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Cultural Styles of Knowledge Transmission

Cultural Styles of Knowledge Transmission: Essays in Honour of Ad Borsboom

Jean Kommers
Eric Venbrux
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 170
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  • Book Info
    Cultural Styles of Knowledge Transmission
    Book Description:

    Anthropologist Dr Ad Borsboom, chair of Pacific Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen, devoted his academic career from 1972 onwards to the transmission of cultural knowledge. Borsboom handed the insights he acquired during many years of fieldwork among Australian Aborigines on to other academics, students and the general public. This collection of essays by his colleagues, specializing in cultures from across the globe, focuses on knowledge transmission. The contributions deal with local forms of education or pedagogics, the learning experiences of fieldwork and the nexus of status and education. Whereas some essays are reflexive, others are personal in nature. But all of the authors are fascinated by the divergent ways in which people handle ‘knowledge’. The volume provides readers with respectful representations of other cultures and their distinct epistemologies.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2114-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, History, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)
    Jean Kommers and Eric Venbrux

    These essays in honour of Ad Borsboom focus on a theme that is central to his long career (from 1972 onwards) in the service of Pacific Studies in the Netherlands, and in particular of Aboriginal Studies: the transmission of knowledge. As a prominent ‘life long fieldworker’, Ad has always been engaged in this subject, which he approached from different angles. First, like every anthropologist while doing fieldwork, he was interested in learning from his hosts – not merely by acquiring ‘data’, but first and foremost by ‘learning lessons’. These lessons, which left a profound impression on him, confronted him in most...

  2. Ad Borsboom
    (pp. 5-8)
    Charles de Weert

    Anthropologists are observers of others and of themselves. The latter is a necessary condition for a healthy dose of self mockery and for a sense of perspective. These two properties are amply available in the person of Ad Borsboom. It would be tempting to present a specimen of his idiosyncratic sense of humour, but I am afraid that his jocular style is too refined to be committed to paper properly. Empathy, a further indispensable quality for a good anthropologist, is another of Ad’s prominent attributes. It is only fair to say that this admirable trait must have cost Ad tremendous...

  3. Maradjiri and Mamurrng: Ad Borsboom and Me
    (pp. 13-18)
    Jon Altman

    My copy of Ad Borsboom’s thesisMaradjiri: A Modern Ritual Complex in Arnhem Land, North Australiais notated on the imprint first page ‘J.C. Altman, Dept of Prehistory + Anthro, The A.N.U., May 1979’ so I must have taken this book into the field with me when I travelled to Maningrida in April 1979. Nicolas Peterson, my supervisor, must have given it to me.

    It was a year later, in May 1980, when I first met Ad. Actually, it was Elfrida whom I almost met first. I had been living at an outstation called Mumeka with Kuninjku people over the...

  4. Conversations with Mostapha: Learning about Islamic Law in a Bookshop in Rabat
    (pp. 19-24)
    Léon Buskens

    On an April evening in 1988 a fellow PhD student from Leiden introduced me to the owner of a small bookshop in a quiet street in theville nouvelleof Rabat. I had been to the bookshop before, but had not managed to make sense of the highly specialized collection of classics of the IslamicSchrifttum, impressive editions in many volumes of religious treatises, historical chronicles, andbelles lettres. At that time, only a young attendant had been present in the shop, who apparently did not want to force his services upon an unknown visitor. My senior colleague maybe sensed...

  5. Education in Eighteenth Century Polynesia
    (pp. 25-31)
    Henri J.M. Claessen

    Because of the limited size allowed for an article in thisFestschrift, this can be no more than a short reconnaissance of the educational field, concentrating on Polynesia in the second half of the eighteenth century, when European visitors arrived at the islands. I will use here mainly the observations of eighteenth century Europeans, though their observations on education are merely incidental in nature, and scattered in bits and pieces over their journals. This is not surprising, for education in the islands was rather informal and hardly structured.

    Generally speaking, education was received at home. The boys imitated their fathers...

  6. From Knowledge to Consciousness: Teachers, Teachings, and the Transmission of Healing
    (pp. 32-37)
    Ien Courtens

    ‘Anthropology is not for whimpers!’ was the opening line of Ad Borsboom’s heart-warming laudation at my PhD ceremony. With these words Ad transmitted his final teachings to me and referred to my anthropological fieldwork in the interior of the Bird’s Head of West Papua. For 13 months, I lived in the village of Ayawasi to conduct research on healing knowledge and rituals in the context of religious change. It was Ad who taught me the love for the Pacific region through his vivid lectures and made me want to conduct my field research in a Pacific culture. Back at the...

  7. When ‘Natives’ Use What Anthropologists Wrote: The Case of Dutch Rif Berbers
    (pp. 38-43)
    Henk Driessen

    Since the 1980s, the reflective turn in anthropology has drawn systematic attention to the close link between ethnographic knowledge and power. One important aspect of this connection is the use of ethnographic texts in the politics of identification (cf. Brettell 1993). The rapid advance of digital communication has greatly facilitated the access to, diffusion, transmission and consumption of ethnography, more recently also by what used to be called ‘natives’ and their offspring.

    This essay offers some thoughts on the problems of ethnography consumption outside academia. The recent translation into Dutch of the first part of a standard anthropological monograph on...

  8. The Experience of the Elders: Learning Ethnographic Fieldwork in the Netherlands
    (pp. 44-48)
    Michael Fine

    The scene is Riddershof¹⁰ – a modern 140 bed nursing home in a large Dutch provincial city in the late 1970s. A young anthropologist from Australia is undertaking an ethnography of the nursing home and the Dutch welfare state. Using the methods of participant observation, and unable to be a resident he becomes aleerling ziekeverzorgende(trainee practical nurse) and commits to a two year vocational training program which involves a combination of supervised nursing care on the job supplemented by blocks of class room based education. In accordance with Dutch legislation, all those who work with the frail elderly and...

  9. On Hermeneutics, Ad’s Antennas and the Wholly Other
    (pp. 49-53)
    René van der Haar

    Ad Borsboom’sDe clan van de Wilde Honing, i.e.‘The Sugarbag Clan’has as its subtitleSpiritual Wealth of the Aborigines. In the context of an orientalist world-view, this title would certainly appeal to the imagination while positioning the Western subject and the Aboriginal object in two distinct worlds. The cover layout with its illustration of barefoot prints underneath the subtitle, and a picture of a blue sky with dark-skinned children looking into the bright light of the sun, seems only to underscore this interpretation. We, the post-industrial Western readers, are pursuing our ever-increasing material needs in our murky wasteland....

  10. Bontius in Batavia: Early Steps in Intercultural Communication
    (pp. 54-59)
    Frans Hüsken

    After having been dependent upon the Sultan of Banten for more than a decade, the Dutch East India Company (VOC), or rather its governor general Jan Pieterszoon Coen, decided in 1617 to build their own premises at the place where present-day North Jakarta is located. A map of 1627 shows that Batavia, as the new town was called, was basically a fortress and a walled area with warehouses and residences. It had no more than five to six thousands inhabitants, including some 700 Dutchmen, a multi-ethnic garrison, many Chinese and slaves from all over Asia. They lived in a town...

  11. Ceremonies of Learning and Status in Jordan
    (pp. 60-64)
    Willy Jansen

    The class of 2006 was nervously waiting in the foyer, while their family and friends passed the security check and found a place in Amman’s Cultural Palace. The 76 female graduates had undergone a complete make-over. Their brown, baggy school uniform had been replaced by a black and red gown and cap; all had visited a beautician and hair stylist and bought new high-heeled black pumps. The girls far outshone and outnumbered the 42 boys. The elite of Jordan’s capital had gathered here for the graduation ceremony of two of the oldest and best private secondary schools, the Ahliyya School...

  12. Al Amien: A Modern Variant of an Age-Old Educational Institution
    (pp. 65-69)
    Huub de Jonge

    Thepesantrenor Islamic boarding school is thought to be the oldest Islamic educational institution in Indonesia. Most of them are situated in the countryside and in particular attract students,santris, from peasant, fishermen and traders circles. In principle, these schools constitute a kind of religious community in which children and youngsters immerse themselves deeply in the study of Islam and learn to live as good Muslims. Outsiders often see the pesantren as an anachronism. The writer Naipaul (1981: 317), for example, describes it as a type of schooling appropriate to a time in which villagers seldom crossed local boundaries...

  13. Yolngu and Anthropological Learning Styles in Ritual Contexts
    (pp. 70-74)
    Ian Keen

    Early researchers on Yolngu learning styles pointed out that the pervasive Yolngu approach to learning is by means of observation and participation rather than through formal instruction (e.g. Harris 1984). A girl (or woman visitor from another culture) learning to twine baskets, for example, will sit with knowledgeable women, observing and trying to copy their technique. From time to time a woman will take the novice’s work, continue it, and then hand it back (e.g. Hamby 2001); there is little instruction as such. The clash between Yolngu learning styles and schooling is evident – Yolngu children treat school rather as a...

  14. Learning to Be White in Guadeloupe
    (pp. 75-78)
    Janine Klungel

    Throughout my fieldwork in Guadeloupe, I was repeatedly confronted with the ways in which black Guadeloupians commented on my whiteness. From the very outset, I was habitually identified as ‘la blanche’ (the white woman), but in the eyes of many I continued to fall short of the normative rules of white conduct. Children would be the most severe judges of my whiteness, whenever they glanced at my hair and listened to my French, only to conclude their assessment by shaking their heads disapprovingly. Due to their critical remarks, I became acutely aware of the social construction of dominant whiteness in...

  15. Learning from ‘the Other’, Writing about ‘the Other’
    (pp. 79-84)
    Jean Kommers

    Once, when writing down field notes in a Kipsigis compound, something happened which struck me deeply. A small, four-year-old boy, accompanied by his mother, entered the compound. Seeing me, the boy asked his mother: ‘What is that man doing here? He is just sitting, writing and reading, but he doesn’t know anything about the compound: he doesn’t know how to care for the goats and the cows, and he knows nothing about the maize! What is his use?’ The mother hastened to silence the boy, but in vain: the message was clear.

    Of course, as a fieldwork experience, the incident...

  16. Maori Styles of Teaching and Learning
    (pp. 85-90)
    Toon van Meijl

    New Zealand is often contrasted with Australia as a country with more exemplary relations between its indigenous population, the Maori, and the European settler majority. Although Maori social and economic indicators are comparatively more favourable, however, the indigenous people continue to lag behind the average European New Zealander. The latest census figures dating from 2006 have reconfirmed the gap between Maori and non-Maori (or Pakeha, as they are generally labelled in New Zealand). Disparities between Maori and Pakeha are evident in most dimensions of society, including education.

    The latest statistics show that the gap in secondary and tertiary educational achievement...

  17. Tutorials as Integration into a Study Environment
    (pp. 91-96)
    Ariana Need

    In the course ‘Theory Construction: Anthropologists and Sociologists on Religion’, two lectures were dedicated to the work of Emile Durkheim. More specifically, the focus was on his workThe Elementary Forms of Religious Life, first published in French in 1912 asLes formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse: Le système totémique en Australie.¹⁹ Ad Borsboom devoted one lecture to the totemic principle; in the second lecture I focused on the sociological aspects of Durkheim’s work. My lecture started with Durkheim’s definition of religion as ‘a unified system of beliefs and practices […] which unite into one single moral community’²⁰, to...

  18. The Transmission of Kinship Knowledge
    (pp. 97-101)
    Catrien Notermans

    In Dutch society, it is generally assumed that children have to grow up with their birth parents in order for them to develop into well-balanced adult people. In contrast, Cameroonian parents are supposed to respect the rule that children cannot stay with them all the time, for the latter must be granted the opportunity to live with different kin members. Parents who keep their children at their side are accused of being selfish and antisocial, as they prevent close kin members from sharing in their upbringing. Such children are sincerely pitied because they are isolated from their extended kin network...

  19. Fieldwork in Manus, Papua New Guinea: On Change, Exchange and Anthropological Knowledge
    (pp. 102-107)
    Ton Otto

    When I was about to leave the island of Baluan in 1988, after two years of fieldwork, the old woman Alup Nakeau gave me a special gift. It was large polished shell knife, calledyanul, that according to traditional rules could be used only bylapans– that are traditional leaders – to cut and distribute a bunch of betelnut on ceremonial occasions (Ohnemus 1996). Alup Nakeau was then the oldest living member of the Sauka clan into which I had been adopted. She was the eldest child of Ninou Solok, who had been the last acknowledged lapan of the Sauka. The...

  20. Bodily Learning: The Case of Pilgrimage by Foot to Santiago de Compostela
    (pp. 108-113)
    Janneke Peelen

    Why do so many people in this day and age walk the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela? Does the endeavor entail a learning experience? And if so, what kind of learning? Having made the ‘sacred’ journey to the pilgrimage centre on foot myself, I want to answer these questions on the basis of my own experiences and those of fellow pilgrims, whom I encountered during the course of my hiking tour.

    The age-old pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela is commonly known as thecamino(‘road’ or ‘way’ in Spanish). In recent years, walking thecaminohas regained a...

  21. Just Humming: The Consequence of the Decline of Learning Contexts among the Warlpiri
    (pp. 114-118)
    Nicolas Peterson

    In February 2006, the antipodean summer, I arrived at the Aboriginal village of Yuendumu, 300km northwest of Alice Springs to continue work on a project to record, transcribe and translate song cycles sung by Warlpiri speakers. This was, in part, to follow up on many hours of recordings made during fieldwork in 1972-3, which had been neglected since then. The summer period from December to February is the time that Warlpiri people have conducted circumcision ceremonies as part of male maturity rites, at least since their involvement with the pastoral industry, because it was the period of the summer lay...

  22. A Note on Observation
    (pp. 119-122)
    Anton Ploeg

    In his major book,The Wild Honey Clan,Ad Borsboom discusses several strategies that Australian Aborigines employ to transmit knowledge, without making use of written messages. He mentions the use of a variety of metaphors, and the imagining of such metaphors in stories and dances, that are, moreover, regularly told and performed (2006: 101f). In this brief note I shift the focus to the role of observation, in part because during my research among the Western Dani, I did not acquire the linguistic facility to record long stories, in part because I focus on other types of knowledge, and, maybe,...

  23. Fragments of Transmission of Kamoro Culture (South-West Coast, West Papua), Culled from Fieldnotes, 1952-1954
    (pp. 123-127)
    Jan Pouwer

    On 13th January 1954 my wife, baby-daughter and I settle down for several months of intensive research on the spot, in a guesthouse in the village of Ipiri, west of the administrative centre of Kaokonao, after a few hours travelling by canoe loaded to the brim with ourbarang. Fortunately the treacherous shallow sea behaves properly this time. On our arrival we learn that Paremakani, a middle-aged man, a reputed singer and drummer, huntsman and fisher is gravely ill, for the second time. He is said to have turned down sound advice by self-righteous wailing relatives and his mother-in law...

    (pp. 128-132)
    Cor Remie

    When I travelled to the central Canadian arctic in 1973 for my first fieldwork among the Nattilingmiut of Kugaaruk (Pelly Bay), I encountered a community amidst a process of rapid transition. Formerly fully nomadic, the Nattilingmiut had started to congregate around the mission post at the mouth of the Kugaaruk River in the early 1950’s, building temporary shacks there. Four years before I arrived, the Nattilingmiut had become fully sedentary. The RC Mission led co-operative had made a bid on a Canadian government contract to build prefab housing and won it. The houses and other building had been put up...

  25. Conflict in the Classroom: Values and Educational Success
    (pp. 133-138)
    Marianne Riphagen

    In 2004 I conducted fieldwork in a Central Australian Aboriginal community.³² The decision to complete my degree in cultural anthropology by means of research in Australia was inspired by the enthusiasm with which Ad Borsboom had always lectured about the Pacific. Under Borsboom’s supervision, I examined why the educational results of Indigenous Australian children at ‘remote’ community schools still fall behind those achieved by their non-Aboriginal peers of the same age. Several studies, carried out by Australian governments and scholars, have concluded that the achievement of equitable and appropriate educational outcomes still has a long way to go (MCEETYA 2001)....

  26. The Teachings of Tokunupei
    (pp. 139-144)
    Gunter Senft

    In February 1983 the most popular song of the adolescents of Tauwema³⁴ was ‘Imdeduya’. It is a rather schmaltzy song with four stanzas, a refrain, a lovely melody, and the following lyrics:

    When the moon rises from the east

    I had a dream of you my love:

    Labi gibobwaili,

    I spoke words of love

    Please remember me!

    Take me down to Vau,

    let me travel along the coast,

    come along with me tonight

    before you change your mind.

    Refrain (repeated after every stanza)

    Imdeduyo, Imdeduyo,

    Imdeduyo, Imdeduyo,

    kwanvedi, bakenu.

    move a bit, I will lie down.

    Yegu Yolina.

    I am...

  27. Consulting the Old Lady
    (pp. 145-148)
    Marijke Steegstra

    Older women, ‘old ladies’, hold a special position in Ghana, particularly in the context of the family. One of those old ladies was my ‘grandmother’ Lako Sakité, who recently passed away (in July 2007) and who I knew since 1994. She lovingly called me ‘my daughter’ (i bi), and I respectfully addressed her as ‘maa’ (mother). She was probably born before or around 1915 (nobody knows for sure), and a granddaughter of the illustrious Krobo chief Nene Sakite I (1892†). I was told that her funeral was grand, as befitting an old lady of her status and age. Many chiefs...

  28. A Chain of Transitional Rites: Teachings beyond Boundaries
    (pp. 149-153)
    Louise Thoonen

    A chain ofrites de passagein which teaching formed a major connection, is what my professional relationship with Ad Borsboom characterises. The feature of chaos, often vital in the liminal phase ofrites de passage, was luckily mostly absent. Instead, the chain predominantly glimmered with inspiration, expertise, harmony and cordiality.

    The first bead of the chain was strung in the 1980s when I attended Ad’s course on anthropology and religion. His impassioned way of teaching on and knowledge of this theme were striking and inspired me to choose religion as a main direction. Years later, the second bead was...

  29. ‘That Tour Guide – Im Gotta Know Everything’: Tourism as a Stage for Teaching ‘Culture’ in Aboriginal Australia
    (pp. 154-160)
    Anke Tonnaer

    Since their early encounters with European settlers, Australian Aboriginal people have allegedly been on the brink of extinction. As was popularly assumed, their ‘cultures’ would not be able to deal with the onset of modernisation that the arrival of the settlers in 1788 had heralded. The trope of culture loss has persisted ever since, and continues to exert its influence into the present. A prominent frame within which a process of ‘losing culture’ is entertained and through which it may be countered today, can be found in forms of Australian cultural tourism. Invigorating culture in a tourism context ostensibly works...

  30. The Old Fashioned Funeral: Transmission of Cultural Knowledge
    (pp. 161-166)
    Eric Venbrux

    The sounds of apukamanicame from the bushes near the beach of Pirlangimpi. Accidentally, I had stumbled on a ritual in progress. Why were mortuary rites performed at this time and day, I wondered. To the best of my knowledge, no one had died recently. And why had this rather old-fashioned site been chosen? Rites in this Aboriginal township on Melville Island, Australia, tended to be held on the ceremonial grounds close to the living quarters of the elderly. On that late afternoon in 1988, it soon turned out, however, that not a single adult was involved in the...