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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Refugee Studies (Elizabeth Colson), Refugee Stories (Clementine Wamariya)

Excerpt from Elizabeth Colson page 1    

Elizabeth Colson page 2

The URL below is from a podcast of Michael Enright's Sunday Edition. It is the story of  Clemantine Wamariya who survived the Ugandan Genocide. It includes much about the reality of memories and experiences as well as her reaction to a theory class at university in the States.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Comment 2018 on Freedom

Where there is beauty, there is hope.

Following most chapters of my  2018 book, I added a Comment. Being plagued by doubts, I picked up the book and opened it casually at the end of Chapter 10. What I read is worth sharing, so here it is:

During the difficult first weeks in Lenda Province with the anxiety about potential isolation or dangers in an environment that was at once familiar and strange, I experienced both flashbacks and nightmarish dreams. Often, they had something to do with ambivalent relationships with men. For example, there was my dying father who nevertheless took me, for the sake of my health, from the Russian to the British sector as my aunt would do later. There was the German soldier who, although held by the Russians and knowing that helping us would mean his certain death, nevertheless guided us to escape deportation to Siberia. Finally, there was my husband who, although he encouraged my efforts, would reap our separation.
I took my dreams to mean that I must free myself of being a burden. How to gain this freedom from burdensomeness and what it would look like was not clear. So far it consisted primarily of rupture. Distant past relationships ended in deaths and more recent ones were beginning to look suspect. What was missing was affirmation and, before that, acceptance that “the world is cockeyed” (James Welch, 1974, p.68). Sometimes one had “to lean into the wind to stand straight” (p.69). The notion that one could be free “toward” the inevitabilities of life, and that our capacity for responsibility might be the very foundation of humanity, was foreign to me. Freedom meant freedom from … not also freedom toward … Since my past would not go away, however, I would have to learn what freedom toward my past, and from there forward toward my future, could mean.
Returning from Germany July 2016, I did what the then President of the Federal Republic of Germany told me to do, read his little book Freiheit (Freedom 2012). Before reunification, he had studied theology and was a pastor for a while, but with reunification he decided to enter public service. Like many of us, he had experienced “freedom from something,” but now wanted to practice “freedom for” the sake of something else (2012:24). He understood this latter sense of freedom as genuine yielding of himself toward serving democracy, which meant putting concern centered on one’s self on the back burner (ibid:26). Joachim Gauck interpreted the peculiar Christian metaphor that “man is made in the image of God” as meaning that the human being was created with “the wonderful capacity to assume responsibility” (ibid:33). Furthermore, he sees that “faculty for responsibility” as holding “a promise, one that applies both to the individual and the entire world, namely: We are not condemned to fail” (ibid: 34, my translation).
When they felt strong, Lenda women often said to me that they had amaka (power). But did that power also include having the authority to shape freely their life, family, business, public office and other spheres of private and public life? Did they understand that the Christianity, which they and their men took up, promised that they were not condemned to fail? And did they realize that promise? Those who answered, Twikala fye, we sit, that’s all,” answered “no.”
With then Federal President Gauck in Schloss Bellevue, Berlin, 2016

Friday, May 4, 2018

Surprising Findings, Real Needs

I just found this link on the web. Some one made the effort to put this together. I think it is related to someone's interest in matriarchal research.

The main book they featured is my Matrilineal Ideology. The biography they put together is also quite accurate except for the misspelling of my first name with a C rather than with a K.

Given these activities by unknown others, I realize what is needed is a good publishing agent. The question is how does one find one who is trustworthy? Usually, the first thing one sees is requests for money...and often in the thousands.

The Internet strikes me as being something of a Wild West, although there are honest efforts to show some aspects of other people's work. What irritates me, is lack of easily found dates. As well, there is no automatic addition of an author's new works. It is all fragments.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

My Apprenticeship: Return from the field and changes in the Discipline

This blog shows two PowerPoint slides that move to the last Chapter of the book My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey. The last Chapter was published previously in Ethnos (1996).

Importantly, the last Chapter includes later research conducted in southern Africa, the southeastern US, western Canada, parts of Germany and Britain. In South Africa itself, both my husband Irving Hexham and I did field work and life history interviews among charismatic Christians and among selected popular writers who were Afrikaans and English speaking. As well, we conducted archival research in the Berlin Mission for four months in 1995. In South Africa, specifically in 1986, 1987, 1989, we did field work for four months each year.

My approach to research became historical and global because of my reflection on my first long field work in Zambia as described in this book.

The two slides show that while I was deeply involved in my first fieldwork and the initial publishing of my findings, the discipline of anthropology changed. Some leading scholars asserted that “a new ideology was born.” I experienced a rude awakening.

The slide Return from field and Changes in the Discipline” shows how Anthropology changed primarily, but not solely, as a response to two significant, if also flawed, works – for example, that of Edward Said and of Derek Freeman. Just as I started to publish, it seemed as if Anthropology had made a 360 degree turn from an emphasis on participant-observation and experiential knowledge to text-making rhetoric and experimental writing. Like it or not, I had to address this change.

The exercise led to many new insights of which the slide “An Example of Metonym as observed among Charismatic Christians” is but one example. It all has to do with how language is used to convey the reality of the believer’s experience to themselves and the listening anthropologist. Although believers were not themselves aware of it, they used certain figures of speech like metonym, for example, to interpret the happening of “resting in the spirit.” Examine the slide carefully, or go to the book, or go back and forth between the two and you will begin to understand what makes some religious happenings real to those who experience them in specific contexts.

Slide 1  
Slide 2

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My Apprenticeship, Mental Geography, Researcher as System, and Questions

Below are some diagrams that show the relationship between researcher, childhood memories and environment. The first diagram schematizes the Mental Geography of the Researcher. Only those childhood experiences of WWII and the Early Post-War years are shown that erupted during my first fieldwork in the Lenda valley of Zambia. It should be noted that during the years of assimilation to, and graduate education in, Canada and the United States, personal memories were dormant. I was made aware, however, that Germany was responsible for the Holocaust. The latter was not a personal experience; rather, the experience was one of having been made aware of it as a teenager and young adult in Canada and the United States. The book shows how all this plays into the research.

The row below indicates that Personal Memories Erupted first in Zambia at specific times and on seeing Lenda nature, local makeshift dwellings, experiencing close relationships, during border crossings, and on observing the decadence in the southern part of the region. How all this happened is of course the story of the book. Clearly, these memories generated biases, but in the sense of both positive and negative ones. It is a topic that is picked up again, along with others, in the Concluding Chapter of the book.

The next Diagram sketches the Researcher as System always in relationship with the Environment. The latter consists of the research environment in Zambia, or what I called the Lenda valley and, through correspondence, that of North America. The researcher as system consists of the person doing the research and, while she is doing science, heeding what is happening inside of her. The latter involves, of course, the use of faculties other than, and in addition to, reason, for example, feeling, intuition, the imagination, and so on. The reverse arrow is there to remind ourselves that all these interactions during the research process have consequences, usually unanticipated ones, and involve risk. Doing field work is a highly dynamic set of activities and communications. The book does not analyze these so much as show them.

PowerPoint Slides as guides to the book: My Apprenticeship



Monday, March 12, 2018

Three Kinds of Empathy

Three Kinds of Empathy

Although unintended, in My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey (2018) I highlight the struggle between two antithetical personae: (1) the female refugee scholar, a figure with a WW II past and the consequent vulnerabilities, biases, individualism, changing perceptions, moments of despair but also what locals call her courage and energy, and (2) the thorough researcher, objective, empirical, and disciplined. It is this struggle that sharpened my sensitivities both to the people I researched and to my inner life. It also made me rethink the meaning of empathy.

Here I want to review Lipps’ three kinds of empathy. We have all experienced them. What is interesting is that one can experience each kind of empathy positively or negatively.

(1) Empirical empathy occurs when sounds of natural objects remind us of, for example, “howling” or “groaning.” They can result in such metaphorical descriptions as “howling storm,” “groaning trees,” which call forth similar feelings in the experiencing self and other. Note the involvement of memory in matters of empathy.17 One person, however, may experience “groaning trees” positively, the other negatively. The reminder becomes more powerful, that is metonymic, when it is experienced as, for example, the “groaning of all creation” or “the groaning” of the spirit, as charismatic Christians in Africa and elsewhere might say.

(2) Mood empathy occurs, for example, when color, music, art, conversation, and so on, call forth similar feelings or moods in the researcher and researched. Thus, I experienced Herero tunes as haunting, melancholy, and overall sad, which is what the Herero showed and said they felt (Poewe 1985). It increased my understanding of their culture, centered as it was on defeat and death, although it also distanced me personally from them.

(3) Empathy for the sensible (in the sense of perceptible) appearance of living beings occurs when we take other people’s gestures, tones of voice, and other characteristics as symptomatic of their inner life (Malinowski 1967). We can talk about “appearance empathy” when we recognize, as in a flash, by a gesture, or something external, the other’s inner life; when we know that it could be, but need not be, part of our inner life. For example, this kind of empathy led to a real breakthrough in my understanding of the Herero. It struck me that their dress made a statement simultaneously about their superiority, sense of failure, and self-protection. This was confirmed by subsequent research and discussions with Herero women.

Note, while my apprenticeship book is specifically about my first research in Zambia, in the conclusion especially, I refer to subsequent research of Charismatic Christians and the Herero of Namibia.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What is Empathy?

What is Empathy?

Image result for symbols for empathy

The story of ethnography is like the story of Adam and Eve. We bit into the textual apple of the tree of the knowledge of experience and rhetoric, and now there is no going back…

Broadly speaking, empathy is the ability to share in another’s emotions and feelings. It is not, however, as it tends to be defined in Webster’s dictionary, a matter of projecting one’s own personality into the personality of another to understand him or her better. More frequently, the reverse is the case. Empathy has to do with the projection, in the sense of impact, of the other’s personality and culture on one’s own. The other’s personality and culture create a happening in the open-minded or receptive researcher that requires thoughtful exploration

The meaning of empathy is in fact more complex than that given above. It is also more than the expectation that the anthropologist be “an unmitigated nice guy” with “extraordinary sensibility, an almost preternatural capacity to think, feel and perceive like a native,” as Geertz would have it (1983:56). And while I would contend that field work is a journey of discovery, it is not quite the quest story as satirized and dismissed by Geertz (1988:44–45). Let us look at empathy more closely.

According to T. Lipps (1851–1914), empathy assumes a common humanity. This assumption is quite the opposite of that of reflexivity which depends on cultural differences and distance (even when none exist or are of minor importance) and is concerned with intersubjective meaning.

Empathetic researchers can experience themselves, in some manner, in the other’s experiences and vice versa. As I converse or interact with the other, the other and/or I will recognize things in accord with our respective inclinations and needs.

It is not the case, as is often assumed, that experiencing oneself in the other’s experiences and vice versa makes for identity. Nor is it the case that the experience is necessarily positive to be empathetic. 

Lipps distinguished between positive empathy or pleasure and negative empathy or pain. Positive empathy refers to agreement between the stimulus derived from interaction with the other and one’s inner activity. Negative empathy occurs when the suggestions implied in the interaction conflict with one’s inner self. “Inner activity” or “inner self” refer to the complex activity which involves thought, feeling, intuition, sensation, imagination, and suspected or unsuspected attitudes. In other words, we use all human faculties to make sense of other (and self) and then translate these into written, oral, or visual media—if that is what we want to do.

[Reference: Poewe 2018: 304-307]

Next post is about three kinds of empathy

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Never Give Up on a Dream

Never Give Up on a Dream

Rod Stewart

If there's doubt and you're cold,
Don't you worry what the future holds.
We've gotta have heroes to teach us all
To never give up on a dream.

Claim the road, touch the sun,
No force on earth could stop you run.
When your heart bursts like the sun
Never never give up on a dream.
Crazy notions fill your head,
You gotta break all the records set.
Push yourself until the end
But don't you ever give up on your dream.
Sing a song for me children
You don't need no restrictions yeah
You can't live on sympathy.
You just need to go the distance,
That's all you need to be free.

This lyric also inspired a German woman by the name of Stella Deetjen who visited India on a fluke, saw the plight of lepers, stayed and helped for nine years. Then she moved to Nepal where she persuaded local people, through their shaman, to help build birth houses and schools. She inspired, they took on the challenge and her projects are now furthered through the Back To Life Foundation.

I heard about her through a Radio Berlin Brandenburg (RBB) interview. It is unfortunately in German, but those of you who know the language must listen to it. These URLs, the second is a shrunk version of the first, may have to be copied to a browser.

What fascinates me about Stella Deetjen is that while she calls herself a development helper – as if by default – she is inspired by a Faith that truly does path all understanding. Except she calls it the Strength of Love or Power of Love. By the way, her dread locks were something she came up with to discourage Benares men from, well, harassing her – as in nice blonde hair equals available woman. 

Love overcomes strangeness and fear. I know this from my own field work, especially, my first field work in Zambia. Most readers already know that I am referring to the book, My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey.

The book is intended for younger readers. Like the two stories above, if on a far smaller scale, it tells the story of daring to place yourself in a strange world with both feet on the ground. The real ground. Here is an excerpt:

There were the blind and the lame, lepers and the insane. Every deformity nature had wrought upon its people paraded before my eyes. As rapidly as it generated birth, it killed. And when nature was finally generous and turned the soil fertile, it increased the parasites that devoured its growth. No one could tell me that nature, untouched by humankind, was beautiful, at best it was indifferent and usually it killed. Lenda was not only the valley of the blind, more appropriately, it was also the valley of death. “We die fast in the valley,” was a common refrain.

According to existentialists … much of the life of any person remains (unexamined). Comfortably insulated by habit and routine he dwells in a state of philosophic oblivion, blindly unaware of the real conditions of human existence. Suddenly, however, there comes a moment when a direct encounter with life is inescapable (Gill and Sherman, 1973, p.22, word in bracket added by author).

For me, there would be many such moments in this valley when a hint of life expiring would increase my dread and focus attention on myself and the human condition. At such times, I would find myself tossed into the past, overcome either by feelings of guilt or bursts of anger. There was the unfathomable pain of mere existence. My nicely ordered world would dissolve into a slimy morass of nothing, oppressing me with its senselessness. At those moments, I experienced not only the meaning of being abandoned but also that of being finite. It’s this realization of the possibility of my not being that persuaded me, again and again, to learn who I was and what it meant to exist… (Poewe 2018: 63-64).

Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible—not to have run away.
Dag Hammarskjold

Friday, February 23, 2018

Eldorado, a film by Markus Imhoof and My Apprenticship, book by Karla Poewe: The Refugee Question Now and Then

Markus Imhoof, with Giovanna, the Italian refugee girl his family looked after during the second world war, whose story provides Eldorado’s jumping-off point.
Markus Imhoof as Child with Giovanna
 During WWII, as a Swiss child, Markus Imhoof was taken to a freight depot by his parents to pick up a refugee. He wanted a big brother but got an Italian refugee girl Giovanna. She became his big sister, but he lost her again when she was forced to return to Italy after the war. They became pen pals.

This traumatic childhood experience formed the personal core of his being and is the motivating force for his powerful documentary film, Eldorado (2018). Bradshaw The Guardian reviewer calls it “a deeply felt documentary essay on Europe’s refugee question.” It was played at the 2018 Berlinale, Berlin’s annual film festival. This is a shortened URL to The Guardian’s review

I am fascinated by this documentary art form. My childhood as a refugee during and immediately after WWII also triggered my field research in Zambia and now My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey (2018). Since the latter is merely a book, memories of loss and confusion found themselves into my dreams then and surprised, occasionally even confused me, during traumatic happenings in the field. I recorded them in my Diary.

The comparison is significant, because just as Eldorado is a factually documented portrayal in visual form by a film maker recording and experiencing the reality of refugee happenings now, so too My Apprenticeship is a documented portrayal in written form by an ethnographer of field experiences in Zambia. In both cases, WWII childhood experiences triggered these “deeply felt documentary essays”, and in both cases aspects of the authors’ childhood trauma occur in the film and the book.

Should social sciences resist documentary essays because intellectual skill as well as deep feeling is centered, in the first instance, on the creator of the work? I think not. The creating person, be it of film or field research, is crucial to the work and, usually, because their childhood experiences were humbling.

For me and for the film maker Imhoof, personal stories play naturally into our work. This is a shortened URL to my book

  My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey

Monday, February 12, 2018

My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey Available on Amazon Thursday February 15, 2018

Flyer for My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey

About the Book

The book sits on ego-documents, like letters, diary entries, and notes of casual conversations in which the curiosity, temperament, and thought of the people harmonize or clash freely with that of the researcher. Rather than cutting us off from understanding what is strange and past, this bias is a window that initially opens it up to us.

The last chapter returns the reader to the ancient notion that rhetoric imitates life and nature, because nature has assigned to every emotion a look, tone of voice, and bearing of its own. It thereby invites readers to free themselves from the ideological lock-in of postmodern discursivity and, like the ethnographer, heed happenings while doing research.

Cover of the Book

My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey

I have a personal reason to appreciate Karla Poewe’s wonderful book: parallel experiences. We both remember what it was like to be shoved about as German Kriegskinder (war-time children). We were both attracted to, and then distanced ourselves from, Sartre’s existentialism. We explored our identities in North America and in very different cultures – Karla as an ethnographer in Zambia, I as a journalist in Vietnam. It requires literary and scholarly skills to do this well. Karla has done it very well indeed.

Dr. Uwe Siemon-Netto
Emeritus Director, Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life
Author of Triumph of the Absurd: A Reporter’s Love for the Abandoned People of Vietnam

Poewe does not “study” humor, pain, poverty of environment, or relationships between the sexes. She experiences them, lives them, and finds herself changed into new forms of “becoming.”

Martha Ward
Professor of Research of Anthropology, The University of New Orleans
Author of Nest in the Wind


Available Thursday February 15, 2018

eBook  U.S. $9.99

Paperback  U.S. $ 16.00

I have noticed that the eBook version looks very different on every device. This is the first time that I have tried this. It is a learning experience. So my friends and colleagues, I hope that you will enjoy the book.

With Best Wishes,
Karla Poewe