Volume 5, No. 3, Art. 25 – September 2004


Lawrence J. Hammar

Klaus-Peter Köpping (2002). Shattering Frames: Transgressions and Transformations in Anthropological Discourse and Practice. Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 294 pages, ISBN: 3-496-02497 (pbk), 29 EUR

Abstract: This interesting, sometimes difficult, text assembles essays originally published between 1976 and 2000, some of which were substantially revised for this publication. The author's interests range between sociology of religion, Australian aborigines, phenomenology, ritual, Japan, history of anthropology and critical theory. KÖPPING aims to make explicit "the processes of change and transformation that are brought about through communicative encounters of many different type[s]" (p.13). The author suggests an earlier origin of "fieldwork" in the work of the 19th-century German ethnologist, Adolf BASTIAN, whose initiatives he traces from the work of Johann Gottfried HERDER and Alexander von HUMBOLDT, and scolds amnesiac post-modernists by rehabilitating the works of neglected French theorists such as Michel LEIRIS and George BATAILLE. He reads various "crises" of representation and "predicaments" of culture in the field (where research is conducted) and in the field of anthropology (where debates are carried out) as meaning that ethnographic anthropology is still, somewhat paradoxically, only conservatively transgressive. Our crises, in other words, are writerly, not political, and our predicaments are felt most acutely in the armchair, not in the tent or nearby. The author reminds us of our ludic impulses, and of the transgressive nature of life itself over death, misfortune and circumstance. He seems to wish to prod theory and fieldwork ahead accordingly, not so much browbeating and haranguing us as imploring and encouraging us to fulfill our potential.

Key words: history of anthropology, phenomenology, qualitative research, participant-observation

Table of Contents

1. Introduction and Summary

2. Substantive Contents

3. Complaints and Suggestions

4. Usability and Audience





1. Introduction and Summary

I often skim and read academic texts back to front. A book's bibliography, notes, index, cover photo, title page and acknowledgments massage the way I read the body of the text more than the other way around. Breezy blurbs offered up at the back from fellow academics and five-line content summaries written by publisher reps shape the ways we relate to the texts we read even before we plunge into their contents proper. [1]

I may be wrong, but the back-flap to Shattering Frames seems to have been written by the author himself, Klaus-Peter KÖPPING, who is currently a professor of anthropology at the University of Heidelberg and who has clearly had a distinguished career traversing, if not always transgressing, many boundaries. In any event, I was so arrested by what I encountered there as to be intrigued to read on:

"... Methodologically and existentially, anthropologists therefore must maintain a life in the in-between and are actually impelled to transgress constantly. The author presents this dilemma through a number of meta-theoretical discussions on authenticity and knowledge production as seen through the eyes of such 'classical' representatives of the discipline like Bastian and Malinowski, Leiris and Bataille ..." [2]

As you can see, even the back-flap is unusually meaty (ditto the "About the Author" section that precedes it). I do not agree with the contention about the legacy of BASTIAN and others (see below), but I do agree that most anthropologists have a normative transgressive approach to life and reality, such that even being an anthropologist can consign one to difficulty and depression. Throughout the text, I found myself thinking about the many ways in which I think and act differently than do, say, entomologists or engineers, about the writerly transgressions and behavioral interdictions that are normal to we anthropologists but that seem abnormal (if not abhorrent) to many quantitative colleagues. There was a suggestive tension in KÖPPING's argument such that perhaps anthropologists don't transgress in text as writers as much as they do in behavior as fieldworkers simply because they are too tired and that it hurts too much to revisit fieldwork-related trauma. I write these words being myself at the end of a long, difficult stint, and I must admit that all I want at this point is to get outta Dodge—hopefully alive. [3]

Portions of Shattering Frames might make someone a handy reference tool in teaching graduate students about the rocky road that stretches before them. Graduate students might find helpful the five or six chapters that resuscitate forgotten lights in the history of anthropology. I can imagine it constituting a friendly pat on the shoulders of post-fieldwork students who are struggling with finger and keyboard to turn fieldwork experience into "deliverables" and "performance audits" (as they are noxiously termed these days) such as Ph.D. dissertations and journal articles. This is increasingly becoming the anthropological condition, though it is hardly a post-modern one or one confined to anthropology. [4]

KÖPPING's argument hinges on the degree to which contemporary anthropologists should re-read "the classics," by which is usually meant the works of FIRTH and EVANS-PRITCHARD, RADCLIFFE-BROWN and MALINOWSKI, BOAS and MEAD, LEACH and BENEDICT. KÖPPING means something altogether different here, however, and Shattering Frames will hopefully incite good dialogue on this important issue. My own opinion is that unless the author meant something unusual when he put quotation marks around "classical," I cannot agree that BASTIAN, LEIRIS and BATAILLE are or should be considered classical representatives of anthropology, however interesting their works and lives may have been, however transgressive may have been their pronouncements at the time. [5]

Shattering Frames will make some readers think afresh as to what constitutes transgression and from whence it issues. Let us take a concrete case: Bronislaw MALINOWSKI. Conventional wisdom has it that the exiled Polish ethnographer wanted to be anthropology's CONRAD (as revealed by many telling diary entries), and yes, in many ways, he was transgressive for his moment in the sun. His methodological imperative that fieldworkers actually live amongst and to a large degree interact with their informants (whether "natives," "respondents," or "co-researchers") did frighten a lot of people. One such was Sir James FRAZER, who kindly agreed to write the Preface to MALINOWSKI's Argonauts of the Western Pacific. (Remember, it was this book that MALINOWSKI's mother read to him while he was for a year temporarily blinded.) FRAZER is said to have himself blanched at the thought of actually living amongst "the savages." Then again, MALINOWSKI had not at the point of his death considered publishing his infamous diaries, in which could be found perhaps the in some ways truer, more real MALINOWSKI (though KÖPPING says otherwise). To have done so would have been to reveal not just colonial-era personal sensibilities in need of a good shellacking, but also colonial administrative and racial contradictions galore of a type that was extant throughout New Guinea. If from our perspective in 2004 MALINOWSKI in 1922 looks timid on this count, it perhaps only highlights how difficult it is to be transgressive in any substantial way from within the confines of academic discourse, even if the discipline in question (ethnographic anthropology) is by comparison to bee-keeping or microbiology pretty racy. [6]

The more I think about it, the more the author's claim about the wellsprings of transgression does not seem to make much logical sense. If professional anthropologists are only in fits and starts transgressive, as he argues, if professional anthropology has historically been politically restrained and emotionally conservative on the deep psychic level (which is here a pretty convincing argument), then I fail to see how LEIRIS and BATAILLE make good "classic" representatives thereof. Logically, to the extent they were transgressive, they went against the norms of academic activity at the time and in that sense can hardly or should hardly be considered guardians of the canon. Perhaps it would be safer to say that such fieldworkers and authors (tellers of surrealist, not realist tales in the field) would make good classic representatives in a reimagined anthropology. [7]

In terms of the author's particular claims about the legacy of BASTIAN, I think that he has overstepped his case, such as when claiming that the latter had a "cohesive anthropological programme" (p.48). By his own admission BASTIAN was a poor writer (p.43), he is little read today, and he was opaque about many things that matter to theorists. The author seems to think that because BASTIAN hadn't fully fallen for either diffusionist theory (a la Friedrich RATZEL) or evolutionism (as per Lewis Henry MORGAN), he must therefore have been the progenitor of fieldwork. I believe this contention to be more wishful thinking than anything. I do admit to a newfound appreciation for the works and lives of LEIRIS and BATAILLE, and it makes me want to read the former's Tauromachie again (like many other texts, it made no sense whatsoever to me in graduate school). In any event, on this and many other points, as a reviewer I can promise you a lively collection of essays on which to chew. The author makes a million and one good little points. [8]

I do find more convincing KÖPPING's declamations regarding the often-overlooked force and place of emotion, subjectivity and bodily involvement in fieldwork. This is a theme that runs throughout the text, which rightfully takes its place among an already large and fast-growing literature in anthropology and kindred fields. I am compelled to agree with the author that disciplinary founders and theoretical leading lights such as MALINOWSKI and LEVI-STRAUSS can be appreciated also in terms of the perhaps first inklings of subjectivity, textuality, melancholy, and awareness of Self in, and in view of, construction of the Other. I have always thought that this is why LEVI-STRAUSS and so many others chose not to do fieldwork again, if they even did it in the first place—it's too damned scary, psychologically and otherwise. [9]

Throughout this inspired, but also often difficult, text (it reads to me in many places as an auto-festschrift), KÖPPING attempts to lay bare the epistemological assumptions and phenomenological questions that propel even the attempt to conduct qualitative research. Apart from disciplinary demands and occupational needs, why even do it? The answers are not self-evident. Specifically ethnographic approaches and participant observation-style experiences do not need just to be psychoanalyzed, he seems to be saying, as many theoreticians have suggested since the late 1970s. They need also to be theorized, in this case, in terms of motivations and assumptions about the nature of reality. [10]

2. Substantive Contents

Shattering Frames is divided into five main sections. "Frames" contains an interesting chapter entitled "Transgression/Transformation: Intersubjectivity/Intertextuality." Insofar as I found it extremely difficult to follow, just as I find it difficult to review a collection of a single author's essays, I believe it is due to the fact that it was written originally for this publication. As such, it does triple duty as Précis, Introduction and Programmatic Statement. If I follow the author's argument, he appears to be asserting the dangers and disadvantages of a radical empiricism—and is wholeheartedly in favor thereof. What I mean is that he implores fieldworkers to take account closely of bodily experience and involvement not just when they do fieldwork (as perhaps might fieldworkers from other, non-ethnographic traditions), but more importantly, when they report upon it. The clinical notes that Sigmund FREUD wrote on a near daily basis were stuffed with such musings and misgivings, on his feelings (not all good) toward his patients, none or very little of which ever made it into print. It is all too easy to sanitize in print what happens in bodily fact—don't I know it! KÖPPING tracks the slow historical movement in anthropology from what he calls "representation of"-type texts (formal, "realist" tales, as they have been called elsewhere) to "participation in"-style fieldwork (the emergence of critical, participatory anthropology in the 1960s and 1970s) to "surrender to"-type anthropology that is about as fully experiential as it can be without being vulgar or appearing merely Selfish. We may not need, that is, to learn of the contents of LEIRIS' morning toilet, but we might appreciate methodologically why he considered them important to record. If I can be so bold as to reveal something of myself, and to cut a much longer story short, precisely as I was investigating sexually transmitted skin ailments in a particular Papua New Guinea locale (and using the multivalent Tok Pisin, or Melanesian Pidgin term "sikin" to do so, which includes genitalia, self-presentation and so forth), I began to develop rashes, bumps, and general skin-itchiness in places I yet dare not mention. Don't laugh, I'm quite serious—and so was LEIRIS and so is KÖPPING—and yes, I know that there are other explanations. I also know that I'm far from alone on this one—KÖPPING knows what he's talking about. [11]

This chapter is followed by an interesting disquisition on "Melancholy: Ambiguities in Method and Morality," in which KÖPPING makes much of the musings of a morally crippled Claude LEVI-STRAUSS in what for the author remains a land-mark anthropology text of the 20th century, Triste Tropiques, a melancholic rumination on disappearing cultures if ever there were one (LEVI-STRAUSS, 1974 [1955]). Those who are familiar with MALINOWSKI's diaries and the history of anthropology, particularly in its earlier decades, will greatly enjoy this chapter. [12]

The second main section, "Transfiguring Knowledge," constitutes the historical substance of the text. It begins with "Bastian: Digesting Reality," which resuscitates the career and writings of the 19th century German ethnologist-geographer-explorer, Adolf BASTIAN, through a cursory review of the works of and inspiration provided by Johann Gottfried HERDER and Alexander von HUMBOLDT. I have already said above that I remain unconvinced that contemporary anthropologists owe remarkably more to his work and inspiration, but again that is just my opinion. "Malinowski and the Myth of Method" covers no new ground, though it does capably present the historical backdrop for claimed methodological innovations represented in his Argonauts of the Western Pacific, namely participant-observation, the hyphenated monster that keeps many of us up at night. He also closely examines critics of his posthumously published A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term (MALINOWSKI, 1967) which itself produced and constituted a crisis of representation, arguably anthropology's first. Though having read it three times, I still fail to see the import of the next chapter, "Phenomenological Reductions," which trundles through the epistemological foundations and phenomenological aims of conducting participant observation-style fieldwork (at least, I think it does). In terms of intellectual genealogy, it runs primarily back and forth from the works of Edmund HUSSERL to those of Alfred SCHUTZ (the American spelling), and it closes with a confusing (okay, non self-evident) quote from HEIDEGGER. Closing chapters with quotes from HEIDEGGER is dicey under the brightest of lights. [13]

In Chapters 6-10, which constitute the third major section, "Transforming Realities," the author considers the literal embodiment of ritual transgressions and transformations in the persons of shamans (and -esses) and Aboriginal ritual specialists, in the Trickster motif, and in all manner of styles of theatrical performance from Japan to Korea to Native America to North American anthropology. "The Shamaness and the Nation" is rather more sociological than historical or philosophical in considering the rise and fall of New Religious Movements in Japan throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and in asking good questions of their form and function. Are they individually shamanistic, millenarian, or cultish? Traditional? Syncretistic? Rooted in Buddhism or in Shinto practices? He considers in some detail the history of Kitamura SAYO (1900-1967), in whose bodily functions and fates can be found "detailed proof and testimony of a genuine shamanistic initiation experience" (p.93) and interesting links to struggles of and for national identity. This chapter in particular might interest Melanesianists (and others) who are interested in the many score cargo cults that have swept across the land- and seascape, often through the individual efforts (and certainly bodies) of charismatic individuals. The Body counts, to be sure. [14]

"The Dreaming Among the Ungarinyin" is based primarily upon the author's accompaniment of his mentor, Helmut PETRI, to Australia in the 1970s to work with the Ungarinyin of the King Leopold Ranges. Certainly no Aborigines, and probably not many Aboriginalists will find here much that grabs their interest. This chapter is neither ethnographic enough to be compelling, nor sufficiently challenging theoretically to ignite debate, nor different enough from a good case study in an introductory anthropology text to provoke any questions. The marginal note I wrote upon completing this primarily descriptive chapter was: "why is this chapter in here?" [15]

The next two chapters, "The Festive: Structure and Contingency" and "Japanese Festivals: Theatre and Ritual," are, however, quite interesting and seemingly original, and I found them quite provocative. While the first is grounded in theoretical debates that will matter to readers on several levels, the second becomes something of a test case insofar as it provides ethnographic data with which to test the models of play and transgression, periodicity and liminality, asserted in the previous chapter. The second chapter in particular is a close-in, close-up rendering of the bodily, experiential aspects of ritual as performed, not just theorized or observed. Here KÖPPING asserts "the idea of transformation can only be upheld when the context of bodily experience is accounted for" (p.140). No quibbles here. Area specialists will probably enjoy these chapters even more than did I. [16]

The final chapter of this major section, "The Trickster: Boundaries and Ambivalences," is also quite interesting and will prove to be useful for comparative purposes. The author primarily examines a famous Native American trickster, Wakdjunkaga, via the works of an American anthropologist who (he says elsewhere) is undersung, Paul RADIN, and Prometheus, as per the writings of HESIOD. If the choice of tricksters seems odd or over-stretched, it can be pointed out here how extremely catholic are the author's reading tastes, how broad-ranging are his knowledge bases. This is an author who has done his homework and who has experienced life, from the armchair to the tent and in-between. Once again, as in some chapters explicitly and in others implicitly, the corporeality of The Body, of Experience, of life and death and suffering and pleasure, take their place of prominence. [17]

The next major section, "Transgressing Boundaries," consists of three more interesting chapters that examine afresh, first, the works and lives of "Anthropologists as Tricksters," then the "sinister aesthetics" of Michel LEIRIS, and finally the erotic-sacred "excesses" of George BATAILLE. Many readers may feel that these three chapters begin finally to link themes and theories more organically, that the meta-theoretical discussions of which the back-flap (author?) informs us have by now kicked in. That first chapter discusses in a fresh way the various crises of representation and predicaments of culture that have rocked Western academics generally and anthropologists specifically. KÖPPING examines several seminal works in critical anthropology of the mid-late 1980s in the U.S., and argues that "the new authorities in their infinite regress of debunking ... hoist themselves on their own petard ..." (p.186), a point that he substantiates well. He complains of "the humourlessness of the new authorities, their preference for extruding more meta-bodies of disembodied literature, rather than the letting the body incarnate speak" (p.187). Hmmm, can you say "morning toilet"? My skin prickles. [18]

"Leiris—'Sinister' Aesthetics" examines in interesting detail the model of ritual innovated by Michel LEIRIS in his major work, Tauromachie, identifying it as evincing properties of a theoretical movement (surrealism) more broadly but as maintaining some currency in terms of feminist theory and studies of gender relations. He won't please everyone with his interpretation of "the Spanish bullfight," but the author's critical appreciation of LEIRIS' ruminations on that topic is both sound and helpful. In this chapter in particular I felt the author to be extra mindful of his readers, taking them carefully in hand through the thickets of theory. [19]

The final major section, "Hermes," consists of a single essay, "Seduced Seducers," that for me was the most meta- of the meta-theoretical remarks here. Here the author follows the suggestions of several others in using the metaphor of Hermes as a messenger "who straddles the worlds of gods, humans and the dead" (p.258) to discuss the difficult charge of carrying out anthropological fieldwork and in engaging subsequent representation of it. For me, the single highlight of the text is this final chapter, although why a single chapter justifies creation of a new section escapes me. Logically, it could easily have followed the previous three chapters. Without being mean or cruel, KÖPPING neatly skewers the excesses of postmodern and post-postmodern writers and writing. By running freely with (okay, lassoing) the ghost of the metaphor of HERMES, the author engages in "a polemic deconstruction of some of what I consider excessive statements by post-modern deconstructionism," but promises not to "maintain this mode of the trickster's puckish delight in subversion consistently throughout, as I want to carry on what Geertz has called the 'hackneyed' discussion of the epistemological status of fieldwork" (pp.258-259). [20]

As the reader may by now surmise, this is an interesting but also quite difficult text to read, understand, and certainly, review. In the following section, I put on another hat to make a wholly different set of critical remarks. [21]

3. Complaints and Suggestions

Shattering Frames is an extraordinarily manly and in many places frankly sexist text. The ratio of male to female fieldworker-anthropologists cited in the Selected Bibliographic References section, by my count, verges on 10:1. The one female whom the author cites more than once and at any length is Elizabeth BOWEN (nee Laura BOHANNAN), who was not even a professional anthropologist. KÖPPING misses altogether the only female anthropologist (Ruth BENEDICT) out of the four considered in Clifford GEERTZ's 1988 collection of essays, Works and Lives (p.185), inserting another male fieldworker in her place, though her name is mentioned elsewhere. It might have been worthwhile considering GEERTZ's choice of BENEDICT in the first place, too, just as anthropologists of several genders sometimes bridle at Margaret MEAD standing proxy for all anthropologists, let alone for feminist thought. An unnecessarily harsh treatment of Marianna TORGOVNICK (between pp.219-220, Note 1) on the question of LEIRIS' presumptive sexism is quite revealing, insofar as he praises another theorist who puts the historicist stamp upon LEIRIS' work. The "balanced" view of the latter's life and work comes, of course, from a man (p.220, continuation of Note 1 from the previous page). I could be forgiving here had KÖPPING not ignored what has to rank as one of the top two or three transgressive moments in the history of anthropology, its gendering. My critique of him here is certainly not a historicist one, although yes, I am intimately acquainted with the institutional and other forces that reward people for thinking and writing in a sexist manner. [22]

Indeed, KÖPPING's gender-exclusionary writing comes to the fore frequently, brashly, and on many occasions. "On the one hand," he writes, "the procedure stresses the participation of the researcher in the field, so that through his subjective immersion in the daily life-course of the actors their point of view is transmitted to the reader of the ethnography" (p.55, emphasis mine). Such phrasings (which are common-place throughout the text) can be excused somewhat if they are balanced by presumptive female-gendered ethnographers, which would in this context have been something of a transgressive act in itself, given the institutional sexism of anthropology and the ongoing need to transform sexist language in academic texts. In this period of backlash against feminist and other kinds of progressive, transgressive thoughts, perhaps regressive textual expression (that is, frankly sexist writing) can be seen as being somehow transgressive. (All manner of right-wing and redneck manifestos achieved great prominence in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s.) Unfortunately, "the reader," "the native," and the "the researcher" are covertly and overtly presumed masculine. As well, the -ess suffix has been inexplicably appended to "shaman" (e.g., Chapter Six). It feels diminutive thereby. As in Edwin ARDENER's classic essay, "Belief and the Problem of Women" (ARDENER, 1971), women (whether researcher or researched) become here a "muted group." [23]

Three more passages evince well his exclusionary language:

"First [emphasis in the original], the fieldworker makes a choice as to the group, the area and the particular problem to be investigated. He chooses his arsenal from his scientific field of specialisation, his vocabulary, his batteries of tests, but ultimately refers back to his common knowledge. His intentionality is directed toward and framed by purely etic categories, impositions from an outside which have nothing to do with the group's self-interpretation" (p.83, emphases mine).

"Finally [emphasis in the original], on leaving the field, the participant observer falls back into his typical role of the scholar; he is required to report, to his peers as well as to the general public, his findings in terms which are understandable to both" (p.84, emphases mine).

"... the anthropologist has consistently to explain and distinguish his procedures and must lay open the steps he has taken ..." (p.84, emphases mine). [24]

The military, quasi-sexual nature of his rhetoric could not be plainer, what with arsenals and batteries and impositions and layings-open so dotting the pages. Not for nothing have three decades' worth of feminist anthropologists (myself included) criticized the sexually exploratory (verging on predatory) tendencies of masculinist writing in anthropology:

"As I have defined the horizon of participant observers, the stranger does not remain an open 'outsider' for he is intentionally involved. This involvement is the only way of penetrating the emic side of reality, and it enables the participant observer to become more than a 'stranger'; he becomes a 'friend'" (pp.86-87). [25]

Well, let us be the judge of that. Even if "the community" is gendered female and vaginal (as are the bulls in KÖPPING's interesting and useful discussion of LEIRIS' Tauromachie), why can't it/they be seen to be capable of more actively engulfing the fieldworker with their knowledge, with their particular brands of hospitality (or hostility), with their needs and desires and agendas of their own, instead of being more passively penetrated by them? Coitus, he says, is "completed" by penetration (p.223), but one is surely entitled to beg to differ. [26]

This text is riddled with several score typographical and bibliographic errors. The spelling of the author's surname on the title page (KÖPPING) doesn't match the one that appears in the bibliography (KÖEPPING) or the two other versions that appear, with and without the umlaut. The page containing "List of Figures" contains five typos, including the "Penal one" (that ought to be "Panel One") and "Penal two" (that ought to be "Panel Two") that are repeated on p.12 and p.26, respectively. One of the artists thereof has his name misrendered as well. Given the author's rightful scolding of the lazy philosophy of post-modernists in and outside of ethnographic anthropology, it has to be said that the editing here is just as lazy. [27]

KÖPPING's writing style tilts and totters between crisp and overblown. He notes that "[t]he anthropological vocation is painstakingly described by those whose shoulders sag under the seriousness of the business: anthropologists live with a 'dilemma' or 'predicament' even overshadowed by a 'crisis' which may end in our unmourned demise" (p.186). This is lovely writing, and the text is full of such. Nevertheless, there are many, many lengthy and difficult-to-follow sentences, many being more than 60, 70, 80, 90 and even 100 words in length. [28]

In view of the chapters' placement and content, it is difficult to understand how the bibliography was selected. I understand the purpose of a "Select Bibliography," and it can be forgiven in the case of a collection of essays that spans such a lengthy time period as this (1976-2000) and that ranges across so many subjects. Nevertheless, despite that virtually the entirety of Chapter Three is about Adolf BASTIAN, not a single reference to his primary works can be found in the bibliography. Given how prominent is Chapter Four, "Malinowski and the Myth of Method," it is surprising not to see the ultra-important work of his daughter (Helena WAYNE) by his first wife (Elsie MASSON), cited in the bibliography. Just as puzzling is the omission of Nigel BARLEY's wonderful The Innocent Anthropologist (BARLEY, 1986), though the author does mention him at points (e.g., p.65, though calling him BAILEY). Given how important is for KÖPPING the psychological/emotional state of MALINOWSKI during his fieldwork, it is surprising not to see rendered and discussed John WENGLE's excellent Ethnographers in the Field: the psychology of research (WENGLE, 1988). [29]

4. Usability and Audience

I have given careful thought to the question as to the relevance to contemporary anthropologists of HERMES, von HUMBOLDT and HERDER, much less their relevance to the hunters and gatherers, horticulturalists, and human rights violations of today's ethnographic universe. Shattering Frames has helpfully revived debates well worth considering before conducting and while attempting to write up the results of ethnographic fieldwork. If I conclude that its practitioners today will not be harmed if they do not revivify the works of HUME, HESIOD and HEIDEGGER, I do not mean that in a catty way. Rather, I believe that today's anthropology does and must spring from political, not philosophical impulses and that the latter have nothing substantive to offer us. At some point, I am sure, graduate students will no longer be forced to read Meyer FORTES, but the sun will yet rise again. [30]

As a scholar and educator, I have to say that the book is too sloppily edited and is littered with too many bibliographic inconsistencies as to make it worthwhile assigning to students. Only three chapters have italicized prologues, making me wonder whether only the more difficult chapters were thus graced or that those represented the original abstracts. The text ends abruptly, without a winding-down of sorts in the form of an epilogue. There is no index whatsoever, although the many plates and figures are most welcome. The frequent reference to Greek gods and mythology might strike some as showy and off-putting insofar as these harken to a more classical education and perspective. Then again, it may merely point up my more provincial, American upbringing and training. [31]

Shattering Frames in some ways made me feel really good about being an anthropologist, about thinking it okay literally to feel my way through the thickets of fieldwork obstacles, political land-mines, and depressing topics. This text encourages me to continue to allow my body to mediate between what my mind and training say, on the one hand, and what kind of work fieldwork can demand, on the other. It made me think of Kenneth READ's paean to much-later returns to the sites of original fieldwork, Return to the High Valley (READ, 1986), in this case the valley in which I currently reside. The Preface to this lovely work contains the following challenge: "... if you can show me an anthropologist who has not been moved and in some way changed by the experience of fieldwork, then you have not brought to me a good anthropologist" (p.x). Klaus-Peter KÖPPING is that really good anthropologist. [32]


Ardener, Edwin (1971). Belief and the Problem of Women. In Jean S. La Fontaine (Ed.), The Interpretation of Ritual: essays in honour of A.I. Richards (pp.135-158). London: Tavistock.

Barley, Nigel (1986). The Innocent Anthropologist: notes from a mud hut. London: Penguin.

Levi-Strauss, Claude (1974 [1955]). Triste Tropiques. New York: Atheneum.

Malinowski, Bronislaw (1967). A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term, translated by Norbert Guterman. London: Kegan Paul.

Read, Kenneth (1986). Return to the High Valley. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wengle, John (1988). Ethnographers in the Field: the psychology of research. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press.


Lawrence J. HAMMAR is a Senior Research Fellow at the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. He is a hyphenated, cultural-medical anthropologist who has longstanding interests in gender and sexuality, prostitution, HIV and AIDS, Melanesia, qualitative research, human rights, and critical theory. His publications range between medical humanities, ethnography, gender studies, public health, venereology, Pacific studies, medical experimentation and epidemiology.


Lawrence J. Hammar, Ph.D.

Senior Research Fellow
Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research
P.O. Box #60
Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province 441
Papua New Guinea

E-mail: lawrence.hammar@pngimr.org.pg or gorokadubu@daltron.com.pg


Hammar, Lawrence J. (2004). Review: Klaus-Peter Köpping (2002). Shattering Frames: Transgressions and Transformations in Anthropological Discourse and Practice [32 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 5(3), Art. 25, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0403251.

Copyright (c) 2004 Lawrence J. Hammar

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