by Agnieszka Pasieka
One of the things that surprised me most after I began doing research on European far-right youth activists was my research participants’ statements on how much they love anthropology. Not Mussolini, not Christianity, not philosophy, but precisely anthropology. “How dare you?”, I would comment on such statements in my head, assuming that they completely misunderstood what anthropology is about. For how can one love anthropology while hating the Other, or at least certain others? Doesn’t anthropology imply a sort of “love-all-the-humanity” approach, no matter how naïve this may sound?
Yet as it usually happens in ethnographic work, or at least in meaningful ethnographic fieldwork – the one that also forces us to turn the gaze towards ourselves and to reflect on our own positionality – I came to realize that I had to ask a reverse question: How do I dare question my research participants’ inspirations from anthropology? And why should I assume to know what anthropology means to them? After all, I would not make such an assumption about other kinds of claims or practices that anthropologists are trained to try to understand from research participants’ point of view: marriage rituals, values attached to labor, or ideas about God.
“I simply love Levi-Strauss,” Alberto, an activist from Southern Italy would tell me. In stating his fascination with Levi-Strauss’s travelogues, Alberto expressed the sense of loss that in his view characterizes modern times.
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