Antropolog i pojęcie świadectwa. O niektórych pułapkach w badaniu terenowym
Wejland, Andrzej Paweł
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At the core of considerations included in the article, lies a belief that the concept of testimony – perhaps because it is today used by anthropologists so willingly and with such contentment – requires a thorough methodological reflection. This very reflection is encouraged not only by semantic vagueness of the word “testimony” and confusing variety of theoretical ways of removing it. I express here the idea that the reflection is primarily forced by difficulties and risks which anthropologists face – especially those narrativistically oriented – during a field research focused on testimonies and communities sharing testimonies. Using my own experiences of studying religious testimonies in groups within the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, I identify four pitfalls that await anthropologists. The first one, resulting from a narrativistical enchantment, is an excessive willingness to recognize as testimony every single story – heard or read – in particular, on “difficult issues”, while testimonies are only those stories – always clearly associated with a characteristic Sitz im Leben – which have distinctive features of genre (for testimonies such a natural life setting is a community discourse based on sharing them). The second pitfall is connected with anthropologists’ defensive gesture towards some traditionally thinking historians, requesting a confirmation of the “historical truth” of testimonies, that is their compatibility with “objective facts”. Nonetheless, focusing attention on the “narrative truth”, when exaggerated, makes anthropologists overlook the fact that testimonies always remain in fetters of the “historical truth”. Declaration: “I was there at that time” that is, an eye witnessing declaration, must be treated seriously, if they do not wish to deal with pseudo-testimonies. The third pitfall arises due to mixing anthropological naivety with anthropological hubris, and results from an unconfirmed intuition that their own interpretations of testimonies enjoy universal validity. Confronting my own interpretations, considering the notion of a person as it was understood within the charismatic community, with different interpretations by Thomas J. Csordas dampened this easy belief that an anthropologist, using his “double hermeneutic” reveals, present everywhere and permanently in a charismatic community discourse that is, in its own way unique, “native exegesis”. The fourth pitfall appears when anthropologist overly trust the use of the word “testimony” by the “natives” that is, too hastily acknowledges that he understands the word just like they do, because, for instance, as a Catholic, he has some “natural” insight into their community discourse. Sometimes it is also about failing to see that within the discourse occurs a substitution of one genre by another, as in the case when a testimony concerning a socially unacceptable illness hides in the guise of a religious testimony. Methodological reflection, to which I wish to convince anthropologists with this article, as its chief motive accepts – as understood by Paul Ricoeur – hermeneutical impulse for recognizing testimonies conceptually.
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