The Ethnographer Unbared: Crossing Beaches of the Mind on Tanna
Using the metaphor of beach crossings made famous by ethno-historian Greg DENING (2004), in this article I reflect on my first experience of ethnographic fieldwork. In the article I document how, as a doctoral student investigating 19th century missionary activity, I transitioned from archival to field-based research on the southern Vanuatu island of Tanna in 1975, completed my PhD two years later, and have continued to develop my relations with the Tannese to the present. I argue that this reflects, not only the notable capacity of the Tannese to embrace strangers, but also the extraordinary bond I forged with one "informant", David KAUKARE. I describe how more than any other person it was David, a primary school teacher at an isolated east coast village, who mediated my crossing into a society profoundly different from my own. In the article I explore how together we negotiated the crossings between our interconnecting and shifting worlds—sometimes mindfully, but more often than not serendipitously. In focusing on those initial encounters, I reflect on how prepared—and unprepared—we both were for the experience, and the impact it had on our sense of self and connection with the world.
Copyright (c) 2022 Ron Adams
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