Friday, 2 February 2018

Selective 'Science'

Barry Thugwit obtained in 1996 a substantial research grant to travel through west-central Africa making a detailed digital record of the then surviving traces of tribal cultures in the region. After spending all the money, he returned three years later and presented the resulting documentation to the library of the British Ethnographic Association. As a token of gratitude the BEA gave him a 'Citizen Ethnographer' medal of honour and a fellowship.

He was posthumously stripped of both last year because it turned out that the 'citizen ethnographer' instead of making a systematic record of the cultures of the regions visited, he had squandered the money on a quest to photograph only a restricted range of subjects, topless photos of young maidens with shapely breasts. "This may be suitable material for the National Geographic Magazine, an American  periodical", snorted  Horatio Parrington-Smythe, President of the BEA, "but it is not ethnography!".

Likewise artefact hunters who selectively hoik out diagnostic metal artefacts from archaeological sites and consider that they are helping write history are no more 'doing archaeology' than Barry Thugwit and his perverted idea of what ethnographic documentation consists of is doing anything of lasting use to anyone - except dirty old men who like looking at boobies. PAS database and artefact porn, anyone?

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