Why we have anthropologists

Native speakers can rarely explain the grammatical rules of their own language. In the same way, those who are most ‘fluent’ in the rituals, customs and traditions of a particular culture generally lack the detachment necessary to explain the ‘grammar’ of these practices in an intelligible manner. This is why we have anthropologists.

Kate Fox

I came across this quote in a little book by British popular anthropologist Kate Fox, and though it is a simplistic statement, I kind of like the way it presents anthropologists – it does makes us sound very important, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, in my field of study, all of the computer people I interview prove to be very reflective and often discuss community structure and governance issues with a fair bit of detachment. So I often end up discussing these topics with them on equal terms. I wonder whether I can still call it anthropology… 🙂

I’m in Oslo this week, interviewing another couple of Ubuntu hackers, and learning even more about how it is to participate in Free Software development. I’m getting to the point where I have so much data that I’m really looking forward to beginning the thesis writing proper and see what sense I can make of all of this.

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