Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Never in Anger": A Review

Jean L. Brigg's book Never in Anger was an interesting look in a small group of Eskimos in northern Canada. The book took a thorough—albeit emotion-filled—look into the societal structure of an Eskimo community on the Back River near Chantrey Inlet, spanning her seventeen months there. She didn't complete her original goal of learning and observing pre-missionary religious Eskimo practices, since they had already adapted to the Christian (Anglican and Catholic) missionaries. However, she did effective turn the setback into something positive by continuing her study and focusing on their social interaction instead. As she ended the book, she noted:
I had letters from Back River twice before I left Gjoa Haven in March. Allaq said: "Saraak asks where you are and mistakenly tinks you will come soon." She and Inuttiaq both said: "I didn't think I'd care (huqu, naklik) when you left, but I did (naklik)." - Page 307

Jean's experience in the Far North was a noteworthy one, but sometimes the narrative got in the way of the actual "findings" of sorts. The study was social interaction and emotions after all (there's even an appendix on "Emotional Concepts"), but the ultimate question even in a sociology-based enthnography is how far involved with the subjects should one get. There might have been a tad too much emotional investment by Jean in this regard. All these concerns nonwithstanding, I think the overall experience she had could be summed up with the following words of Jean from page 295: "In spite of all these tensions I was still treated with the most impeccable semblance of solicitude." In the end, they did bear with her, even if she had trouble integrating into their society.

Posted comments: Patrick Clay, Eric Scott, and Jared.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh, finally someone else who read Never in Anger. I agree with you. In my opinion, an ethnography should leave out any emotion and stay objective.