anthropologists' tension


Anthropologists (e.g. P. Bernard, personal communication, May 2007; Turner, 1993/2003; Wallis, 1999, 2000) highlight many ongoing and often (at least in their contexts) (ir)reconcilable tensions inherent in living and working in academia and simultaneously engaging with an ontology that enables dialogue with other-than-human persons, or in some instances, spirit. Most significant among these tensions is the lack of acceptance of arguments of received or "revealed" knowledge (see Castellano, 2002, p. 24; Smith, 1998) as valid, together with the simultaneous inability to provide (within rationalist, scientific, or Western epistemologies) any clear explanation for the source of the insight or phenomenon experienced (see Turner, 1993/2003 for a discussion of this issue).


Fortunately, however, the possibility of speaking of so-called spiritual experiences in the course of conducting research has been enabled, at least in part, by the self-reflexive turn in anthropology (see Geertz, 1973; Marcus & Fischer, 1986). This turn has meant more attention has been paid to unpacking the impact of researchers' assumptions and cultural and social positioning. It has also, in some instances, provided encouragement to no longer keep personal experiences in the field absent from research reports (e.g. Turner, 1993/2003; Young & Goulet, 1994).