This collection of essays is about psychoanalytic ethnography. Its concern is the psychic depths of human cultural life-worlds as explored through psychoanalytic practice and/or the psychoanalytically framed ethnographic project. The authors engage various aspects of the human condition within a wide range of conceptual frameworks that are representative of contemporary psychoanalytic understanding and practice. The anthropological contributions come from scholars whose ethnographic research is grounded in psychoanalysis and whose overall approach to human existence is articulated in terms of or gravitates toward psychoanalysis as a foundational framework for anthropological understanding. A strong version of this position (not shared by all contributors) maintains that anthropological interpretation of human existence is not sustainable without psychoanalysis. Critical here is the primary level of concrete ethnographic research whose horizons are delimited by the psychoanalytic perspectives on the unconscious matrix of the human psyche and, correlatively, on the unconscious depths and dynamics of the intersubjective (social) reality of any given cultural life-world.
Explorations in Psychoanalytic Ethnography
The Epistemology of Ethnographic Field Research
In this article I sketch out some fundamental aspects of ethnographic practice and understanding within the framework of phenomenology and psychoanalysis. Their synthesis, created through continuous field research and self-transformative thinking, offers a deeper understanding of psyche, unconscious, and imagination as the generative matrix of human cultural life-worlds. Moreover, this view posits ethnographic experience and creation of critical gnosis as the primary condition for the restoration of anthropological self-understanding and the pursuit of truth-bound knowledge and action.
From the Father to the Son, and from the Ego to the Cosmic Self
The dialectics of fatherhood and sonship among the Yagwoia of Papua New Guinea has multiple actualizations whose concrete reality and significance can be adequately understood only through individual-biographical life situations and trajectories. Accordingly, the focus is on the lifelong course of the relationship between a man and his father through which the individual specificities of the incorporative dynamics indigenously lived as 'implantation' and 'bone extraction' are consummated in diverse modes. One of these results in a common psycho-cultural form of Yagwoia egoity and self-consciousness wherein, after his death, the father becomes his progeny's protective spirit, especially his son's. Through detailed accounts and dream analyses, the article shows the critical importance and reality of culturally specific archetypal themes and imagery in the everyday life of individuals, and the indelible impact that they have on the psyche of concrete persons.