Monday, March 10, 2008

The Scholar and the Festival

The registration brochure for the big Pagan Spirit Gathering in June came in the mail. I won't be going, but I read it for general information and found this:

Pagan Scholars who want to conduct Pagan Studies research at the Gathering as part of their participation must submit a research proposal by March 30, 2008 in order to be considered.

An old joke from the Navajo Reservation came to mind. You have to know that traditionally the Navajos were matrifocal--a man lived with his wife's people.

Q: What is a typical Navajo family?

A: A grandmother, her daughter(s), their husbands, the kids, and an anthropologist.

Are Pagan festivals these days that overrun with people handing out questionnaires? And what about the non-Pagan scholar studying Paganism?

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Blogger Joe said...

I've been going to PSG for the past 5 years and have never run across anyone (Pagan or otherwise) doing research (again, Pagan or otherwise). I have a feeling that line has more to do with Circle's desire to control absolutely every aspect of the festival.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Pitch313 said...

Sometimes I suspect that Pagans are one of the most frequently studied subcultures these days. Even though this is not all bad, it does get tiresome from time to time.

More to the point, given that we're going to festivals for reasons of spirituality and conviviality, not to act as human subjects for this or that study, research may become a distraction or an intrusion.

I think that the festival organizers wanting a look at proposed research actitivites is reaonable and prudent.

(Having contributed to a range of masters and doctoral and book projects as an informant, I mostly don't feel like doing it anymore.)

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Chas S. Clifton said...

Pitch, I don't blame you for being tired of being an informant, especially if the researchers forget the old protocols. They are supposed to bring gifts: pigs, tobacco, shotguns, whiskey, whatever.

But was it ever an issue for you at a festival?

2:21 PM  
Blogger Pitch313 said...

I suppose that the presence of researchers--and their activities--has not been a big issue for me at festivals.

One time, at a festival where a leading Neo-Pagan author was a participant, the organizers gathered as many as they could together to fill out a questionaire she put together.

But I have attended festivals where researchers, using cameras and sound recording equipment and inconsiderate, intrusive techniques have stirred up big problems for others. Most of us expect festivals to be private space at which others are not going around taking pictures and poking around and asking lots of questions.

Yes, field work is useful for some scholars and such. But it's not carte blanche for them by any means. They must realize that we, their likely subjects of study, may place limitations on them and what they do.

10:24 AM  
Blogger David O. Kling said...

I've attended PSG for several years (since 2001) and know of only one time that someone was doing research. A graduate student I believe.

4:35 PM  

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