Retrospective Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: American Ethnological Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Exchange
Secondary Theme: Inequality
In 1998, our friend and colleague, Daniel Bradburd, wrote Being There, an account of the fieldwork he – and his wife and fellow anthropologist, Ann Sheedy Bradburd – had conducted some twenty years earlier among Komachi nomads in Iran. In that account, Dan stresses the importance of sharing space with others, challenging the view that fieldwork reveals more about the observer than about living persons. In addition, as an economic anthropologist, Dan focused on the lived experience of class relationships, particularly as embedded in global vectors of material production and profit-making. Thus, in his study of drugs, he wrote about how colonized people have been subject to drastically unequal relations of trade, exchanging commercially valuable products for addictive substances. And, how workers, including those laboring in dangerous mines, have sought drugs to numb their bodily pain. Indeed, Dan’s research demonstrated that such exchanges, whether putatively symmetrical or blatantly asymmetrical, established problematic, even destructive, legacies of entitlement and obligation. Unfortunately, Dan’s concern with the asymmetries and legacies of entitlement and obligation ended prematurely, just as he began probing the “dark side” of Mauss’s gift. Oriented by Dan’s core concerns, our papers draw upon experiences of “being there” in settings including Melanesia, Europe, and North America. All recognize that fieldwork is a method deeply embedded in theory and that the best theory is ethnographically grounded, a lesson exemplified in everything Dan wrote.