Some problems with my people
Charles Stafford (London School of Economics)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores emotional aspects of moral judgments in relation to field research in China and America. Moral judgments pervade everyday life in both settings, and yet the ethnographer's emotional engagement with them may vary dramatically, in part as a function of their relevance for his own biography.
Paper long abstract:
This paper builds on Westermarck's insight that moral judgments are intrinsically emotional, along with the insight of social psychologists that moral judgments are intrinsically "positional". These insights - which should hold true across cultural boundaries - are explored in relation to field research the author has conducted in rural China and rural America. Moral judgments pervade everyday life in both settings, of course, and yet the ethnographer's emotional engagement with such judgments (whether his own or those of others) may vary quite dramatically, in part as a function of their relevance for his own biographical trajectory. This raises significant methodological questions for the anthropology of morality and ethics.
Reason and passion: the parallel worlds of ethnography and biography