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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/zxzp-sw44


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Searching for Our Grandparents: Kinship, Power, and the Uncomfortable Intimacy of Anthropological Knowledge





Anthropological knowledge has long been informed by the knowledge of “grandparents”. Since the beginnings of the field, anthropologists have often sought out the perspective of “village elders”, seeking out their knowledge as evidence of the truest and most traditional representations of cultural differences. In many cases, studying grandparents were part of projects of salvage ethnography- where knowledge elicitation and production were intimately tied to colonial and settler colonial regimes. These intimate encounters have brought forth an awareness of the politics of knowledge production in our ethnographic field site and in respect to our relationships and kinship with our intellectual forebears. But what do we make of the complex relationships with our actual “grandparents”? Who is studying the vast but sometimes much related milieu that anthropologists and their grandparents come from? Why are people of ex-colonies not also studying the societies of ‘the West’? Are those in the privileged position of the metropole free of becoming the subject of research by ‘non-Western’ anthropologists? And, in what ways are our relationships with our interlocutors complicated by our personal and intellectual lineages, genealogies of knowledge, and networks of relatedness? This roundtable seeks to understand and theorize the complex intersections that we as anthropologists have with our various sets of grandparents, from the ones we choose to study, to those that we cite, to those we are closest to. The various presentations from the following diverse set of scholars will hopefully start a contemporary set of conversations that highlight the dynamics of power, access and representation in studying and preserving the voices and experiences of our “grandparents”, from the field or otherwise. Barnett-Naghshineh and Pattathu both engage with questions of self-presentation and positioning in the field (both the field of anthropology and their ethnographic field sites). Based on their experiences, both scholars will highlight how a central anthropological challenge is uniquely complicated by their transnational backgrounds and how the complex kinship they have with their own relatives is enlivened by relationships in the “field”. Diaz considers how to manage the intergenerational links and legacies between her own kin with the biographies and ancestries of their interlocutors. She also interrogates the lasting effect of colonial and post-colonial trauma in shaping the stories we learn from our interactions with these elders. And lastly, Feliciano-Santos and Narayanan will describe their experiences positioned as “scholar” grand-daughters to grandmothers and female elders. Both these presentations will touch on issues of gender differences between “grandfathers” and “grandmothers” and how these gendered differences in elders and in their “grandchildren” legitimate the value of knowledge production and transmission in varying ways. As anthropology strives to diversify the backgrounds and intellectual projects of its scholars, this panel hopes to expand the ways that anthropologists have considered our positionality in the “field”, the limits of our own reflexivity in the ethnographic encounter, and how we reinterpret our scholarly training in ways that can be highly personal and transformative.


Transcript English (automatic)

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