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Old 13.10.2005, 09:38   #1
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Default Fieldwork Under Fire

Fieldwork Under Fire

The Chronicle of Higher Education
October 14, 2005
Volume 52, Issue 8, Page B0
Section: The Chronicle Review

By ORIN STARN

Where, exactly, is Armenia?

I have to admit that I couldn't have pointed it out on a map for you
until a few months ago.

That changed in a hurry last summer. Almost overnight, it seemed, I
found myself on an Austrian Airlines flight into Armenia's capital,
Yerevan. A student of mine, Yektan Turkyilmaz, was about to be put on
trial there. The secret police had arrested Yektan two months before
just as he was leaving Armenia, having finished his anthropology
dissertation research on the early 20th-century history of the region. A
kind, passionate, and brilliant young scholar, Yektan had been held in a
miserable basement dungeon. He shared a cell - and the jars of Nutella a
friend brought now and then - with two Armenian prisoners locked up for
petty crimes. Many nights Yektan and his cellmates could hear the
screams of other men being tortured upstairs.

Yektan's crime? Trying to smuggle old books out of Armenia, according to
the government. The real reason was a poisonous brew of politics,
corruption, and paranoia. Yektan is Turkish, albeit of Kurdish descent.
Even today, many Armenians hate Turks for 1915, when more than a million
Armenians were rounded up for slaughter in the 20th century's first
genocide. That a Turk, Duke University student or not, would come to
Yerevan to study the period's fraught history had made him an object of
speculation and suspicion from the very start.

The great irony is that Yektan is one of a few brave Turkish scholars
now calling for Turkey to face up to its responsibility for the Armenian
genocide. Speaking about 1915 has been mostly taboo in Turkey, with
absurd denial and countercharges of Armenian duplicity instead the order
of the day. That Yektan was committed to real understanding of Eastern
Anatolia's tragic history had won him research permission from the
director of the Armenian National Archive. He was the first Turkish
scholar ever allowed to work there.

None of this mattered to the secret police. Although renamed the
National Security Service, everyone in Yerevan just calls them the KGB,
an unhappy legacy of Armenia's long cold-war decades as part of the
Soviet Union. Closely tied to President Robert Kocharian, a former
Communist Party official, the secret police are a shadow state. They
harass and brass-knuckle opponents, control plum jobs, and extort money
in bribes and kickbacks in the topsy-turvy gangster capitalism of these
new post-Soviet times.

Over his several months in Yerevan, Yektan had bought about 100 used
books from secondhand booksellers, all related to his research about
Armenian culture, politics, and history. The secret police had probably
been following Yektan, and, just after boarding his flight home, he was
dragged off the plane and taken to KGB headquarters. An obscure law
restricting the export from Armenia of any book older than 50 years
provided the pretext for keeping Yektan prisoner. His interrogators were
convinced that they had captured a major book smuggler, or, more likely,
a Turkish spy.

Then came rafts of letters demanding Yektan's release from the likes of
Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke; Craig Calhoun, president of the
Social Science Research Council; Rep. David E. Price, Democrat of North
Carolina; and Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and a longtime friend
of Armenia. At that point, Yektan recalls, the secret police began to
interrogate him about a third possibilitynamely, that he was an American
spy. How else to explain such concern from halfway around the world?
"Mean and stupid," one Armenian I met in Yerevan snickered privately
about the KGB.

The tale of Yektan's arrest might appear like some bizarre outlier, a
freak episode of the Keystone Kops and Gulag Archipelago rolled into
one. I think, however, that the story points to larger changes in the
field of anthropology. In the hoary old days of the pith helmet, native
porters, and steamer-trunk expeditions to Samoa and Congo,
anthropologists noted the minutiae of kinship structures and tribal
ritual down to the last cowrie shell. Those old-time anthropologists
tended to shy away from writing about the less comfortable realities of
poverty, war, disease, racism, and colonial oppression in the
third-world societies that they studied.

It's little wonder that anthropologists back then seldom got into
trouble. No one besides a small universe of other scholars back in
Oxford and New Haven cared about the exact explanation for why some New
Guinea hill tribes liked to chew betel nut at male-initiation ceremonies
and others did not.

Everything has changed over the last few decades. The turbulence of the
Vietnam War years brought loud calls for, as the title of one
influential anthology had it, "reinventing anthropology" in a more
activist, politically engaged image. Then, too, the changing trade winds
of feminist, Marxist, and later postmodern and postcolonial theory began
to propel questions about social protest and nationalism, violence and
memory, and power and politics to the center of the field.

You can see the results now. At Duke alone we have students doing
dissertations about Mexico's Zapatista rebels and anti-globalization
activism; everyday life and women's rights in Castro's Cuba; and
Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon, among many other charged
topics. It's a long way from the age of anthropologists with lordly
names like E.E. Evans-Pritchard and A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, and heated
hallway debate about the particulars of Crow kinship reckoning.

A degree of risk accompanies the new, more politically minded
anthropology. A recent Ph.D. from our Duke program, Daniel Hoffman, had
to be evacuated by helicopter from Sierra Leone a few years ago. Hoffman
was near death with cerebral malaria he had contracted in the
backcountry while investigating the kamajor militia movement and their
tough, violent world. Myrna Mack, a Guatemalan anthropologist, was
stabbed to death by an army death squad in retaliation for her research
into the slaughter of Mayan Indians in military counterinsurgency
campaigns. Last summer Kregg Hetherington, a graduate student at the
University of California at Davis studying Paraguayan agrarian activism,
was with peasant protestors when they were attacked by landlord goons,
who shot and killed two village friends standing close by him. Fieldwork
under fire is by no means uncommon these days.

It's always wise to be wary about coming down too hard on one's
disciplinary ancestors. Whatever their failings, those
early-20th-century anthropologists believed in human equality and the
value of other cultures in an age when the hateful ideology about white
superiority to the "savages" and "primitives" of "lesser races" was so
prevalent. We shouldn't be too complacent about our own era's failures
either, since the field is hardly a model of democracy and political
righteousness. Our many shortcomings include a tiresome addiction to
ugly, pretentious, jargon-laden prose that makes far too much of what we
write unintelligible to anyone who doesn't have one of those secret
postmodern jargon decoder rings.

I do think it's good that we've moved to a more direct engagement with
the world's social problems. Surely these times demand more than ever
the effort to understand the power of xenophobia and nationalist hatred,
the tensions of wealth and want in the global economy, the limits and
possibilities of social movements, and a long list of other pressing
issues. If not in grace of prose, anthropologists have the advantage
over journalists in the deeper, more intimate view gained by months and
often years of fieldwork. We can play at least a modest role in
expanding awareness, critical understanding, and a stronger sense of
mutual accountability and responsibility in this irreversibly
interconnected world.

But what, then, of Yektan? I watched him being led into the courtroom in
handcuffs surrounded by five policemen as if he were some dangerous
murderer. All the booksellers from whom Yektan had bought books
testified that they had never told him about any law limiting their
export, or in some cases not even known about it themselves. The smug,
overfed, theatrical prosecutor appeared to have watched too many old
Perry Mason reruns. He punctuated his incoherent closing statement with
plenty of pregnant pauses, accusatory stares, and the dark suggestion
that Yektan was not really a student at all. Then he drove off without
even bothering to stick around for the verdict.

Everyone knew, after all, that higher powers had almost certainly
decided the outcome beforehand in the archetypal Stalinist show-trial
tradition. Two years in jail, the judge announced, but with a suspended
sentence, meaning no more prison time. The verdict allowed the
government to pretend that Yektan's arrest had been justified while
ceding to the heavy international pressure for his freedom. With a few
Armenian friends who'd stood with him through his ordeal, Yektan walked
out of the courthouse into the sweltering August afternoon. He blinked
and squinted, unaccustomed to the sun after two months in a prison cell.

Now Yektan is back at Duke. He lost 20 pounds in prison, and his eyes
still dart nervously as if someone may be following him, but he says he
went to Armenia knowing it could be risky for him there. What Yektan
learned in his research will help him fill in the story of political
ambition, disputed borders, and nationalism gone awry that led to the
genocide of 1915. Does he have advice for other anthropologists working
in dangerous places? "Just be careful." His own concerns are turning to
more prosaic matters familiar to any graduate student.

"I want," he says, "to finish my dissertation and get on with my life."


Orin Starn is a professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University.
He is the author of "Ishi's Brain: In Search of America's Last 'Wild'
Indian," published last year by W.W. Norton.

http://chronicle.com/temp/email.php?...xifz272bxwu0x9
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Old 13.10.2005, 10:18   #2
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Hertakan anbariokan knoch zavak vore grum e hertakan anasunutyun.
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Old 13.10.2005, 10:21   #3
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вот-вот!!
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Old 13.10.2005, 10:39   #4
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Ha el greluen, vochel karas brnes suchit anes tvarin.
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Old 13.10.2005, 10:48   #5
A Deeper Kind of Slumber
 
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суки блин
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Old 13.10.2005, 11:02   #6
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Эта скотина даже не потрудилась поинтереосваться законами страны, из которой он вывозит книги. Хотя я больше, чем уверен что это была чистейшая провокация, потому как имело это место сразу после призывов начать совместное "историческое расследование", "открытие архивов" и прочей херни. Зондирование своего рода.
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Old 14.10.2005, 05:39   #7
панаехавший
 
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HOB, dzer patasxani mej es tesnum em ayn tipik processe, vor sksvel e arden qani tari e ev sharunakvum e hay azgi mej. Inchpes hayers, vor misht uzum enq mez hamematel hreaneri (isreaeli) het irakanum aveli u avelin nmanvum enq arabnerin.

Paghestinaciq abizhnikneri azg en. Nranc azgayin npatakn israeli dem abizhnikutyun aneln e. Baci dranic nranq anherates en, inchpes ev bolor arabnere. Tas tari araj voch mi HAMASi lider kyanqum cher mtaci vor gazayic israelciq karox en durs gan. Verjinners el arecin hertakan, ir xeloqutyamb hianali ban, helan radnere qashecin gazayic. Hishum eq inch exav paghestinaciqin? Gluxnere brnecin histeriayi mej. Vorovhetev abizhikutyan himqe tasnyak anga krchatvelu er.

Turqian drvel e konkret pahanj, ndunelu cexaspanutyune evropa mtnelu hamar. Es chem zarmana ete da lini. Avelin, ete es aysor linei turqiayi texe, henc nuyn orn el kndunei. Baci amen inchic menq arden haytararel enq vor ski finansakan pahanjner chenq dnelu ndunman zhaman (xi?).

Es chem datum ankexcuyan tesaketneric. Turqe mnum a turq, bayc ayn inch katarvum e turqiayum hima inz hamar himqn e cexaspanutyunn ndunelu hamar. Voch te vorovhetev turqeri mej baresrtutyun a cnvel, dra masin chi xosqe, ayl vorovhetev ndunele petq a iranc.

Minchder menq sharunakum enq et amen inchin verabervel henc dzer asac "прочей херни" tesaketic.

Tekuz nuynisk sa provokacia er, tqac, inchi er petq trvel provokaciayi? Inchi cher kareli et mardun miat tanel qaxmas, miat sax ashxarin cuyc tal vor inqe qaxmasum a, u heto adalzhenii pitak xpelov chaktin uxarkel tun?

Es groghi gragitutyan astichane parz e ira grac araji ereq toxeric, bayc inchi pti menq arit tanq tenc vochxarnerin senc baner grel?

Es amen inchi verje linelu e en, vor bolor tuqriai dem mer art qaxaqakanutyunum unecac kozirnere qcelu enq jure, inchi lav masnagetner en qocharyanenq.
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Last edited by Obelix; 14.10.2005 at 05:50.
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Old 14.10.2005, 09:54   #8
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Mi guce shat xeloq posting es grel, baic IMHO mi poqr sumbur e ev realic anjatvac. Inch process, inch hamematyun ay axper jan? Karces irakanutyunic durs es baner tesnum.
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