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Clarkson Anthropology Professor Writes Book On Fieldwork In Iran
POTSDAM, N.Y. -- Twenty-five years ago, a young Daniel Bradburd and his co-researcher and wife, Ann Sheedy Bradburd, traveled to Iran to live among the Komachi tribe. They spent two years observing Komachi customs and becoming involved in their everyday affairs. Now, a quarter of a century later, Bradburd, a professor of anthropology at Clarkson University, reflects on that fieldwork in a recently published book titled Being There: The Necessity of Fieldwork.
The book is a sequel to his 1990 book Ambiguous Relations: Kin, Class and Conflict among the Komachi Pastoralists. While Ambiguous examined elements of Komachi life that were mostly of interest to other area specialists, Being There has a more personal tone, recounting the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary events that the Bradburds experienced in Iran.
"My intent was to write this book in a way that was engaging and interesting and sometimes funny," Bradburd said. "In addition to being engaged with a theoretical problem, the reader should also understand Iran and the nature of fieldwork and the nature of this kind of society."
Bradburd not only writes of his own experiences in Iran; he also uses the accounts of four people -- an established travel writer, a young adventurer, a pre-World War I intelligence officer, and the wife of a British ambassador -- to compare and contrast with his interpretations of Iranian culture.
Bradburd said the book began as a response to the postmodern anthropologists and its supporters whose theoretical critiques of anthropological fieldwork became "extreme and ultimately nonsensical." According to Bradburd, these postmodernists subscribed to the notion that what anthropologists observe and experience in a different culture is largely a reflection of their own culture. Bradburd, however, believes otherwise.
"It seemed to me that that was a misunderstanding of really fundamental aspects of the fieldwork experience," he said. "And people were writing about this in an abstract way. So what I decided what I was going to do was write about it in a very concrete way using anecdotes, particular events that occurred during fieldwork, and I tried to say, "Look, this is the link between experience --between what happens in the field --and how one comes to anthropological understanding."
Being There: The Necessity of Fieldwork (ISBN 1-56098-753-7, 186 pp.) is published by Smithsonian Institute Press.