The present in the past: an exercise in turning time upside down
(University of Siena)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on the restudy of an Indian village previously studied by the British anthropologist A. C. Mayer, this paper interrogates past and present anthropological knowledge by engaging in the methodological exercise of inverting the causal relation usually established between the two.
Paper long abstract:
This paper draws on the restudy of a village in Central India which had been studied in the 50ies by the British anthropologist Adrian C. Mayer. During the research, I have had the chance to access Mayer's fieldnotes and diaries and the opportunity to engage with him at length in conversations and discussions about his own study and his memories of the village. During my 14-month long fieldwork in Ramkheri, I often found myself going through the pages of Mayer's book looking desperately for particular bits my daily research had vaguely brought back to my mind. Mayer's works, words and fieldnotes were a sort of invisible third participant during my life in the village, partly framing my understanding of current events and their possible origins and causes, and shaping in my imagination credible trajectories linking the past to the present. In this paper, in order better to grasp the relation between my theoretical framework and Mayer's one and how the two have interacted in shaping my research, I will engage in the methodological exercise of turning upside down the linear and causal relation usually established between what occurs before and what happens later. By providing some specific examples in which my material directly dialogued with Mayer's, I will try to analysis how the present looks for itself within the past, either producing an image of past knowledge able to host its instances, or disqualifying it as wrong. More often, a mix of both applies.
What to do with 'old' anthropology? Zeitgeist, knowledge and time