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February 17th, 2006

expressionism

After you take into account the wind-chill factor the temperature in Pullman this morning was -13° Fahrenheit (-25° Celsius). That, my friends, is quite cold. We finished up the preliminary work for my archaeology dig this afternoon, although if Violet's experience from last year is any indication I still have a lot more work to do before I can call myself finished with this part of our research - her report for the upper level came out to 16 pages, and that was without any information from the other squares within the site.

I saw a really nice translation of the complete Icelandic Sagas at the university's book store this afternoon; it may be something to look into ordering online once I turn up the Amazon gift certificate my aunt gave me this past Christmas. While talking with Violet earlier in the week she expressed some surprise that I have yet to read any specific works on the Yąnomamö or the !Kung despite the number of anthropology classes I've taken in the past. Meanwhile, I've seen a video on the Aka pygmies twice in the last five months. Not that I'm going to take this as a sign I should concentrate my efforts into work within the Western Congo Basin - a coincidence is only a coincidence, right? One thing about the Congolese rainforest though is that it's most likely a place that Violet will never visit, as she's allergic to anti-malarial medicine and fava beans. It's sad to think that despite her love for travel there are so many places she can't visit on account of her medical situation. Hélas.

However, this did bring up a discussion of the connections that anthropology students most likely draw between a location and its people - a discussion of Amazon hunters will no doubt include the Yąnomamö, subsistence strategies of southern Africa bring to mind the !Kung, while any mention of Kenya should cause a fair number of students to think of the Maasai. At what point do we replace a landscape with its inhabitants? It's something I've commonly encountered in discussions about France - as the dominant assumption (in the United States anyway) is that the country is comprised of a homogeneous "French" culture rather than a multitude of nearly-indigenous populations like the Bretons, Picards, Catalans, Alsatians, Occitans, and many more. Is it hazardous to make such a linguistic or cognitive switch, and can this be considered an example of essentialism?

More later, when my stomach isn't complaining about being so empty.