June 27, 2006


Here I am back in my beloved Salvador, but what an adventure it was to get here. I think I´m still trying to get used to the idea that I actually made it. After a crazy last few days of packing, not just my stuff for here but the apartment as well, since I´ll be moving to a new place when I get back to chicago, i finally made it to O´Hare, only to miss my plane by 5 minutes, and end up being re-routed onto one leaving town at dawn to Miami. All ok, I thought, maybe I was leaving in too much of a hurry any way, but then when I got to Miami and boarded the next plane that ended up not leaving at all because of some technical problem, I began to wonder if something or someone was trying to keep me from leaving the country at all.. Especially when even my last flight almost got canceled in Sao Paulo due to problems with the airline. But, I´m here now and all is better than well. My friends rushed me to Cachoeira on Friday to spend Sao Joao weekend there. We danced samba and reggae till dawn and had a great time (hardly any forro though, which was strange since Sao Joao traditionally is all about forro). And now I´m back in Salvador where the streets are filled with people in their yellow and green clothes cheering Brazil to victory. I´m so happy to be back here! And tomorrow I get to work on my research again too. I´ve been invited to a ceremony for Xango, the orixa god of justice and thunder. He is often syncretized with Saint Peter, whose day it is tomorrow, so in addition to the Candomble there will no doubt be a bonfire.

June 14, 2006

leaving traces

sitting in the library working on papers can be pretty isolating. like i wrote a couple of weeks ago, its a strange kind of sociality. you sit there with the same people days on end but dont really ever end up talking with them directly; except for the occasional exception usually inspired by some kind of romantic interest. once i had a fellow-stranger try to entice me into conversation with a muffin which was sweet :) but for the most part your impressions on other people come to be composed by the traces they leave: the books they are reading, the webpages you catch a glimpse of them browsing on. but you never talk, unless you come across each other at a party or over the internet maybe.

i have been really excited by how i have suddenly managed to come in contact with anthropologists and anthropo-philes in Norway (such as Lorenz and Tiram , Canada and even my old office mate, Antti Leppänen, at the University of Helsinki through my blog (he put up a picture of the office we shared in Helsinki on his blog and to my surprise i noticed myself longing for the time i worked there). and writing about derrida's ideas of traces (in his Différance paper) for my final paper on Candomble initiation has had me thinking about the ways in which the internet allows us to connect with people on the basis of traces they leave on the web. the interesting thing though is how, at least here at u of c, important such traces on the web seem to be for any kind of sociality - more than half of the people i know at the u of c network with their peers online whether it is through friendster, myspace or facebook, and not even to mention to stories i have heard of people meeting other u of c students through such online dating sites nerve.com, craigs list or match.com.

just last week i came across this mandala drawing in the quad, in which the artist, who identified himself as a socially awkward and shy person, invited any one who found the drawing and the text attached to it interesting to enter into email contact with him

the ethics of interviewing spirits

getting irb approval for anthropological research is complicated enough as it is considering the process hasnt really been designed for participant observation at - how do you submit one and a half years of informal interview scripts before even getting to the field?? - but what if some of your "informants" turn out to be spirits possessing human bodies? surprisingly it is irb that is suddenly having me think over these questions. do i think that the spirits that possess people in candomble are really real, and thus non-human subjects that dont fall under irb at all, or are they just a kind of delusion, a bout of hysteria that originates in the possessed human agent? and even if i believe that the different spirit entities exist, what does the irb think? or since it is anthropological research should we rather just take the "native's point of view"? if candomble adepts consider the spirits to be non-human agents, shouldnt we simply bide by their views? i'm happy to see that in fact this turns out to be the irb's stance on this issue too, at least in this case... i guess i'm lucky to be at the u of c, where we just happen to have such a wonderful person in the irb machine taking care of anthropologist's applications, and who also has a good idea of the occasional futility of such bureaucratic processes. Here's his great response to my query on teh status of spirits as anthropological subjects:

"It is an interesting question and is quite
telling about the bureaucratization of ethics that such considerations are
necessary. My sense is that the spirits you are discussing do not fall
under IRB review. The IRB reviews only research involving 'human
subjects'--although the spirits are living (in the sense of active agents
in the world), they do not consider themselves human and are not considered
human by the individuals whom they are possessing. Since they are not
human, your interactions with them don't fall under IRB review (although
your interactions with mediums and other human participants in possession
ceremonies do). That said, it might be a good idea to get their
permission, as one never wants to anger spirits, whether in the context of
research or as a general rule."

June 09, 2006

Licence to kill... with laughter

Yet again youtube saves my day at the library. Thanks Mary for pointing me to this wonder!
Double-O Hasselhoff if you wish to chuckle with me:

June 01, 2006

timezones and timescapes...

i just realized my email account had been set to central pacific, pacific ocean that is, time for who knows how long. it's funny how disconcerting that can be, especially on a grey day like today when looking out the window doesnt necessarily help much in trying to figure out the time. but it is kind of cool too. somehow, for a second at least, just seeing i could set my account to for example Rarotonga time makes that side of the world feel a bit more tangible, as if i had a kind of a connection to there. Appadurai talks about ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, financescapes, and ideoscapes as alternatives to geographically constructed cultural spheres. It makes me wonder if we could talk about time in the same terms? Even though timezones technically are connected to particular geographical areas, our location doesnt have to stop us from abiding by another time zone. Stock brokers do this all the time, as do call centers in India. And I have to only think about the surreal experience of crossing the border from Kazakstan to Western China a few years back with the first country taking its lead from Moscow time and the latter Beijing. An enactment of Bourdieu's embodied symbolic power at its clearest.