Strange Tales from the Road

A Lesson Learned in an Epistemology for Anthropology

in Social Analysis

Anthropology, with its deep commitment to fieldwork, has produced, through the dialectics of learning and unlearning, a contradictory self-understanding of the nature of the knowledge it has produced: one that is driven by a search for certainty, on the one hand, and by a desire for surprise, on the other. This article narrates a genealogy of anthropological perspectives that derive from the latter desire, the one that aims to undermine constantly that which is taken for granted. It shows how this perspective—often underappreciated these days in places where anthropological knowledge has been required to legitimate itself on an activist ground—has affected the way in which the author, a Japanese anthropologist, understands his fieldwork experience in Guatemala.