A clarification by way of an anecdote
me at an ovoo

Paying respect at an ovoo, outside Terelj, Summer 2002.
Photo by Yasmin Lodi.

I still remember it vividly. I was walking down the street in Ulaanbaatar with a woman who had just started working as an assistant for me. "You're weird," she suddenly proclaimed. "Oh, why is that?" I asked, more intrigued to hear what she had to say than offended or hurt. "Well," she said. "You arenít a businessman. You didnít come here to get rich off us Mongolians." "Nope." "And you arenít a missionary. You arenít trying to convert us or save our souls." "Nope." "So, you came from literally the other side of the world just to talk to people, and find out what they think?" "Thatís about it." "Like I said, youíre weird."

And, to a large extent, my friend had a point. We Ė social anthropologists Ė basically spend our time talking to people, listening to them, hanging out with them, and maybe doing things like working in the archives. We donít expect to get rich. We arenít trying to save souls. We are Ė for the most part Ė just interested in understanding the world about us. And hopefully, being able to pay back in some small way, all the help and support weíve been given over the years.

Although it may take some time, since I actually have to teach and write papers and all those other academic things from time to time, I plan to slowly expand this section to include various explanations and discussions on what it is anthropologists do, how we know what we think we know, and how we try to convince others we actually know what we are talking about.

Please keep in mind that these are my idiosyncratic thoughts and reflections. I'm not trying to write a textbook, either an introduction to anthropology or anthropological research methods. I'm offering instead some pseudo-insights into how I see anthropology works (or doesn't). Hopefully you'll learn something. If you want to learn more, please check out the bibliography I'm putting up here. This is mainly stuff I've referenced in my musings, with (eventually) some other stuff of interest thrown in. (If there is interest, and I have time, I'll look into putting up a fuller reading list.)

I've tried to write this for a general audience. Hopefully other anthropologists already know what we do. As always, feel free to e-mail with questions, comments, or suggestions.