2 thoughts on “Friendship: The Next Generation”

  1. Thanks for this off-hand post and link back to your “Confessions d’un papillon social” which I missed the first time and found most enjoyable. Do you think many/most social anthropologists share your enthusiastic embrace of fellow members of our species?

    I have struggled to reconcile my own social animal with the sometimes-profound alienation of walking alone–whether as an anthropologist who steps outside “her own” culture, or as a cultural liminal whose membership in any particular culture is far more tenuous than her identity as an anthropologist. It was a delight to read in your “Confessions..” of your unreserved love of the human. I, too, am visited with such feelings from time to time. Other times, however, I find them hard to reconcile with the phenomena I experience.

    Sometime I resolve this tension thinking, yes, I love people in their humanity, but not culture, which can narrow and diminish the great spectrum of human nature. But this isn’t a satisfactory position for a social anthropologist, and certainly not one who believes individuals are only human in relation (i.e. as social, not simply biological beings), just like all the other social carnivores.

    So, your posts have made me muse whether social anthropologists might be divided in to hot and cold types–the first being «papillon social», the second «promeneur solitaire»; and then, of course, the third who, like me, tap in to both streams.

  2. Jenny,

    Thanks a lot for your comment. I kind of knew a shorter post would bring me comments where elaborate posts almost never do. I also didn’t know you could read French. I must admit that I really like my «papillon social» post. (I also have “social butterfly” posts but they’re less personal.)

    I had the surprise, a few years ago, to notice a kind of “wariness with humanity” among some anthropologists. I guess I had seen it before but dismissed it as some exception to the rule. But thinking about it more, there’s even some kind of misanthropy in some anthropology milieus. Strange.

    Thing is, I’m clearly a loner. I spend my time alone. I think about all sorts of things while alone. I enjoy solitude. But I just love human beings, even though their behaviour I sometimes have issues with.
    But, for some reason, I don’t find it difficult to reconcile. The thing I try to do (and this gets into the “life philosophy” domain) is to try and understand why people act the way they do. Often pretty difficult to do. But I prefer it to anger.

    What you describe about going outside one’s “own culture” is both well-known and uneasily handled. There’s the old joke: if you dislike yourself, you become a psychologist; if you dislike your society, you become a sociologist; if you dislike yourself and your society, you become an anthropologist.
    So, we can be quite critical, and we never where we can fit. But it also means we can adapt.

    Anyhoo… Thanks again for your comment!!

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