2. I have also heard people claim that anthropologists are “not interesting” as research subjects, compared to other people. Robert F. Murphy wrote, for instance, “[my book] called for a self-critical ethnography, not one that finds the ethnographer more interesting than the natives. On the basis of some forty years of observing both anthropologists and natives, I can assure you that you are not” (1990:334). Such assertions of the boringness of anthropologists, however, need to be read in the context of a routinized, even normative culture of academic boredom and self-abasement, in which mutually exchanged boredom is a kind of collectively instituted defense mechanism (an argument which is semi-seriously made by Baghdadchi 2005). Surely, in any event, reflexive scrutiny of anthropology is justified not by our subjective sense that it is interesting but by our ethical obligation to apply the same level of scrutiny to ourselves as we would to others. Our sense of a thing’s interestingness is itself subject to academic social norms that prevent certain questions from being posed (see Davis 1971).

 [ return to text ]