[xmca] Geertz and praxis for us too

From: Jay Lemke (jaylemke@umich.edu)
Date: Sun Nov 05 2006 - 07:18:06 PST

A few notes in reply. I think you may find that
Geertz' work in both Indonesia and Morocco did
feed back to people in those places and not just
to 1st world academics (should we still be
calling ourselves "1st" these days?), though I
agree that his orientation was more towards
understanding and articulating than towards
direct emancipatory action. Given that we are
still first in capital resources, armaments,
etc., I think it's very important that we get
better understandings about our misunderstandings
(e.g. of Islam, which Geertz wrote about) of
other people. Not all anthropological insight
serves the bad guys, though much has been funded
by them for their purposes and much can be used
by them. But I would hardly declare a moratorium
on articulating the viewpoints of Others to us in
order to prevent the abuse of the information. It
is as much our ignorance in the large, as our
greed among the few, that leads us into policies
disastrous for all. Our democracies fail to
function as much from our ignorance as from our
arrogance, leaving no check on the exercise of
power. Some attention to change at home matters
at least as much as trying to understand Others
well enough to help them create change where they live. Where we all live.

Praxis, as I understand it, is not activism. It
is the near-fusion of practice and theoretical
understanding, with the latter informed by
participation in practice, and informing an
always-learning and ever-changing practice. I
was, of course, quoting Mao a bit provocatively
in regard to correct ideas coming from the
people, and assumed it was clear what people he
was referring to. He was speaking, in context, of
course, to cadres working with the masses, and he
was talking about praxis without using the formal vocabulary.

I have always wondered whether we are either
morally or intellectually capable of political
praxis in the truest sense in any community with
which we do not share the deepest cultural roots
and to whose fate we are not inescapably bound?
Geertz practiced across several societies, but
his praxis, if we allow him one, was for us.


At 08:00 AM 11/5/2006, you wrote:
>Jay Lemke wrote:
> > there was some confusion between EVE
> >Online, the out-in-the-galaxy space wars (and cultures, and
> >economics) game, and EVE as a shortcode for Everquest, another
> >fantasy-world (no space travel that I know of) online.
> Yes, that was my mistake. Everquest is a
> Tolkien based MMORPG with no travel in
> Newtonian-Einsteinian type inter-stellar
> space. In EVE one makes regular "jumps" into warp space.
>I> people just set up the factions, which
> >might attract their proponents today as in the last century
> >(believers or perverse role-players), and see what happens?
> People already do this in EVE which is
> precisely what makes it such a rich field for
> study; economic, social and cultural
> stratagies are pursued in addition to building
> the most powerful fleet of military ships and
> armaments. And as I pointed out, there are
> continuations of the community outside the game
> itself whose members, individually and
> collectively, take advantage of a large variety
> of virtual and non-virtual instruments to
> further their objectives within the game.
> >As to "thick description," it's not really meant to be just
> >description, but rather interpretive accounts that bridge between the
> >participant perspective and the observer perspective.
> Granted but this assumes that the gap can be
> bridged, when in fact, in Geertz's and all
> other models of traditional ethnography, the
> observer (and its unspoken companion role, the
> "reporter") pole of the dichotomy is
> predominant, the participant pole simply a
> "methodology" for gaining data. I think it is
> important to ask who the destinatory of the
> data is . . . Geertz never advocated the kind
> of ethnography implicit in the CHAT framework ,
> especially as practiced in Engestrom and his
> colleague's work, in which the ethnography is
> used to develop models that are aimed back at
> the people who are its subjects. Rather,
> Geertz's model feeds back into the 1st world
> academic community (and the various agencies
> who conduct work in the countries of the
> studied peoples). That is the point I was making.
> >Savvy anthropologists like Geertz know/knew
> very well that ethnography was
> >never politically or morally neutral, and Geertz' rejection of
> >abstract theorizing in the field was meant as a move towards
> >something more like praxis, a rising to the concrete where what
> >matters is what people do to make and change their lives in terms of
> >what things mean to them.
> I don't think this makes any sense. Unless
> the "thick descriptions" serve to make models
> that feed back into the practice of the people
> there is absolutely no question of
> "praxis". One can verify descriptions with key
> informants (Geertz's practice as that of all
> traditional ethnographers) but unless these are
> transformed by the people whose models they are
> meant to be, incorporated into them, there is
> no sense in which those models are part of the
> praxis of the people, the "thick descriptions"
> of whose culture was used to develop them. Who
> consumes the object of the activity system,
> where does it link once produced? Yes, it is
> praxis, but part of the academic praxis of the
> 1st world countries. I think you'll find real
> examples of praxis in the Indigenous
> Communication movements (such as those in
> Oaxaca or among the Mapuche of Chile and
> Argentina) whose consequences in the social,
> economic, political and cultural domains
> (PRAXIS) are reaching the headlines of a
> website or newspaper near you. There the idea
> is to provide tools that allow people not only
> to express themselves (as opposed to having
> someone else express them to an external
> audience) but to develop that expression to
> meet the real challenges they face as people
> oppressed by their coerced incorporation into
> the global capitalist system with its
> attendant development of those persistent
> little contradictions between use value and
> exchange value that inhabit each element of the activity system.
> >Where, after all, do correct ideas come
> >from, if not from the people?
> Which people in particular?? "the People" is
> an abstraction of an even greater order than
> those initial abstract starting points Marx
> listed in the "Introduction to the Critique of
> Political Economy" (one of the key texts
> Ilyenkov used to develop Marx's concept of
> rising from the abstract to the
> concrete). Correct ideas certainly don't come
> from abstractions. Correct ideas for such
> self-identified people as the Mapuche or the
> Chanca of central Peru certainly don't come
> from the analyses of "thick" or any other kind
> of description that have been distilled in the
> universities of the central countries in the
> global system. For these "people" correct
> ideas about their own society, culture, history
> and economy come from within their own daily
> activity. The last place you find ethnographic
> studies is in the houses of the people who were the subjects of those studies.
> If the people working in the learning
> centers of the "center" (could be in Lima,
> Santiago, Mexico, DF, etc, as well as Ann
> Arbor, Paris or Berkeley) want to develop
> conceptual instruments that feed into the
> activity systems of the people they study, and
> not, directly or indirectly, back into the
> academic commodity market of globalized
> capitalism, I question whether they will find
> much funding or any other type of academic
> support for that matter for pursuing the
> work; especially if those instruments help
> them resist the subordination of their people to the global capitalist system.
> Paul Dillon
> Somewhat assisted Babelfish translation:\
> El jay Lemke escribió:
> Ø había una cierta confusión entre la VÍSPERA (EVE)
> Ø > en línea, el juego de las guerras
> del espacio de la hacia fuera-en-$$$-GALAXIA (y las culturas, y
> Ø > economía), y la EVE como shortcode para Everquest, otro
> Ø > fantasi'a-mundo (ningún recorrido
> de espacio de el cual sé) en línea.
> Ø
> Sí, ése era mi error. Everquest es un
> MMORPG basado Tolkien sin recorrido en el tipo
> Neutoniano-Einsteinian espacio interestelar. En
> saltos regulares "de las marcas de la EVE una" en espacio de la deformación.
> >¿La gente de I> apenas instala las facciones, que
> Ø pudo atraer a sus autores hoy como en el siglo pasado
> Ø > (los believers o los
> papel-jugadores del perverse), y ve qué sucede?
> La gente hace ya esto en la EVE que es
> exacto qué le hace un campo tan rico para el
> estudio; los stratagies económicos, sociales y
> culturales se persiguen además de construir la
> flota más de gran alcance de naves y de
> armamentos militares. Y como precisé, hay las
> continuaciones de la comunidad fuera del juego
> sí mismo que miembros, individualmente y
> colectivamente, se aprovechan de una variedad
> grande de instrumentos virtuales y no-virtuales
> a más futuro sus objetivos dentro del juego.
> >en cuanto a la "descripción gruesa,"
> realmente no se significa para ser justo
> > descripción, sino las cuentas algo
> interpretativas que tienden un puente sobre entre
> > perspectiva del participante y la perspectiva del observador.
> Concedido. Solamente esto asume que el
> boquete puede ser tendido un puente sobre,
> cuando en hecho, en Geertz y el resto de los
> modelos del ethnography tradicional, el poste
> del observador (y su papel del compañero
> silente, el "reportero") de la dicotomía es
> predominante, el poste del participante
> simplemente una "metodología" para ganar datos.
> Pienso que es importante preguntar quiénes es
> el destinatorio de los datos. . . Geertz nunca
> abogó la clase de ethnography implícita en el
> marco de la TACH, especialmente según lo
> practicado en Engestrom y el trabajo de sus
> colegas, en los cuales el ethnography se
> utiliza para desarrollar los modelos que están
> dirigido detrás a la gente que es sus temas.
> Algo, el modelo de Geertz retroactúa en la
> comunidad académica del 1r mundo (y las varias
> agencias que conducen el trabajo en los países
> de la gente estudiada). Ése es el punto que hacía.
> >los antropólogos Listos tienen gusto de
> Geertz know/knew muy bien que el ethnography era
> >nunca político o moral neutral, y rechazamiento de Geertz ' de
> Ø theorizing abstracto en el campo
> fue significado como movimiento hacia
> > algo más como praxis, un levantamiento al concreto donde qué
> > importa está de lo que hace la gente para
> hacer y para cambiar sus vidas en términos
> > qué cosas significan a ellos.
> No pienso que esto tiene cualquier sentido.
> A menos que las "descripciones gruesas" sirvan
> para hacer los modelos que retroactúan en la
> práctica de la gente no hay absolutamente
> cuestión de la "praxis". Uno puede verificar
> descripciones con los informadores dominantes
> (práctica de Geertz como el de todos los
> ethnographers tradicionales) pero a menos que
> éstos sean transformados por la gente que
> modelos se significan para ser, incorporado en
> ella, allí no son ningún sentido en el cual
> esos modelos son parte de la praxis de la
> gente, las "descripciones gruesas" de de quién
> cultura fue utilizada para desarrollarla.
> ¿Quién consume el objeto del sistema de la
> actividad, dónde él se liga producido una vez?
> Sí, es praxis, pero parte de la praxis
> académica de los 1ros países del mundo. Pienso
> que usted encontrará ejemplos verdaderos de la
> praxis en los movimientos indígenas de la
> comunicación (tales como ésos en Oaxaca o entre
> el Mapuche de Chile y de la Argentina) que
> consecuencias en los dominios sociales,
> económicos, políticos y culturales (PRAXIS)
> están alcanzando los títulos de un Web site o
> de un periódico cerca de usted. Allí la idea es
> proporcionar las herramientas que permiten que
> la gente se exprese no solamente (en
> comparación con tener algún otro expreso ellos
> a una audiencia externa) pero desarrollar esa
> expresión para resolver los desafíos verdaderos
> que hacen frente como gente opresa por su
> incorporación forzada en el sistema global del
> capitalista con su desarrollo acompañante de
> esas pequeñas contradicciones persistentes
> entre el valor del uso y el valor de
> intercambio que habitan cada elemento del sistema de la actividad.
> > de dónde, después de todo, las ideas correctas vienen
> >, si no de la gente?
> ¿Qué gente en detalle?? "la gente" es una
> abstracción de una orden incluso mayor que esos
> puntos de partida abstractos iniciales Marx
> enumerado en la "introducción a la crítica de
> la economía política" (uno de los textos
> dominantes Ilyenkov desarrollaba el concepto de
> Marx del levantamiento del extracto al
> concreto). Las ideas correctas no vienen
> ciertamente de abstracciones. Las ideas
> correctas para la gente autodefinida tal como
> el Mapuche o el Chanca de Perú central no
> vienen ciertamente de los análisis de
> "densamente" o de ninguna otra clase de
> descripción que se han destilado en las
> universidades de los países centrales en el
> sistema global. Para estas ideas correctas de
> la "gente" sobre su propia sociedad, la
> cultura, la historia y la economía vienen
> dentro sus la propia actividad diaria. El lugar
> pasado que usted encuentra estudios
> etnográficos está en las casas de la gente que
> era los temas de esos estudios. Si la gente que
> trabaja en los centros que aprenden del
> "centro" (podría estar en Lima, Santiago,
> México, el DF, el etc, tan bien como Ann Arbor,
> París o Berkeley) desea perseguir la búsqueda
> de desarrollar los instrumentos conceptuales
> que los alimentan en los sistemas de la
> actividad de la gente estudie, y no,
> directamente o indirectamente, nuevamente
> dentro del mercado comercial académico de
> globalized capitalismo, pregunto si ella
> encontrará el tipo mucho de financiamiento o
> algún otro de ayuda académica para esa materia para perseguir el trabajo.
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Jay Lemke
University of Michigan
School of Education
610 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Tel. 734-763-9276
Email. JayLemke@UMich.edu
Website. <http://www.umich.edu/~jaylemke%A0>www.umich.edu/~jaylemke
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