Saturday, July 10, 2010

Cecropia: Value-free ethnographic representation is problematic, since anthropology engages both scientific & humanities-oriented research

Harbin ethnography:

While value-free ethnographic representation is problematic, since anthropology engages both scientific and humanities-oriented research approaches (Kottak 2008), I have aimed to characterize actual / virtual Harbin in neither Utopian nor negative ways. Like many Harbin visitors and residents, I enjoy both actual and virtual Harbin and find this appreciation of Harbin to augment my field work and reading of Harbin culture there (Boellstorff 2008: 25). The assumptions that inform my approaches to studying, and comparing, the culture of both 'places' are ethnographic. And while my appreciation of what has emerged at actual Harbin over nearly 40 years could be read as a kind of promotion of it, my main goals are first representational, and secondly archival or folkloric, in a sense. And virtual Harbin becomes an useful emergent process for both, in novel anthropological ways. While Harbin Hot Springs may be a kind of radical envisioning in some ways vis-a-vis the (counter-)culture which has emerged there, its relative longevity – since Ishvara bought the land in 1972 – has generated a kind of stability in, and even development of, patterns, which I interpret as countercultural. Counterculture itself is radical in its own way, and Harbin's ongoing instantiations of these expressions of human life are uniquely and remarkably representable ethnographically. And while to create a virtual Harbin in Second Life in order to observe cultural processes is itself remarkable, I shall neither apologize for nor extol what is remarkable about ethnography and virtual worlds. In writing this book, I'm interested in engaging ethnographic interpretation and analysis using language, in examining questions of culture vis-a-vis a specific place in northern California and the virtual.

( - July 10, 2010)

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