entrevistas - 1997 / Mariza Peirano

Continuity, integration and expanding horizons.

Stanley Tambiah

(Tambiah) When did I become an anthropologist...? I would imagine the fateful year was around 1955/56, when after I came back to Sri Lanka from Cornell, I started doing some fieldwork. It was in collaboration with an economist, who was also a statistician (N.K. Sarkar), and we did in the Kandyan area of Sri Lanka a survey of the economic conditions: land tenure, lord tenant relationships, and landholding patterns in the villages and so on... And I combined with that survey my own fieldwork in the traditional anthropological mode on kinship structure and organization. And it was at that point that I met Edmund Leach. Leach had already done his fieldwork in Pul Eliya in 1954, and he was back in '56 for a final short check up for the monograph he was writing. It was then that I met Leach. I had already completed the survey and my first kinship ethnography, and written some draft papers on kinship and land tenure. My very first paper published in Man was accomplished through Leach's sponsorship. It was called 'The structure of kinship and its relationship to land possession and residence' (JRAI, 1958). And the survey, The Disintegrating Village: Report of a Socio-economic Survey, was published separately in 1957.

Leach didn't like the survey. He wrote that essay where he says 'Tambiah is an intuitive anthropologist', but that he disliked quantitative analysis based on survey data. But he already had the draft of 'The structure of kinship and its relationship to land possession and residence', which he liked, and when he returned to Cambridge, he wrote back and said that I must have it published in the JRAI. By that time I had also decided that my own sense of studying social phenomena was more in tune with the anthropological approach. That is, engaging in participant observation, conversing with people, observing rituals, and seeing acts in context, all of which you can't do in a survey, in which you ask individuals set questions without knowing or mapping in depth their interrelationships. So I was being converted myself, and Leach clinched it. Leia na íntegra...