Challenge to Authority: Bakhtin and Ethnographic Description

Essay Excerpt

The point of departure is an incident I observed while conducting predoctoral research on male authority in Latin American families. The incidentis useful precisely because it is theoretically inexplicable, if one uses the traditional formulations of the anthropological patriarchs. The event was itself a challenge to authority, in particular, a challenge to the authority of the senior male in the house- hold. When I went into the field, the most authoritative paradigm of anthropological research, structural functionalism, did not see this problem as a legitimate one and earlier ethnographies did not provide satisfactory methodological precedents. The incident was troubling because it did not illustrate the Durkheimian notion of the constraining or determinative character of social facts nor an associated set of assumptions, that is, that all actors agree unthinkingly about their world, and try scrupulously to maintain their tradition. I will use this young woman's challenge to her father's authority then as a metaphor for my challenge to the authority of the anthropological patriarchs. (Weiss, 414)

About the Author

Wendy Weiss was a Professor of Anthropology at Wheaton University. Much could not be found regarding this author.

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