Monday, May 29, 2006

The rest is the silence...

For those who have asked: I am REALLY busy right now.
2 exams yet.
working on my MA project.
working on two articles that should show up before summer (nothing big, but in norwegian so it takes time...).
working on money for holidays that I am going to inaugurate on Sunday on Svalbard/Spitsbergen.

so, keep your fingers crossed for me, especially for my application...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Campeone! Campeone!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Man the maker, the tool-user, fabricator?

Today I'm going to Trondheim to participate in Norwegian Anthropology Association Annual Conference (only in Norwegian). I am not having any individual paper (yet!:) but I'm really excited because this year's meeting has Homo Faber as a leitmotif. And workshops seem to be really interesting. They've scored a bullseye! Heh. So some thoughts and maybe a little report coming soon.

Yeah, MAN THE MAKER I like most!

Speaking about tool users and so on, I've been discovered (hehe) by some
technology user anthrospy (he is damn good in what he is doing. I mean doing the site, not discovering me!) and I was cited for the first time in my life! APPLAUSE. And fortunately (for me) I didn't get panic as another student who was also cited at It made me think about relations between students, doctors, professors and others, and about students' selfconfidence or lack of it actually. But this topic some other time... Anyway is an amazing website for all anthropology enthusiasts. It is in Norwegian, English and German. International and scandinavian news and blogroll that aggregates anthropology blogs from all over the world in chronological order. And it is updated every four hour so it is a real bargain. And it has a really good design! So thank you Lorenz and good luck!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hard Core Tradition - 18-year-olds go crazy!

May in Norway is a month of celebration. It’s a month when all Norwegians celebrate Norway's constitution adopted in 1814. It is also a month when thousands of younsters go totally wild!

Popularly known as "russ", these final year students traditionally wear red or blue overalls and now buy buses to paint them and decorate interior in order to win the competition for the best russebuss (you can see pictures of those here and here). Both clothes and this bus makeover cost them fortune. Those russ machines do not only have to look cool but they must sound as hell! (Yeah, I live next to the car park where these teenagers make parties. Or maybe I should say – where Sodom rules in her mayhem). I think this picture can illustrate what Oslo citizens (and not only, of course) have to tolerate. One of the buses that dominated last year’s craziness was equipped with enormous sound systems from Roskilde festival. You can imagine power of this bus!

In order to help pay for their mobile party bus more and more girls decide to take part in a porn film. And actually t is not strange that they do not hesitate to use their bodies to help in maintaining tradition. Pressure within this young environment is so big that they have to redefine both social values and their own image. This conversion of body into a symbol of being an adult takes hold also in the 101 knot-earning challenges. Russer compete with each other in extreme drunken debauchery, with certain tasks earning them the right to add knots to dangle from their caps. When earlier those task were quite innocent and harmless (history of russ in pictures - really funny!), today’s task challenge them in a new way. Some of the new tasks are for instance having sex with at least 17 partners, picking up a tender teen, getting a vagrant drunk and vomiting on the person next to you.

Social anthropologist Allan Sande wrote his doctoral thesis on the russe phenomenon. He explains this in terms of a transition ritual marking. The passage from childhood to adulthood typically marked with breaking rules. He argued that "the more traditional rites of passage are transformed into a passage to friendship, in which expressive individualism is stressed as a value, making the intoxication and fraternisation among youth a ritual of its own. Therefore, the use of alcohol can be defined as a key symbol in these ritual processes, offering an opportunity to communicate meanings between members in society and culture."

We read in Aftenposten that almost everbody agrees that russe time is a non-stop booze-fest but the traditional emphasis on earning recognition for drinking is gradually being replaced by an emphasis on sex. Social scientist have also explanation to this.

"They come to grips with taboos like sex and intoxication," Sande said. He isn't shocked by the latest wrinkles in the knot stakes. "It is a form of ritualized play, very organized and regulated. The recognition of the one with most knots, the elite russ, reflects our career society - the knots can be compared to a résumé," he said to Aftenposten.

Ethnologist Anne-Sofie Hjemdahl also sees this as a mirror of today's society.

"It is connected to the greater sexualization of society. Running naked down Karl Johan (Oslo's central, royal boulevard) would have been much more provocative 30 years ago. The taboos that the russ challenge are always changing," Hjemdahl said.

And a majority of Norwegians accept this reality. Police and fire brigades cooperate with thousands of wild Norwegians. Institutions use their middels to promote safe sex and pass out free condoms to help keep the revelry under control. Even authorities are going to "help the children play tradition" and want to move final exams in order "to improve results and modify party habits". It's funny that event that once was secondary to education, now has become central and is more important that the final exams. Funny is that the adults do tolerate this. Funny is that while government is really strict on us who want to smoke in the pub or to drink a beer in a park, thousands of drunk youngsters roam about in the city at night, sorry, in 3 weeks. Funny is when I recall my celebrity of my school graduation in Poland. We had and I believe there is still studniówka. It is a a formal dance held a hundred days before the school-leaving exams. 100 days! And it IS formal. A pair of parents from each class has to be there, when their foster childs try to celebrate their maturity! Well, every country has its own customs... hihi.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Why Nicaragua?

Exam. Final. Not going out from my apartament. Secular asceticism. Voluntary cooperation with tiredness. In the meantime I play some poetry

Green plumes of the palm trees. Far off,
rough with antiquity, solemn with myth,
stands the stone tribe of old volcanoes
which, like all else, await their instant
of infinity.

(Rubén Darío, Noon)

Friday, May 05, 2006

Thomas Belomonte rules!

Some memoirs from his ethnographic odyssey. "The Broken Fountain" - marvellous work. Piece of art. Poetic and technical. Literality knock-out. Literary conquest. Excellent for those who are afraid to "go out" or do not know how or just panic.

"Participant observation was a means to an end, but it was also an end in itself. It was an immersion in otherness, a prolonged listening, an alteration of self."

"In those early days I was apprehending only the surface of things, but there is much to be learned from surfaces."

"Most anthropological fieldworkers do not choose their informants. The informants choose them."

"Human experience rarely accumulates in neat patterns and piles. People do not grow like crystals."

"The real world is very much with poor families. They live close to the sources of their own daily reality. Anger is violence. Love is touch. Food is security. Money is blood."

"Hatred is a poor organizer."


Or maybe I am just tired.

Frustration. Preparing to exam.

I hate theory! Especially all the stuff about gender... It is killing me. Exemplifying discoursive analysis and formations using gender issues?! BORING. I am in a trap, I know, I am in this perilous stage when I like to think: oh God, everybody already knows about it.


it is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important. It is important.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Newcomer's revelations. Spinosa's lenses.

After day-long reading of books in qualitative methods I realized what challenges I am going to meet. I've realized that my MA project and my first fieldwork are going to be harder than I had thought. And that being researcher demands much more discipline than I had supposed. Truism of the newcomer!

The textbook I've just read "Systematikk og innlevelse. En innføring i kvalitativ metode" (Systematics and empathy. An introduction to qualitative method) by Tove Thagaard is one of those books that you do hesitate to read and you start reading because you have to. A textbook that seems to bore you rigid but you do hope that it will turn out to be inspiring and helpfull. This book was such. Just after few sides you realize how ignorant you are. Ignorance to the subject that you love so much. It is like dreaming of being a pilot. You have to go through a mass of boring theorethical courses to be able then to reach the sky. And you appreciate all the knowledge you had to assimilate, in spite of being filled with nausea at the sight of a killing stack of papers you had have to read. And you value it at once you sit in the cockpit.

Revelation! I needed it. Now I know I needed this book so much that I feel embarrassed with my own naivety. Novice's failure. Mistakes that your wisdom is built upon. Fortunately. Those mental experiences and "eurekas" that leads you to clear mind.

Reading of methodological secrets has coincided with the new design of this site. For those who hasn't been here before I post a picture that was a motif of my blog.

A few days ago I realized that I am not going to arrive anywhere if I am sitting naked in front of my objects of interest and watching them behind the glass. Symbolic nudity. I took off my clothes which were my identity, experiences and values. In my artless searching for objectivity I was trying to throw away everything that could influence my understanding of "the others". What a foolishness! I was like sitting and gawking at the picture that was becoming more and more vague and impossible to read (Yeah, yeah, I knew all this about participation and so on, but the case is some mental block that all of us have to break at some point). Phenomena and objects of my interest became like this screen that consists of billions of dots and I was not able to grasp the meaning.

And then I found this picture from "Five Obstructions" and I realized that I mustn't lose myself and my "self" to understand "the others". I have to be like this plastic screen that absorbs the two sides of reality. Of course, this picture is an exaggeration of my ideal but I think that it is what anthropology is about. Participate but be yourself. And observe. Don't try to cheat yourself. You can watch the glass screen but the image is becoming blurred the more you try to see something. An anthropologist has to be able to go to the other side and come back and not reject what she/he was and still is. And while analysing and presenting results, you have to be the plastic screen that does not take side with anybody.

See both side!
Remeber who you are!

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