Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Thank you for your email. I am not sure why you insist that I post my response without the benefit of the message that asked that I do so, but I have had stranger requests of late and I want you to know that.

Simply put, an ethnography is the study of a single culture, while ethnology is comparative, the study of more than one.

According to his biography, filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard studied ethnology as an undergraduate at the Sorbonne. In 1952, while travelling in South America, he attempted to make a first film, but never got beyond a series of tracking shots taken from a moving car. Claude Levi-Strauss worked similarly when conducting fieldwork in Brazil.

My undergraduate degree is in anthropology, a BA from the University of Victoria, British Columbia. I went to UVic because I was interested in the Northwest Coast. Part of this interest came from contact with the Tsimshian and Tlingit peoples while growing up in the Skeena River salmon fishery. Unfortunately UVic’s program (at the time) emphasized quantitative methodologies and an aversion to looking critically at its discipline. The one mandatory 300 level course – 300A -- was called Kinship. I did not enjoy my time there and, though I have few regrets, consider it a waste.

But I did take some interesting electives, such as the social and political theory courses offered in Political Science, as well as a film theory course in English. I also took courses in Linguistics, Sociology and at the Faculty of Human and Social Development, where I wrote and published a critical survey on regional correction facilities with a former inmate of William Head Institution. If asked to sum up what was best about my education, I would describe it as a convergence of Marx and Foucault.

Michael Turner

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