Gul's feeling that he should protect us was lost on me at the time. Given the fact that the Australian Administration had allowed us into the area only because it was already "pacified," I had no further expectation of any danger coming at me and didn't feel the need for further protection.
013-0x: Bossboy Gul shows us a bamboo pig arrow.
Looking back, of course, it is clear that Gul's view of danger encompassed not only possibilities of hostilities from enemy clans, but other dangers unknown in our world - such as illness caused by various sprits or attacks of witchcraft. At the beginning of our stay, I was totally ignorant of such possibilities. As time went on, we learned that the local people understood much illness in these terms. We ourselves, however, never saw our own occasional illnesses in this light. Shortly before we left, Marek was bitten by something in the dark of the night. We treated it as a snake bite and, when our friends suggested that witchcraft was the obvious reason, we pooh-poohed the idea.
We protected ourselves by remaining firmly within our own world view when it came to matters of our own personal health. In the 1960's that was considered the correct approach for anthropologists and anthropology students were firmly warned against "going native." It was only in the decades that followed, that anthropologists began to personally enter world views which differed radically from the Western rational approach. My own favortie book introducing this new approach is by the anthropologist Michael Jackson: Paths toward a Clearing: Radical Empiricism and Ethnographic Inquiry, published by the Indiana University Press in 1989.
|Written on August 2, 1996
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