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Random Diss Excerpt #14

READING ADVISORY: Lots of big words meant to justify my comparison of two seemingly unrelated fieldsites (and a sharp, sideward elbow-jab aimed at the positivist tendencies that continue to thrive in some anthropology departments).

Embedded in this excerpt is a curse upon your privates.

At first glance the proposed comparison of the case studies presented here appears to violate at least one traditional tenet of comparative studies in general: “that the items compared must share certain fundamental traits” (Nader 1994: 87). Nader (ibid) refers to this as “the notion of controlled comparison,” based upon anthropology’s early conformity to the canons of positivist science that include the identification of and control over discrete variables in stable laboratory settings or, as might be the case with human society, in bounded, static, homogenous communities. The comparative approach of this study has been questioned repeatedly on the following terms: the invalidity of making generalizations on the basis of a single case study per country, the lack of representativeness of Baun Bango and Tawangan for the Indonesian and Philippine contexts respectively, the absence of measurable key variables in both case studies, and the vast differences between the two nation-states.

I argue that drawing connections between Baun Bango and Tawangan is a plausible – perhaps even imperative – exercise that can produce new insights through the juxtaposition of different locales so as to explore what “mutually critical commentary they make upon each other” (Marcus 1998: 52-53). The comparative parts of this dissertation perform this very juxtaposition following Marcus’ (1998) methodological discussions on multi-sited ethnography and Nader’s (1994) suggestions on the need to cultivate and nurture the comparative consciousness in anthropology.

This study is multi-sited in two ways: firstly, there are two separate fieldsites that are central to the entire research project, and secondly, there is more than one interface or field of social interaction pertinent to the research questions posed above. The comparisons I present here are not mere abstractions or artificial connections. They are dependent on firsthand ethnographic work and on-the-ground documentation of “processes that cross-cut time frames and spatial zones in quite uncontrollable ways…” (Marcus 1998: 73) – namely, processes of negotiating and implementing discourses, policies, and practices on environmental conservation and indigenous peoples’ rights. As was discussed above, the dynamics of environmental issues and the way different actors apprehend them is a process that crosses boundaries and timescapes, and which also intersects with identity and everyday life. The key actors themselves physically as well as intellectually cross boundaries constantly and participate in several timescapes, landscapes, and social interfaces.

While it certainly can be said that the discourses of environmental conservation and indigenous peoples’ rights are not equally applied to or replicated in each case study, my comparisons emerge from putting questions to the emergent contours and relationships of these two topics in “complexly connected real-world sites of investigation” (ibid: 86). As the comparative chapters of this dissertation will show, the juxtaposition of case studies herein consists of seeing the increasingly global discourses of environmentalism and indigenous peoples’ rights as integral parts of parallel local-yet-fluid situations.


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