Kroebers

Lisa Rogers eqwq.lrogers at email.state.ut.us
Fri Nov 3 19:38:05 MST 1995


Thanks much Tom, you're way ahead of me on this.  

The "culture maps" define what are now called "culture areas", and
constitute a kind of archive or database.  Recent rethinkings include
the emphasis that the borders on the map must not be reified, there
was much more mixing, migration, cross-influences and long-distance
trade than previously assumed; borders are flexible, porous, often
ill-defined in reality.

It is true that ethnography was "theory free".  It claimed to be
simply a record, a data collection.  Of course, data collection is
not neutral, some kinds of assumptions or interests certainly do come
through.  From my very hypothesis-testing oriented background, a lot
of that effort seems a waste.  I look at that sort of thing now and
think, damn, I wish they would have asked this or that a bit
differently, or actually collected observational data rather than
interviewing only, because then it would address a particular
question I have.  

I don't think people get funded to just go out and collect data
anymore.  I wouldn't want to do it either.  With limited time in my
life, I want data that applies to something, data-collection that is
designed to do something, to falsify something, to contribute to
development of theory, which I consider a contribution to knowledge,
moreso than only a list of data.  It is also very misleading to base
a picture of a whole culture on interviews of a very few people, but
it was common practice of the time, even when "studying" a living
culture with hundreds or thousands of members.

But I should also be generous to the old folks.  Kroeber didn't have
what we have now, useful thought-organizing methods called theory, my
theories didn't even exist at the time.  And if he and his crew had
not done what they did, we would simply have nothing at all about
cultures that are now extinct.  Besides, those last survivors were
already elderly, devastated and dislocated, so often there was no way
to observe them in "real life".  Also, interviews are quicker, and
they were really into a salvage situation, racing against time, as
the last survivors were dying off rapidly.

Lisa
ps.  One of the reasons that California indigines were so thoroughly
destroyed may be that they were at higher population density than
some other areas, certainly much more so than the central plains and
the interior west.  The landscape was more productive, and property
rights much more defined, so it was not so easy to just set up camp
and nudge them over as occurred in Utah for instance.  Not that it
didn't turn out badly for indigenes here as well...
lr

[snip]During that time, he laid out the first "culture maps" (I'm not
sure if that's the right technical term) of California,
distinguishing the various linguistic, cultural and economic zones of
the California Indians.  [snip]
The Kroeber's were first and foremost "ethnographers", and I don't
think particularly associated with any theoretical arguments of the
type which later became prominent in anthropology. [snip]



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