The Decomposition of an Event

Peer Reviewed

Essay Excerpt

Rather than deflect my speculations with qualification, I proceed as though they were a matter of report. Interpretation is conveyed in the form of ethnographic description and assertion. Thus I assert that the revelation that the strangers were human was not the slow dawning of the reality of the situation to the Hagen mind,but the result of their own analytic work;that what we might call analysis in Hagen takes the form of decomposition, taking apart an image to see/ make visible what insides it contains; that this is a process that gives the elicitors of those insides, the decomposers, power as witnesses to their own efforts of elucidation; that the elicitor/witness is in a crucial sense the "creator" of the image, and his/her presence thus necessary to its appearance-so that what might have been disconcerting about Taylor's gesture in taking off his hat was that this figure appeared to be autonomously decomposing itself. (Strathern, 245)

About the Author

Dame Ann Marilyn Strathern (born 1941) is a British feminist anthropologist, who has worked largely with the natives of Papua New Guinea and dealt with issues in the UK of reproductive technologies. Born Ann Marilyn Evans in 1941, Marilyn Strathern is an internationally known anthropologist who has taught in England, United States, and Australia. Her work as a feminist anthropologist has pushed open doors and minds in thinking about the implications of new birthing technologies and gender roles in Melanesia and the United Kingdom.

Marilyn Strathern, is a Professor Anthropology at Durham University and has, from 1998 to 2009 been Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge. She was an undergraduate and then a research student at Girton, holding posts in Canberra (ANU), Port Moresby and UC Berkeley (visiting) before returning to the UK in the 1970s. She moved to her first departmental appointment in 1985 as chair and head of the Social Anthropology Department at Manchester University. She subsequently held the William Wyse Professorship of Social Anthropology at Cambridge from 1993-2008. A Presidential Chair of the European Association of Social Anthropologists, former Trustee of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, and an Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, she was created DBE in 2001 (the first such honour in the subject for nearly thirty years). She became life President of the Association of Social Anthropologist of the UK and Commonwealth in 2008. Under ‘applied anthropology' are her contributions to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Government's working party on the repatriation of human remains.Marilyn Strathern describes herself as a conventional social anthropologist. A product of the Cambridge School of Social Anthropology at its heyday, her texts reflect issues largely within the discipline than outside it (Mary Douglas once called her -- not altogether flatteringly -- ‘an anthropologist's anthropologist'). These days, however, she has an interdisciplinary audience.Professor Strathern's interests have been divided between Melanesian and British ethnography: Papua New Guinea has been a principal area of fieldwork, from 1964 to most recently in 2006, although she is also intrigued by developments in knowledge practices in the UK and Europe.

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