these kids and sleeping. The media have been invited, and our hope is that we'll raise awareness and interest in what's turned into a nightmare in Uganda. Then, with more of the media and the public aware, maybe we can get something to happen on the ground over there. Again, please go to and click Global Night Commute on the bottom to sign up in your town. If you're not in a place where it's happening (like Sydney, Australia or London, England, for example) then maybe you can start it up there. You'll find me signed up in Provo, Utah.

The Final Straw and Doctor Jay

Guys, it's finals, and I've gotta tell you that I'm awfully frustrated. After talking with my Anthro Methods professor (whom I really like as a professor - smart, personable, and really helpful), I feel like I need to revamp my whole theoretical question - and therefore my research question. This kind of got dropped on me the last week of classes, and I've got final stuff to do! And while I see the value of rethinking, I'm awfully frustrated to have missed the deadline for turning in the final research proposal for the course on Wednesday. So last night, after finishing a big ol' French paper and a bunch of stuff for my India prep course, I sat down again (I'd already worked on this thing for hours!!) and tried to hack some stuff out. Then I emailed it to Jay, my India-prep instructor/facilitator/TA, and he replied. Here's our conversation.

My email to Jay:


"This might take a little effort to wrap your head around and appreciate. I'm sorry about the time it might take, but I really am thankful for your willingness to help.


"A considerable and important divide separates two theoretical approaches to studying refugees. On one side stands Geiger (2000), whose approach to refugee studies appeals to common understandings of the problem by recalling refugees' apparent purpose in leaving their homelands. Having worked with Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines, Geiger asserts that becoming a refugee represents "a decision to try, by migrating, to preserve something of what people have learned life can be." (68) The refugee, living in what are hoped to be temporary conditions, is actually subjecting him or herself to temporal instability in order to maintain a sense of permanence – cultural, linguistic, biological in the case of survival, or otherwise. (Then I expand on that for a couple paragraphs using some thought experiments. The point in these expansion paragraphs is that it's not the leaving in groups that matters, but the settling as a group that serves to maintain culture. Back to my words now...)

"On the other side of the theoretical divide sits an amalgamation of core ideas coming from Lévi-Strauss (1969), who theorizes broadly on a culture-versus-nature dichotomy, and from Massey (1995), whose observations lend themselves to bringing Lévi-Strauss' ideas into refugee studies. When considered together they indicate that, ironically, a refugee leaving his or her homeland will actually lose original culture rather than preserve it. (Actually Massey's stuff might do it alone, so here's the gist of what she has to say...)

"Massey, in considering a sense of home, theorizes that one's sense of place is not a sense just of space, but also of the interactions related to that space. Leaving place means, therefore, not just leaving space, but leaving the interactions occurring across and within that space. Leaving place means leaving culture.

"Lévi-Strauss' creates a Culture-Nature dichotomy (with intentionally capitalized C and N) and says (in the context of the sex act) that leaving the cultural is approaching the animal or natural. Under that assumption, the only place one has to go to when leaving culture is nature.

"Okay, it's obvious refugees are leaving their culture behind. Are they leaving capital-C Culture as well and heading for a rule-free, Culture-free natural? Aren't they entering into a place where some kind of small-c culture exists anyway, like Tibetans among Hindus or New Orleanians among Chicagoans after Katrina? (HERE COMES THE MAIN POINT!) Well, it depends on whether there is a psychological tie between place of enculturation and one's sense of Culture. If I was born in Lhasa, Tibet, and there received formal and informal education, would I necessarily connect that place with the idea of rules and Culture (Lévi-Strauss connects the two), and exclude other places from being Cultural places for me? Am I more animal in those places? In short...

"Is there a link between place of enculturation and one's sense of the Cultural?

"(Some side notes, mostly for myself: Does Massey's position have the strength to stand alone in opposition to Geiger, and more importantly does the contrast between the two open up the theoretical space to examine leaving culture and leaving Culture?
What's missing here is that link. Is that my research question, whether or not that exists? But that's too, too big for two months. Is there a smaller piece of the theoretical puzzle to work on now, with the promise of more to come? What I mean is, how much can I break down the theoretical question I have – into how small of pieces? That's probably what I'd need the most personal help with; I need a sounding board to help me ask the right questions to break down the question of Culture-with-a-big-C's link to place of enculturation.)

"This is a bit confusing I guess. I'll have to clarify it and make it more logical in my proposal. Thanks again for working with it.


... and here's Jay's reply:

"This actually looks really good. As far as "opening up the
theoretical space," I think this does the trick. You'll have to
decide yourself whether Massey is an even match for Geiger ... just
reading these few paragraphs, where you give them each pretty equal
stage time, it's actually Massey who comes across to me as being a bit
more advantaged because he's not alone in his argument--Levi-Strauss
backs him up. Even if you think Massey's position is strong enough on
its own, I would still mention Levi-Strauss: "Massey's perspective is
reminiscent of Levi-Strauss's assertion that leaving the cultural (he
is discussing the act of sex) means a move towards the animal or
natural" ... or something to that effect.

"You have cleared a lot more ground than you'll be able to cover in two
months (a better situation than not having cleared enough). I think
you need to define a bit what's going on with this big question (Is
there a link between place of enculturation and one's sense of the
Cultural?)--have a clear definition of terms, clarify what you mean by
enculturation, culture of both the little and big C varieties. Ask
yourself what the indicators of these processes are--think a bit like
a scientist and ask yourself what is measurable--not that you're
necessarily converting these concepts to numbers, but if you ask
people's feeling about their homes in India, will their responses in
some way demonstrate what is going on with some aspect of your
question? What would be some characteristics of leaving culture and
moving towards the natural (do Mauss or Levi-Strauss discuss some?) I
think as you do this clarification work, that more detailed,
articulated questions will likely become apparent, and you'll see some
specific direction to go with this. You may, for just some random
example, study individual participation in religious rituals or their
attitudes towards ritual as an indicator of whether they are more in a
state of Nature or in a state of Culture. We were brainstroming about
education with you the other day--that might be another direction. Or
you might do something completely different. What kind of link are
you looking for, and what would it look like if it was there? But you
need to identify the indicators of your big question before seeing
what elements of the culture you feel are significant to your study.

"This may mean more reading for you, but I don't think it necessarily
has to. Let me say that 1) even this last minute scrambling is
valuable to you--you've gotten a lot done in the past couple of weeks
that will be impossible in the field, and 2) especially having
identified a larger research question at this point, you have a
workable field experience before you--you will be articulating your
question throughout your time in India, and that's fine. Last summer
we met a PhD student who was talking about a survey he was developing
in the field much like you talk about your project now--confusion and
bewilderment tend to be the lot of ethnogrpahers for most of the time.
You don't need to be afraid that you won't be up to par, just because
it all isn't clear before you at the moment.

"Nuff said. I'm glad you're going. You'll have to tell me what you
think when you get there and how things are going (what IS your blog
address?). And at any time they come up, feel free to email me
questions, concerns, problems, whatever--whether it be tomorrow or a
month from now.


Jay's such a good guy!