Observer observed: People from Tanna and the ethnography of myself

Abstract : Trying to understand how one can be perceived by informants on fieldwork was for me an essential propaedeutic learning, to make my observations more meaningful. People from the island of Tanna, south of the Vanuatu archipelago, are frequently criticized as “strong-headed” by their fellow citizens from other islands. Stubborn, indeed, they have proved to be through colonial and post-colonial history. Many among them were and still are obstinate in their belief that a new messiah they called John Frum has deliver them from colonial rule and will latter set them free them state authorities. Their kastom, or what they consider to be the core of their cultural heritage, has strongly been defended from foreign influences, even through using, by the way, foreign inspired means to do so. During my whole ethnographer’s experience in Tanna, I was always compelled to show much respect to kastom if I wished to know more about it. Ten years ago, while I was I coordinating with a Tannese colleague the innovating project of creating a cultural centre in Tanna, my renown and prestige increased considerably on the island. My observer’s position became greatly facilitated, the relation to the observer more complex, but sometimes also more ambiguous when I was publicly frequently presented as “a freedom fighter for kastom” or a “university doctor of John Frum”.
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https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02178839
Contributor : Marc Tabani <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, July 10, 2019 - 11:11:39 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 11, 2019 - 1:36:13 AM

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Marc Tabani. Observer observed: People from Tanna and the ethnography of myself. Anthropologist in the eyes of the informant, Moscow State University, Higher School of Economics St Petersburg, Jun 2019, Moscou, Russia. ⟨hal-02178839⟩

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