It is Merely a Process of Intersubjective

18Oct07

It is Merely a Process of Intersubjective

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A Brief Review of Paul Rabinow, 1977, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, Berkeley: University of California Press. xiii + 164 pp . $9 .50 (cloth), $3 .95 (paper).  

The book, dealing with chronological reflections on Rabinow’s fieldwork in Morocco during 1968 and 1969, gives us a very clear portray of how an anthropologist works in the fieldwork, how to establish meaningful dialogues and exchanges ideas between informants and an observer, and eventually how the so-called intersubjective process during the fieldwork conducted is fully meant. This is practically. However, on the more theoretical level, his fieldwork reflections to some extent have provided a number of theoretical choices for anthropologists for their participative observations. A set of theories in anthropology/ethnography is important in defining, correlating, and interpreting symbols, categories, languages, and key words found by the anthropologists in the fieldwork. Of course, as acknowledged by Rabinow, the most fundamental base of anthropology is listening to the stories, having real experiences, and raising dialectical questions rather than employing such theories to examine the objective data brought back.

Therefore, because the anthropology, as it has the strength through its experiential, reflective, and critical activity, sometimes is diminished as an area of inquiry by an attachment to a positivistic (quantitative) view of science, preferences of hermeneutic as the problem and phenomenology as the method are necessarily reasonable. The former is concerning “the comprehension of self by the detour of the comprehension of the other, while the latter, as Ricoeur has defined, is “ a movement in which each cultural figure finds its meaning not in what precedes it but in what follows.”

The chapters within his book represent the situation or the circumstance in which Rabinow stayed and interacted with. The orderly chapters of his journey in Sefrou and Sidi Lahcen Lyusi do not merely mean a chronologically historical description, but have a wider sense of steps an anthropologist has to pass from his arrival to an end of the observation and of informants and intermediary persons an anthropologist has to contact. Rabinow’s sustained contacts with the Frenchman Maurice Richard, Ibrahim of the buffer zone between the French and the Moroccan society, Ali at the transitional zones of Morrocan culture in Sefrou, Mekki and Rahid in the centre of tightly controlling Sidi Lahcen, Malik an excellent on the edge of the saintly sub-lineages, and Driss ben Mohammed as a maintainer of belief and superiority of Islam are, in my view, a set of episodes of passing the cultural borders. These episodes of anthropological journey are interesting and inspiring.

Apart from that, I do agree with the reality that the anthropology is about spending time sitting around informants, drinking tea, taking genealogies, mediating fights, being pestered for rides, and attempting small talk in someone else’s culture. They are all a process of recognizing differences to make a dialogue which in turn enables us to make a process of change. My question is then to what extent is an anthropologist given a space to make interpretation and give meanings of these different symbols?



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