Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Resonance and Fishing

According to Dianne Bergant, "...Anthropologists when confronted with the particularities of social reality attempt to construct a “thick description” of behavior, a highly detailed ethnographic analysis that explicitly includes, as far as this is possible, the insider's perspective. The most common approach toward this end is through a process of radical empiricism known as participant observation. Concerned with the comparability of empirical data, it begins with a particular, microscopic life-situation, and moves toward a contextualized understanding of meaning with the hope that general principles or parameters might be formulated. The findings then are tested against data from other life situations. Conclusions are drawn by induction as well as by comparison. The key authenticating factor here is resonance."

By resonance, I mean the power of a text, an object, or a song to reach out beyond its set boundaries to a larger world, to evoke or conjure up in readers, viewers, or hearers a variety of memories, feelings, or responses. In the Philippines, the invitation “Mangisda tayo” (Let’s go fishing) has at least two meanings in Tagalog (the language spoken by a third of the population). The literal is the summons to go catch fish. With over seven thousand islands, the Pacific Ocean to the West and China Sea to the East, many Filipinos are fisherfolk. The symbolic meaning, according to Leny Strobel, "...comes from Tagalogs of the 16th century who listened to friars’ sermons in Spanish, and fished out words and phrases out of the stream of the sermon and arbitrarily assigned them to their own imaginings. Out of a barrage of unreadable signs, the Tagalogs were struck by recognizable words then went on spinning out narratives that bore no relation to the logic and intent of the priests’ discourse." “To fish” is to conjure up unexpected meanings.