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a283: More on documenting misery (fwd)

From: Lois E Wilcken <makandal-ny@juno.com>

I posted my ti machann/jounalis anecdote as a branching out of the
discussion we were having on tourists and photographers taking photos in
Haiti.  I would like to comment on some of the comments.

First, I would like to explain to Garry (a friend of two years or so whom
I respect) that like yourself, I am not a musician.  I'm an
ethnomusicologist.  Since my discipline functions like an ethnology of
music, we use ethnographic tools, like collecting data through
interviews.  We have that in common with journalists.  So I understand
your statement that "the journalist asked the obvious question and should
not assume that he knows the answer."  This can be seen as a principle of
interviewing, but I wonder if one principle can and should be applied in
all contexts.  Isn't there more than one way to obtain information?

The person reacting to the television spot was not so much myself as my
Haitian friend.  I speak for him here because he doesn't enjoy the
literacy that all of us do.  (Where he comes from, anyone doing a job
that involves writing is privileged.)  Through people like himself I have
become aware of an undercurrent of frustration with--and sometimes
cynicism about--documenters of all kinds--tourists, writers,
photographers, scholars...  An undercurrent that sometimes rises to the
surface.  Do we conclude that people's feelings are wrong?

I would never in a million years advocate that filmmakers, journalists,
photographers, or scholars (like myself)discontinue their work.  Or that
tourists stop coming to Haiti.  But I do advocate refining methods in
order to get the burning tires off the roads of communication.


"When the anthropologist walks in, the spirits depart."  Haitian proverb
quoted by Joseph Campbell in 1970 in his Editor's Foreword to Maya
Deren's Divine Horsemen.  Page xiv.

La Troupe Makandal - New York City's #1 Haitian Roots Ensemble
621 Rutland Road, Brooklyn NY 11203
718-953-6638 / makandal-ny@juno.com