Monday, March 05, 2007

Reading Geertz´ reading

Weekends in La Concha are days of a corrida. It’s not a typical corrida with toreador, but more like a blend of corrida and rodeo. It’s a pretty easy to interpret sign of cultural mix in Nicaragua. The Spanish heritage coexists with the North American reality of the Wild West. I’m not an enthusiast of this kind of fun and I’m not going to describe in details how the game looks like. The most significant for me was thoughts that this event triggered off. To outline the situation briefly – one man breaks in a bull and other males are running on the arena trying to enrage the bull and when the beast attacks to escape as fast as possible. Surprising to me was that anybody from the spectators could get on the bull and try to stay at one as long as possible while others spectators use red sheets (mostly old clothes), throw the bottles, cigarettes, small stones and sand at the animal. I asked one from the public if they have to pay for participation. He said no. Then I asked if they get money for participation. He answered that neither that. Well, why do they do this then? Of course, in such a poor country like Nicaragua the first explanation that comes to one’s mind is money, but it’s not the case as the corrida buddy told me. Then I looked at those men on the arena and observed how proud they are when they are moving closer and closer to the beast. They are strutting around like peacocks when they manage to escape from the dangerous horns. Why do they do this, I asked myself one more time. Now the new explanation seemed obvious to me. Male pride? Fame? Prestige? Heroism? Maybe that. It seemed logical to me, but then I thought about Geertz and his cockfight. How could he observe the game and come with such extraordinary explanations? When I was looking at the corrida and the public I was indeed “reading a text”, but did I read it correctly? Did my interpretation of this drawing have something to do with their reality? (I think actually that there is no difference between “text” or “drawing” (or “painting”) metaphor. Text is a drawing, a drawing is always a text and so on. So we read drawings, paintings, like icons… I don’t know actually why “writing and reading” phrase is used almost only to the Orthodox icons.) Weren’t my thoughts about the male pride and prestige the most ethnocentric solution/answer? Where did Geertz take this certainty from? Is certainty needed? How did he actually justify his interpretation?

To read Geertz one more time (though I’m not the biggest fun of the cockfight story). This time with a new look and experience. I’m sure that now I’ll be reading the literature in a completely different way. Especially the methodological part and I’ll definitely focus more attention to the argumentation, process of reasoning and concluding. I think I was too theory orientated in my reading. I’m already looking forward to trying some new monograph after coming back.