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Week 4/29 days until travel

Dumela, everyone! Last week in class my classmates and I all received any vaccinations we needed for travel. While I am thankful that Botswana has no law requiring any specific vaccine for entry to the country (Ecuador does; vaccines totaled $200 last year), I am even more thankful that I was mostly up-to-date and received the free flu shot that my campus health clinic offers.

I’ve taken about ¾ of the anthropology classes offered here at Wayne but one of the classes that I enjoyed the most was Anthropological Linguistics, which I took my sophomore year. For a while, I considered focusing in this field, simply because the course material was so interesting and the professor kept us engaged in his lectures.

This week’s readings focused a lot on the anthropological linguistics aspect of same-sex nomenclature. For the folks following along at home, you can read the chapter in full here. Simply scroll down and click Chapter Four to download the PDF. For those of my readers out there who might be unfamiliar with some of the terms used to describe same-sex relations, I will provide a brief overview, as these terms have come under scrutiny in every which way over the past 30 years.

MSM – Men who have sex with men

Gay – effeminate (South African parlance)

Lady (sis-Buti) – effeminate; cross-dresser

Gent (injonga) – men who have sex with “Ladies” but maintain a masculine social role; widely considered ‘almost’ straight

The importance of understanding these names is that by understanding the names that the culture assigns to certain phenomena, we can better understand the culture itself and create better research with more accurate conclusions and suggestions.

Research Ethics

In his introduction to the 10th chapter of the same book, Peter Aggleton boldly states that most of this language used in academia is for academics to strengthen their careers and does not encompass the realities of those who these terms attempt to describe.

Another controversial comment made by Ian Swartz questions the ethics of research.

“The [research results] are written…by an academic. The language is such that people can do very little with it…get the information out so that it has meaning and so that people can really benefit from it”

From how I’ve been trained in anthropological methods, one’s research should be guarded very closely and participants in one’s study should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to see the researcher’s notes or know the progress of the investigation in order to avoid disrupting the social structure of the community. This “information guarding,” however, is completely different than what Swartz is saying. He’s commenting on something that I’ve never been trained in, as far as my research goes. I never went back to Ecuador after my summer research to show them what I learned. I never sent them the PowerPoint I put together or the showed them the pictures I took. I agree completely with Swartz, in the context he’s putting it in. Research where the participants or their community will benefit from the results or information collected should be shared in an easily accessible way and should be free of academic jargon. That being said, I understand that it is the researcher’s duty to also report back to academia and that publishing in scholarly journals is an integral part of human behavioral research. I just feel that it should be the duty of the researcher to make two separate reports in this sort of context. It would be a small amount of extra work that would ultimately be worth the effort. I can also see this as a way for anthropologists to gain trust with the community members/research participants and secure long-term relationships.

Personal Stigma

With our readings so far, I’ve learned a lot about HIV transmission from female to male and vise versa but nothing about same-sex transmission. I am more comfortable thinking about it in this way since I grew up where HIV/AIDS was recognized as a strictly homosexual disease, so in some ways, same-sex transmission holds less of a stigma with me than it might with others. Something I gathered from the articles this week was that even the researchers on homosexual behavior as related to HIV/AIDS are stigmatized.

Some questions

I wondered if same-sex practicing women have equal risk to HIV exposure as same-sex practicing men. That’s an issue that’s been touched on in the Johnson article but wasn’t really further discussed. For further reading on this subject, please read this article. The general consensus is that it is harder to pass the disease from woman to woman, but not impossible.

Tsamaya sentleGoodbye

This week I’m leaving you with the much-anticipated “Detroit Vlogging Day” video. A few of my classmates and I got in a car and drove around with our new cameras last weekend, looking for interesting things to film and a good place to eat lunch. The result is this video that I put together from our day. I know it’s a long video (I started out with 2 hours of footage!), but hopefully it’ll keep you entertained. Please click on the thumbnail to view the video.

Keep your eyes peeled within the next few days for another separate post with links to videos that Lori and I shot this weekend.

ALSO–I’ve added a button up top to access my photography portfolio. Please take a peek! I will be uploading more or changing the layout as I become more familiar with how to navigate the website!

  1. What a wonderful blog post! I have no idea of whether you wrote this before class or after our discussion but you make some very good points about the nature of research that I definitely feel should be shared with all of the students. It might be interesting to think about how some of the images or research that you gather while in Botswana could be usefully shared with the people that you interact with. I appreciate your sensitivity to this topic. You are doing a great job with your blogging and I look forward to reading your next post.

    • WiderLens says:

      Thank you so much, Professor Livermon. I appreciate the feedback! I think sharing the images would be a great idea. I was even thinking of bringing along a Polaroid and giving out Polaroid pictures to people we interact with as a ‘thanks’ for helping us out with our project.

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