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Friday, November 23, 2018

On Reason and Feeling, Science and Literature: Reply to Woodrow Watrous’ Comment.

On Reason and Feeling, Science and Literature: Reply to Woodrow Watrous’ Comment.  

I too should know more about Friedrich Schiller, but here is how he comes into the piece I wrote. First, as a child in the immediate dismal post-war period (1945 to 1954) we were taught the “mature” Schiller in school. The emphasis was on his Lied von der Glocke (
Song of the Bell). After all, it is about the “dignity of labor” and “the poetry of man’s social life” at a time when Germany had to rebuild what through its crimes it had destroyed.1 Though published in 1798, the first stanza says it all: earnest work, running sweat, praising the experts, but knowing that the blessing comes from on high. It is a brief summary of all that is worthy of a civilization recovering from its mistakes: the recovery of the transcendent over hard work, conscious appreciation of it, and human responsibility. 

And for all of it, so Schiller, we got the faculty of reason – and here is why – so that we may not merely work out of force or necessity, but because we feel within our innermost heart the value of what we create with our hands. Schiller put together – reason and feeling; heart, mind, value and action. And then follows the order of nature and culture. Just think, what might have happened in Africa, for example, if such a poem and its implications were taken to heart. 

Then, after two long periods of fieldwork in Zambia and Namibia, when I took up archival research in Germany, it led directly to Marbach where Schiller was born. Marbach near Stuttgart houses both a marvelous archive on German Literature and the Schiller Museum. Following that, we (my husband and I) visited Weimar where, finally, although after a first meeting in Jena, Schiller and Goethe met and Schiller became the observer of his own maturing just when, sadly, his physical health began to give way. 

Finally, the two paragraphs I blogged, entitled “Friedrich Schiller’s Broad Embrace: Fieldwork and Intellectual History” make a fleeting reference to his youth and
An die Freude (The Ode to Joy). I simply and intuitively associate this lyric with my first fieldwork. Schiller was after all a rebel in his youth. He was said to have converted to “fiery radicalism” in the hope of achieving freedom and a literary revolution. 

He wrote The Robbers age 21 and Ode to Joy age 26. Alas, making  a very weak analogy, I too went through a radical phase in the field when, surprised by love, which should not have happened, I broke through the “German thing” that I had become in America. Years after my return from the field, just when I was promoted to full professor, I let loose and wrote the anger out of me. Then I was young. Now I see things somewhat differently. I too matured, so I re-did (rather than rewrote) the book to take the sting out of it, but to leave the love for work, people, the world, and the transcendent in it. 

The point is, Schiller is relevant to our world and, in my view, speaks to maiden fieldwork experiences where what we usually separate – science and art – merges.

Karla Poewe, 

November 22, 2018 

1. Kuno Francke, editor-in-chief The German Classics (1913: 13-14). New York: The German Publications Society, has a useful description in English of Schiller’s life and work.. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Friedrich Schiller's Broad Embrace: Fieldwork and Intellectual History

Friedrich Schiller’s Broad Embrace: fieldwork and intellectual history

In today’s world, where ideas travel through the internet via iPhones at great speed, I prefer to see anthropology as a type of Intellectual History. In doing so, I want to avoid the trap of seeing some cultures as primitive and their ideas as merely popular. Instead, I want to move closer to H. Stuart Hughes’ definition of an intellectual history as “the study of major ideas in their pristine form on the higher level” (1958:11), but with one variation: namely, in terms of an exchange of ideas between say a field-working anthropologist and people being researched. The whole thing becomes a series of formal or casual conversations as when intending to understand their thought system, the researcher is confronted instead with, for example, their questions and ideas about the Judeo-Christian tradition, or evolution, or neoliberal economics encouraged by a Brazilian or Mozambican type of Universal or Unitarian Pentecostalism. As well, in most regions of Africa there were or are elite groups (whether ethnic, tribal, or political) who shared major innovators, institutions, and an intellectual heritage within a geographical region, making it possible to see their ideas as pristine styles of thought and guiding patterns that characterize specific periods of time. These elite groups may also be in struggles with new governments, or vice versa, and thus convey a sense that they are living in precarious times.

My book, with the sub-title, “An Intellectual Journey” is an attempt to describe such a series of “conversations” between anthropologist and people, moving anthropology within the sphere of intellectual history. And as early twentieth century German, French, and Italian intellectual innovators found, so this author too realized that even the history of ideas is not solely based on reason but includes emotional involvements that might even be, in this case became, the central element in the story (see Hughes 1958:15). In the field, a period of reorientation and many surprises, I too discovered the importance of a deep connection between science and literature or art, as well as the important role played by subjective values in our interactions (ibid). To this day, social science resists this connection because of the fear of losing scientific status. But to me, status is less important than mutual growth, understanding, and Friedrich Schiller’s broad embrace.

Karla Poewe
November 22, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Personal History and Fieldwork Bias: Science, Experience, Life, Journey
Click here to see my new video
This video summarizes in 1-minute how personal history affects how we do fieldwork and what we most focus on. In this case it is a series of questions about family and researcher relationships that puzzled both the researcher and the people themselves. Answers found in the, however inadequate, are part of what I call an intellectual journey.

November 19, 2018