Chapter

Making Sense

Johannes Fabian

in Out of Our Minds

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2000 | ISBN: 9780520221222
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520923935 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520221222.003.0009
Making Sense

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A story makes its sense as it unfolds. The texts that make up the corpus are stories, at least much of the time. Their sense is in their plot: they tell of the progress of exploration. European travelers, with their African, Afro-Portuguese, and Arab-Swahili auxiliaries, enacted scenarios set down in metropolitan scripts. In Africa, these scripts were rehearsed and formed in encounters with the people and the environment. Physically, travelers moved by walking or being carried. Mentally, their efforts were supported by sense and meaning. This chapter considers different motives; theories about race, magic, religion, cannibalism, knowledge, and recognition; aesthetic judgments and the subversiveness of beauty; and contradictions and truth. It also hints that ethnographic reality appears less in a travelogue's verifiable propositions than in the changes it worked on explorers as rational human beings. And that is another thing modern ethnographers may have in common with their predecessors.

Keywords: European travelers; Africa; knowledge collection; documentation; ethnography; beauty; modern ethnographers

Chapter.  13375 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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