Fluid Signs: Being a Person the Tamil Way by E. Valentine Daniel

By E. Valentine Daniel

Fluid Signs is the manufactured from anthropological fieldwork conducted between Tamil-speaking villagers in a Hindu village in Southern India. Combining a richness of ethnographic aspect with a hard and leading edge theoretical research, Daniel argues that symbolic anthropologists haven't begun to understand the multifaceted functionality of the sign and its position within the construction of tradition. This provocative research underscores the necessity for Western highbrow traditions in most cases and anthropology specifically to deepen its discourse with South Asian cultural and spiritual thought.

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It is the "misspelled" word also borrowed from Jacques Derrida, differance. I shall defer its analysis until the end of this study, the more appropriate context for such an undertaking. In dedicating this introduction to those who read introductions, I have attempted to pass on to the reader the burden of deciding whether this should be first or afterward. ) In fact, I ought to have dedicated this to the two groups of readers of the text in its introduction-free, prepublished, manuscript version: one group commending me for not spoiling the reading experience with an introduction and in~tead plunging the reader headfirst into ethnographic thickness, the other group urging me, for clarity's sake and for the sake of those twice removed from the Chicago jati of anthropology, to write such an introduction.

Three types of maps resulted from the experiment. " Those who did agree t? u~arly shap~d enclosing form. They then proceeded to fill m the mam roads, houses, temples, and so on in the interior of the village. They would also occasionally label the villages that surround Kalappur. These maps I labeled type-one maps. When villagers were asked to draw ur maps, they were considerably less hesitant to do so, already hinting at a conceptual distinction between the terms iir and kiriimam, which are prima facie equivalents.

I must hasten to disabuse the reader who sees in this scheme "the myth of the chameleon worker, perfectly selftuned to his exotic surroundings, a walking miracle of empathy, tact, patience, and cosmopolitanism" (Geertz 1976: 222), even though I would not scoff as readily as Geertz does at those field-workers who are blessed with "more-than-normal capacities for ego effacement and fellow feeling" (p. 236), provided that they are not mere pretensions. The problem with the myth, however, is that the chameleon, for all its extraordinary mimetic achievements, emerges finally with its identity intact.

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