Toward an Experience-Near Anthropology

Essay Excerpt

One day in Bali I was sitting with a couple trying to make out once again how notions of "balance" and "harmony" translate into personal experience. From the literature it seemed clear that such notions were crucial in Bali-Hindu cosmology and person constitution. But how, I wondered, did they compel action? What did they actually mean for people whose lives they presumably governed?

With my friends I explored linkages I thought I could detect between bodily imbalance, emotional imbalance and moral and ritual transgressions; logically all cohered, yet my friends seemed bewildered by my questions. In the end the man cut me short and gracefully said, "You know it's right what you say, but it is not the way we think."  (Wikan, 285)

About the Author

Wikan is a professor at the University of Oslo. She was in 2004 awarded the prestigious Norwegian Fritt Ord Award for "her insightful, openhearted and challenging contributions to the public debate on the value conflicts in multicultural societies". She has studied sociology at the University of Oslo (1965-66), social anthropology at the University of Bergen (1967-68) and Arabic at the American University in Cairo (1968-69). She does not have a degree at the undergraduate or postgraduate level, but went straight onto her PhD degree.Wikan has been a visiting professor at a number of universities across the world, among them Harvard University, USA; Beersheba University, Israel; L´école des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), Paris; and London School of Economics (LSE). Wikan has conducted field work in Egypt, Oman, Yemen, Indonesia, Bhutan and the Nordic countries. Her research interests are mainly the following: Cultural theory, religion, poverty and development, gender, health, emotions, communications, immigration and integration, social welfare, human rights, and honour. 

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