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The Best of Two Worlds, the Worst of Two Worlds: Reflections on Culture and Field Work among the Rural Irish and Pueblo Indians

  • Nancy Scheper-Hughes (a1)

Extract

Despite its title this article does not pretend to be or to offer a study in comparative ethnography, since my expertise in the cultures to be discussed is limited and uneven. I know somewhat more about the rural Irish of the Dingle Peninsula, among whom I lived during 1974–75, than I do about the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, among whom I spent the greater part of the summer in 1979 and again in 1985. Nor do these remarks have any pretense to social history, although it is to these peoples' collective responses to aspects of their histories that the article is addressed. Rather, it should be taken as a critical reflection on the vulnerabilities of the human spirit and on the vulnerabilities of a science that tries to pierce the meanings of that spirit. It is a tale of two cultures, and of the ethnographer as a teller of tales, and of the pitfalls of cultural interpretation.

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