: Anita Spring
: Meredith (Penny) Rucks
: Washoe Ethnographers
: Linda Sommer
: Penny Rucks
Anita Spring: 4.5 .-.g- 1 So that's when I sort
of had an inkling, I should say, that maybe there were some
problems for women.
Meredith (Penny) Rucks: Yes.
R: Yes. Tns-m&w s
S: The second thing was that Judith T.easa ], the
female archaeology assistant professor, who didn't--t-,i j-.hnTk
r~-it-w ._3around the di tim-i who didn't get tenure and
promotion and I thought that was fairly... the graduate
students, were thinking that was fairly shocking.
S: The third thing was I was supposed to go to the field,
and I then I found out that I was pregnant, and so I thought,
"Well, I'll have the baby, and then I'll go to the field."
S: So I went in to talk to Robert Smith, who was the chair
of the department, and he's married to a Japanese woman, and they
have no children. And so I said, "Well, I'm prepar? .. I've taken my
exams. I passed them, and I'm preparing to go to the field. But I'm
going to delay going to the field for...," =w, I don't know
how many months.
S: I forget how many months pregnant I was when I went to
speak with him.
j:- + C a-A(-^
S: For -ou knu jni.Ey eight months or something of that
variety, because I thought I would do it right after ft bklc-rt-
S: Yes. Yes. And I said, "~i-- here's a minor
S: a .-4.. He said, "Minor complication! That's a
S: So that was sort of the male reaction.
S: .. to the female situation. I mean, pregnancy is a
pretty ordinary situation.
S: But I guess the idea that .. it was an
unexpected... an unplanned pregnancy. And I had no way of knowing,
and abortion was not even a legal procedure...
R: Right. No, it wasn't.
S: ... in the United States.
R: Right. Right.
S: And h_--e ;-crr j yrirr OU you know, I was confident
that it wouldn't slow me down much.[laughter]
S: In any case, but that reaction of the male faculty was
pretty horrific. In any case, I did, after my child was born, and
when he was about a year old, because I had to recover from that
R: Yes. Which you said was really traumatic.
S: Yes. Almost died.
S: I don't have a trauma related to it, because I was in a
coma for so long, it didn't really matter. [laughter]
S: I don't have any trauma connected with it, because I
don't remember any of it.
S: But anyway, when it was all finished...
and I was all recovered, I took my son, who was about a year old,
and my husband, and we went to Zambia to do the work with the
Luvale, the group that Victor Turner had suggested.
S: OK2-- -_b, yieunoM, I was just flabbergasted by the women
in Zambia i.-f .. amongst the Luvale. It's a matrilineal society.
It's true that there's still plenty of male dominance and
chauvinism even in matrilineal societies, but, in fact.-. F1;d5-e
~ecorr pr i t urned Wf, Llaen ol.]
S: ,the women were just very strong in terms of their
S: And they really knew how to hold their own, conduct
themselves. They didn't have these timid voices. They really had
S: And, of course, mmnm, the whole field experience is one
thing which I think maybe we'll get into at another vein but I want
to finish up on this sexism business and being a woman at Cornell.
But just to say that I felt pretty empowered by working with the
Zambian women and by the Zambian experience....
R: Yes. Was that a surprise? Now, had you anticipated that,
having done reading about the African society or...?
S: No, I... no, no. I can't say, well, it was really in the
literature much. [laughter]
R: No, it's not. And I think it's a surprise that....
S: Yes. Yes. And there were all kinds of, yg-kes,
difficulties and situations and interesting things, but those are
S: But the women were very strong, I felt, and their voices
were very strong,...
S: ... both, yaEw, in terms of the decibels....
S: They really spoke loudly. In fact, I had chronic
pharyngitis most of the time.
S: It was diagnosed. But they were very strong in their ou_
Ja-, likes, dislikes--"we do it this way"--and so forth. It was
really very nice. And so that was very good. I gw, I've
always been very strong in my likes and dislikes, so, T_==E- that
was very much appreciated.
Anyway, when I came back to Cornell,...
S: ... there was a competition in the department of... I
don't think it was a full department; it was probably a program on
and to. w -- -Ee- to allow senior and advance graduate students to
compete to give these courses. And the way you competed was to give
S: .. or a lecture tat-ee on a topic, and then you
were evaluated and....
R: Oh, I see.
S: Anyway, so I did that, and I've forgotten how many they
chose--two or three. But I got to teach the very first course on
women studies in the Department of Anthropology at Cornell.
S: And two things resulted from that particular course.
First of all, I started to teach it the way I had seen the Cornell
professors teach a class.
R: Ah. OK.
S: Now, of course, they had all been men. And I would say,
they ha-4=Pis ivory tower.... The professor gets up there, writes
things in his own little script on the board. Maybe it's clear;
maybe it's not. Maybe the students can read it; maybe they can't.
R: [laughter] Yes.
S: The lecture takes place at a pace--maybe it's
comprehendible; maybe it's not. The _-y;u know, _t's very pensive
and ponderous; maybe it's understandable--[laughter] who knows?
S: So I started.... That was the only role model I had. I
had four years of these... really, many of them were dreadful--not
in the seminars but in the lecture classes. Poor instructors, quite
S: TwI---=. The second thing is, as I was preparing the
class, since it was on women's roles cross-culturally, I had to use
the pronoun "she" frequently. And I had to say things like, "women
this" and "women that" and "women andt2,t men a fe f^ &en" And, of
course, at first I said, "he and she" and "men and women," and
always put the male first.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And if you notice even in the Washoe notes, .E .. I
said, "If someone were not there, we had to... would have to wait
until he returned." Considering that most of my informants were
women, I was using the generic "he" for "man"...
S: ... and all that good stuff,...as everybody else did and
as they are still trying to tell us to do.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: But by preparing my lecture notes, T I
thought, wel .---Ny -yea E .I- g-L.Li ni t in this society it
only had to do with women. Why would I say "he?"
S: Or why would I even say "he and she? So I started... and
then there were sentences that I could say, "until she," yGaStL
S: -..s... It wouldn't have meant "she and he." So I
started playing around with that in the lecture notes.
S: And i~ 1 it was like a bolt of lightning hit me,
and I realized that everything in my life, it had been "he," "man,"
"mankind." It was an endless round of nothing to do with women,
and, 12oiL-k it was just a staggering.
?. kind of thing.
The other thing was for the last lecture of the class, *--:
after I had done women cross-culturally and this society and that
society and this topic and that topic, I thought, well,. my3r=w,
for the last lecture class I'm going to do an analysis of t4a
Cornell... of universities, and I'll use Cornell as a case study.
S: Because -~ps -. Cornell good. Y4gctw, wi have all
R: So it'll be a good example?
S: And I thought, .cll-, ad. there were all these women who
taught at Cornell. So I went to the secretary, and I said, "I
thought Cornell had had a golden age of women with Dorothea
Le I 7 h fv--V _M1c111
Latorfsp?] and Joan Mencher[ and all these women who...." I
mean, there are not any now, and Judith Treaseman didn't get Z-,
S: But there were all these women who taught at Cornell
before. And look at all the graduate students we have who are women
and so forth. Turns out 4< _4 Dorothea Layton, who is married to
Alexander gyr, who is a M.D./Ph.D., and at that point I think
she 4a a president of the medical
anthropologists and other kinds of distinguished appointments.
S: She had only had a courtesy appointment, unpaid, at
S: ... when her husband taught there.
S: Joan Mencher had only had a one-year visiting.
S: I don't know. There were three or four others, and
~thy..--. the story was the same. None of them had ever been in a
S: And, in fact, Judith Trease~an, who hadn't gotten tenured
and promotion... andged, was the first who had been in a real
post in the department! And then she was axed.
S: And I "Whoa! Wait a minute!"
R: So this was again a revelation to you. I mean, you had
S: This... a revelation to me that I had not anticipated.
R: Yes. J-4 '
S: And then I counted the grad... had them eent- the
percentage of graduate students, and, lo and behold, it was an
extraordinary number, like, 50 percent were female peg!-ning
S: You know, it was a ver.. -al w, .,V-irTg .And so
the question became, ya4,s'...
R: Where do they go?
S: ... should you be able to work at a place where you can't
buy the goods? Or should you buy the goods at a place where you
can't work? I think that's more accurate. Should you buy E=9E
where you can't work?
S: Well, I put this out in a one-page handout and
distributed to my class for the last day's lecture[laughter].
S: And, well, I was just in shock myself as I was giving
this lecture, to have come to the realization that here we all
were, we female graduate students, at a place where, yeau~ aw, that
was extraordinarily hostile to women professionals.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And that has not changed a whole lot, although they have
ho... I mean, I can't imagine that more than a fourth of the
department are female professors at the present time. And I think,
you know, Billie Jean Isabelle[sp?] by this time must be full. I
should actually look at the guide and....
R: I wonder how many of them are mothers, too, because
that... you brought up another...
Because.I think there is a tremendous idea that maybe
women are OK, but mothers....
S: Mothers are bad. But you know what I did.... I had to...
I always do these things. After my son was born, and I guess it
must have been after I came back from the field.
S: Yes. I did an exhibit of the baby cradles around the
R: Oh, you did?
S: ... and baby carriers in the case right outside the main
S: ... of the anthropology department!
R: Yes. How wonderful.
S: I couldn't resist.
S: As, of course, you know, I knew how to do those exhibits,
and I remembered his comment and, oh, what a disaster that was.
S: So when I came back from Zambia, and they were looking
fr ysbnej to the change the exhibit, I volunteered to do it. I
had the Washoe cradle;...
S: ... I had the Zambian cloth that I had used to carry my
baby. I borrowed some Bolivian cloth that people.... S6 I had South
America represented, W /rAppl b /\ And I had a modern baby
carrier which I was no longer....
S: And I had two of the modern baby carriers, because by
that time my son had outgrown them.
S: And I went around taking pictures even of other graduate
students carrying their babies in the American context, and then I
had the pictures from Zambia.
S: I had the Washoe picture in the cradle, plus the cradle.
And .\j so I did that little exhibit. It was like my little....
R: That's great! Your little...
S: I hate to call it....
R: ... statement.
S: Statement. Yes.
R: Yes. [laughter]
S: Statement is a polite way of thinking about.
R: Oh, that's wonderful.
R: I like that.
: 7I bet it was a good exhibit!
S: Of course!
S: Yes, it was just a one-case exhibit.
S: But anyway, it was probably the only real female-oriented
thing that department has ever had! [laughter]
R: Yes. Yes.
S: Yes. Yes. Anyway, Billie Jean Isabelle did a lot and then
Kathy Ma T subsequently. And I notice there are a number of
other women whom I do not know,...
S: ... but I do know those two.
S: And I know they're strong and into subject....
R: Yes. Now, was the women's studies course that you taught
as a result of this competition... was that in a reaction to
growing political pressure, applied...?
S: The story of Cornell in women's studies is a long one,...
.. with legal battles and court disputes that went over
a ten-year decade period, in which Jenny Farleyq/, who was head
of that, went through incredible battles with the administration,
in which I think even maybe the American Civil Liberties Union was
involved. It... I don't know all the details.
R: Right. Right.
S: I cannot recall them. It was a very long and,
quote-unquote, "distinguished" case, which eventually was won by
the Women Studies Program, but Cornell fought it tooth and nail.
S: The senior administration's very complicated and a lot of
women did not get tenure and promoted in the early years.
Subsequently, I was appointed to t 7 the ?resident of Cornell
appointed me for a, I think, two- or three-year term to the Cornell
Council of... to the Council of Cornell Women, or the President's
Council on Women....
S: I have to look... it's on my vita.
R: Yes. OK.
S: And uamtirEiof thumbing tthrinngh papiers it consisted of
some very, very distinguished... -ounsil of C-ornell Wome---i was
egi2J And I served on it from 1992 to 1998. Unfortunately, it
really consisted of very prestigious people who were e
extraordinarily wealthy and often lived in the Northeast.
R: Oh! [laughter]
S: Like the vice-president of th4a=4r- .. Zike-Sachs and
Goldmanpf, who was a woman who graduated from Cornell.
S: Jane Brody, who is the columnist--I met these people--for
the New York Times. And it turned out to be self-funded, so these
women had money...
S: ... to JSD pay the extraordinary registration fees to
attend ejcE eTAw(ud2tah (these one-day sessions. They either
lived in the area or could easily fly in..
S: 2 for the day. And I went once or twice and really, tet
akn could not drum up funds from the University of Florida and so
forth to keep going to them. So I really was not their best
participant, although I did do, rg7 iZMnw.w evaluative stuff that
they would send and suggestions on what to do to increase the
number of women faculty and....
R: And do you think it was effective? I mean, it seems to
S: The committee?
S: Oh, I think so, because AgjtA4t was a presidential
committee and it recognized....
R: Was empowered to....
S: It was empowered to,j i try to help. Although~iy1
e the last round of communications that I had from
them, they were still trying to increase the number of women
faculty members,7/was still an abysmal kind of situation.
R: Yes. So the women's studies was as a result of this...
part of this political agenda ?
S: Oh yes.
R: ... and trying to reach some sort of parity or rea... or
look like they were doing.... I mean, do you think it was more than
a polite gesture at that point?
S: Oh, see, T& let's put this in context.
S: Although they had political problems at the university,
which is what the court cases were about, they were part of the new
discipline of women's studies. That was a nationwide, worldwide,
new... brand-new discipline.
R: That's right.
S: And they were as academic and ivory-towerish... I mean,
they were complete matches for everybody.., all the other faculty
at Cornell. There was no difference in the quality of those people
or the quality of the program.
S: It's .... [laughter] I think you have to put it in that
S: And it was part of the new, growing, budding discipline
of women studies and women in gender....
R: I just know in some institutions it had a con... there
was a considerable... not resistance, but it was difficult to
establish as a program.
S: Right. Was difficult to establish. This was not an
advocacy program; this was not a gay and lesbian program. This was
not a touchy-feely.... ./wayt/ was as academic and
intellectual and focused on women studies, scholarship, and writing
books and... yes, as, you know, any...
R: Were there Journals....
R: Journals, peridicals...
S: Yes. Exactly. It was just like that. It....
R: But it was a program, so it would have been
multidisciplinary for every....
S: It was multidisciplinary.
R: Yes. And it happened to be... when you competed, you
weren't just competing among other anthropological colleagues; it
S: Oh, right. It was all the disciplines.
R: I just wanted to make that clear.
S: Yes. Yes. But what happened to it later, in terms of its
survival and fight for lines and hires and all that, was all
political. That's what I meant.
R: Yes. Yes.
[tLpe *record crsi turned-of-,fthen -hack on]
R: OK. We're back, and we were going to discuss some of the
other methods that you have used in your career besides key
S: [laughter] Yes. OK. Well, let me just say that I went to
Zambia 1970 and was there until 1972. And I started with the
perspective that I was going to really record and describe and do
very traditional ethnography, based on traditional African
religion, which included spirit possession, spirit-possession
cults, divination, traditional techniques of curing and healing.
And I was also thinking that I would look at the current situation
to see what was happening. But the perspective was to study things
without really changing them.
S: And as I... I think we talked about the Heizenberg
R: Yes.[but not on tape].
S: So I wasn't there but about mayb two months, and this
little girl got sick. Now, I was doing medical anthropology, as
well as traditional religion. So, I-mea-, in other words, because
religion and curing are hand in hand in most systems and certainly
in African religion,...
S: ... it had to be done together. And I had sa'==-e let it
be known that I wanted to observe traditional healing and healing
techniques. And, obviously, that would be seeing what was happening
to sick people.
So this little girl became ill, and they came to me and asked
me for medicine. And my response was, well, I didn't have any
S: ... you know. But this was really coming from the. t-
s=ma=Lfis Laura Bohannan Return to Laughter perspective. I'd
read the book, considered the issues, and, y -.t-. _J-- .. I
didn't have any trouble responding with,- yoaim N^j--a!, you n
"Please let me see what you were doing, but I really don't have
anything to contribute...
R: Right. Right.
S: [laughter] ... to what you are doing."
S: "OK. I'm just the... yu-kAew, the anthropologist to
record, describe, a little participant observation."
S: Right. Of course, they flatly refused to let me see what
they were doing, because I had refused to provide any medicines.
R: And you said that explicitly....
S: It was completely explicit.
S: There was no beating around the bush.
S: Yes. This was just a..aE m s response. )
S: Yes. So I considered it.... [laughter]. And I... u
Jsas at this point I can't remember for how lon I
considered it, but I got out my Merck manual and my Jelli en,
Jel Lf King, and King, Medical Care in Developing Countries or
whatever that I'd brought with me.
S: And I considered what they told me the symptomology was.
And I diagnosed that it was malaria and that she was dehydrated.
And I figured out her age and size, because I knew who the child
was--I didn't see her, actually.
S: And so I prepared the electrolytic solution using water)
and lc.-J.---- \isid.-. boiled water and some salt and sugar and a
little food coloring to make it look like it was medicine.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And %I u I looked the dosagec for
curing malaria for a child of that age. And I went over and gave
that medicine to her, and the family was there. And, lo and behold,
S: And then, aru'tSw, I was a pretty good....
R: Did you administer the medicine?
S: Yes, I did. And then... and, y wE- w, with great
R: Yes. Oh, yes.
S: ... on all levels,...
R: On all... on being an anthropologist....
S: ... on being an anthropologist, on being a human being,
on not knowing anything about...
R: Well, on being a mother, too.
S: ... being a mother, not knowing whether the dosage was
right, on practicing medicine without a license! [laughter]
S: You name it!
R: Yes. Yes, it was.
S: You know? You name it. It was just a very gutsy thing to
S: And I just couldn't sit by and.... I mean, obviously,
children died frequently in the develop world.
S: So anyway, she recovered.
R: How long did that take?
S: She was better within a few days. And I kept giving them
the electrolytic solution, for her to take, because a very standard
thing in many places is to withhold liquids from an ill person,
when, a in, that's what they need the most,...
S: ... -EEM, unless they're in a coma or something
like.'.. But, vCf,7-3- s---- this whole business of dehydration
iiLa .. especially in children, if they have any of the
diarrheal diseases or, Y,-.. w, all these things, they're dying
from dehydration. It's just amazing. So anyway, I had read that
S: As I said, I did have some pretty good training in
medical anthropology, and I did have these books with me.
So I gave it to her, and then they let me see *h-ich.-. what they
were doing. And I kept giving her more of the electrolytic
solution, and she did recover. And then I really got to see all the
rituals, because... I got to see her recovery rituals.... They knew
that my medicine was very strong.
S: They still felt that they had to credit their healer...
S: ... with the results and continue doing all the rituals
and pay the healer. I didn't get paid or anything for it!
S: Of course not. But from that point on, I was in.
S: OK. And I had between twenty and thirty people outside my
door every day to get medicine. And so I went to.. s~tewts a
mission... t~ was my village site, which was six hundred miles
from Lusaka, the capital,..
S: fifty miles from the nearest town, and three miles
from a mission station... missionaries.
R: Had this site been preselected for you, this specific
S: Yes, it was. It-- ws sel ec1 hy t- well, not exactly,
tAf~-he area was selected by the chief of the society. I had made
a trip and stayed in his capital, which was near the town that was
fifty miles south. And he had suggested Wtat a sore intact area
where I could see a lot of the spirit-possession rituals and so
forth,was this particular area.
S: And so I made a trip there andi_-eak-- you w, looked
around at different sites, and then found one village headman who
was willing to have me in the middle... plunk in the middle of
... village, et cetera, et cetera..
R: Yes. If I can ask quickly, just a little digression, do
you think your family... the presence of your family helped you get
S: Well, yes and no. It's a very complicated situation. Do
you want me to explain that now?
S: The local people in that area decided that they needed to
install a chief. Actually, it was a woman.
S: They do have female chiefs and they are matrilineal in
re x ( that particular area. The main chief was in gc ij4eL
64X e( 5 I t n4 6 f-t4
e3 ef fifty miles south. But tU- particular area did
not have a subchief, and so they were going to install this woman
as the subchief. And I can't remember which came first, the little
girl's illness or this incident that I'm about to relate.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: But I'd heard some rustling around in the middle of the
night, and so I k4- aEf looked outside, and I saw that the village
was surrounded by these men holding machine guns or submachine
guns. And I watched, and my husband watched, as they arrested all
the men in the village..
S: 2 and carted them away at two o'clock in the morning.
S: And, of course, there we were plunk in the middle of this
village. Right? And it turns out, the government of Zambia arrested
and jailed all the people... all the men in the village because of
trying to install this chief.
R: The woman.
S: The woman chief.
S: And those people were kept for about four months before
they were released.
S: Well, I told you the story already about the national
radio receiving five hundred letters from the area very soon after
we arrived in the area, with the notion that, vgs--sar, they didn't
want somebody thinking in a paranoid way that maybe the radio
C1A\ L ea 28
broadcasts in ph-ua-eee?] were going to go away because the
anthropologists were there maybe representing the next ethnic
group. That's very contrived; I never quite understood it. Bu...
S: TT after they arrested the men of the village, my
husband was extremely suspect. They had seen white women who were
nurses, and they thought I was a nurse, not an anthropologist.
S: OK. But they really didn't know what to do about him, and
maybe he was responsible.
R: Oh.... Oh, boy! You mean, for the full scale arrest?
S: Yes. For the arrest or something. But at least I was }S3
'-going around giving people medicine.
S: [laughter] That wasn't all bad.
R: And your son was... must have been well received. I mean,
S: TVrXl. w .-- -. son was very well received. He was
given the~-e a chief's name by the mawk chief, the paramount
chief's prime minister. And so they...-...sa..e y gave him a special
name, the name of the apical, founding ancestor, .
R-- ,nOh -.-~~
S: ya-shaasow, the very top f the ancestral pyramid, as it
were. And so that was very prestigious. And then since they have
technonomy L<, in which parents are called after their children,
I was "mother of the chief," and my husband was "father of the
R: Oh, OK.
S: OK. So, yu-k>ow, that wa~z.l.- LL.- part was very
S: Anyway, they ------theat -bppend I can't
remember right now whether I cured the little girl first, and then
that happened, or vice versa.
S: It certainly would have made sense that I would have
refused it first, but things were so dicey...
S: ... that, you know, I had....
R: Right, because that's pretty dicey, yes.
S: I really had to do something. Anyway, to make a long
story short, t~a .-..all of that happened those men
subsequently were released, I killed a goat had a big feast when
they came back, et cetera.
S: But in the meantime and then forever after, I did have
between rt y N twenty and thirty people per day of all
persuasions, which is to say, really sick, not so sick, male,
female, \ kids, a 1ts aor.s at my door for medicine. So I
went to the mission hospital, and I went to the government doctor
at the town fifty miles away. And believe it or not, these people
just gave me huge amounts of medical supplies.
R: [laughter] Saying, "Good! Go...."
S: Yes. "Good! Give them out! Yes!"
S: "Help, help! Great!"
S: If you think about it, in retrospect, it's just kind of
R: Yes, it is.
S: But they gave me all these things. And I'm not sure I
told them the story or not. I just said, "Well, they're people in
my... I'm in the village; people are sick. Do you...?" YLZin-w.
And they just, ou e...
S. gave me stuff for, -yI_ aaw--all kinds of first aid
supplies, all kinds of containers, all kinds of antimalarials,
S: The missionaries gave me some real magical elixir that
had... must have had, I don't know, opium gr I don't know Three
drops for this and five drops for that. It was one of these that
you counted out the number of drops. I mean, that stuff was
R: Yes! [laughter]
S: Myself.... We all took it!
S: It was just fabulous! I don't know what was ...
S- o--- t -dnI'now what was in that!
R: It was definitely opium! [laughter]
S: Yes. This... I mean, if... and it cured those bouts of
diarrhea. It really made a huge difference. Anyway,...
S: ... so I was just spending so much time curing these sick
people--of course, I was doing medical anthropology--that it
finally dawned on me,...
S: ... "I'm going to interview them!"
R: Yes. Yes.
S: "If they come for medicine, they're going to be my
subjects." So I had all these medical anthropological-type
questionnaires and fertility-natality profiles./)
S: C7. for all the adult women, for all these people.
R: And, of course, while all the men were in jail, you must
have been able to concentrate pretty exclusively on the women.
S: Well, that, too. A 1dr P&a t n- P~- wasn't
all the men, but my village was a real central.... They' the ones
who did~r4 g in the chief in wherfi T ai~ li~w vin
S: I mean, these were really, A
were -ih real ones.
S: Arrnd-tnKF-w e- the 5si ones they took. So there were
plenty of other men in the other villages and they were still
S: So anyway, I... o on mtha dlaT y, l. i .e these...
s these surveys and questionnaires.
S: K'. In the meantime, my husband was doing a lot of census
S: a-he -w.. -d got involved in that.
Then another methodology was -tho- man, big-time participant
observation, in terms of attending and being inducted to the
spirit-possession cults and attending the rituals. These were all
nighttime ceremonies that went on all night. Bag her] And I went
to them. My husband was a morning person and didn't like to stay up
5-.-ft Cf-H^ l
all night and you knew, didn't find that s5i' interesting. And so
here I am, you know, traipsing around...
R: [laughter] )
S: ... in the middle of these villages....t'
=i m I felt totally safe.
S: The only thing is I had these big boots. I was kriEn~(f-
afraid of snakes.
S: But that was it.
R: So you finally got to wear the boots? [laughter]
S: Not... _~T-~ ITrr:_r thoey- were big rubber boots. a-r
4aB .t h e desert boots never made it to Zambia. [laughter]
R: [laugher] Oh, that's great.
S: Yes. I don't know what happened to them, but I kept them
for a very long time. Never wore them. [laughter]
So I spent a lot of time going to these all-night rituals
and being inducted into the spirit-possession cults and then
working with e-- ly-a-s a key informant methodology--healers and
S: And in fact, I apprenticed myself to two diviners. One
was a basket diviner/and the other was a rod stick diviner--both
S: Because diviners in that society were men.
R: But they accepted you?
S: Yes, they did.
S_ Yes, they did andthc wmon nd ....
R: And how unusual was it? Did you... had you expected to be
able to do something like be inducted into a society? I mean, had
that precedent been sort of set among field workers at that
S: Oh, first of all, I just assumed that would happen to me.
But secondly, all white women they ever saw and most white men were
these missionaries, who hate... who w_ .not only wouldn't dance
.. or drum, but they would not even enter a village if
there was any kind of traditional tia-. Everything traditional was
S: ... and denigrated, and sometimes, eFiS w, masks se-
estroyed the drums. Whereas, I was running around telling
people, "Anytime there is anything with drumming, be sure to invite
R: Yes. Yes. Yes.
S: And actually, -rP w, participating in the dancing and
being there all night and asking questions about it. My very
presence of being in a village that was having a ritual where the
drums were and people were dancing the traditional dances, was
antithetical and different than all the other whites...
.who were missionaries, who tWouldn't do that. Their
religion actually forbade them to do that.
S: And they tried to impose that religion and those tenets
of that religion on local people. So there I was. TlFey=s Io
they k- really confused whether I was a nurse... I was a nurse who
liked the traditional religion--I think that's probably what they
S: But they couldn't quite figure that one out.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: Let me just say tha ~+--.. and I'm sure you know
this ..i.r. y anthropologists were used by the British
Colonial Administration as chroniclers and people who could find
out about the ethnic differences and about traditional styles of
leadership so that the British could rule byi~wn t indirect
methodologies a la Lord LugardLfi, in the post-colonial period.
And remember, I got to Zambia in 1970. That was only six years
S: In the post-colonial period, anthropology and
anthropologists--those were dirty words.
S: In fact, I didn't say I was an anthropologist. I said I
was a historian writing the history of the )al---of cth...
Se-Eaa ^ fe- 3e Luvale people, because to have said I was an
anthropologist would have located me as a server of or a member of
the former colonial government.
S: And it would have made it really suspect. I mean, it
was... you can see already suspicions were pretty high.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I did not run around saying I was an
anthropologist. I don't think I ever mentioned that to anybody the
entire time. belRi I was associated, affiliated with the
Rhodes-Livingston Institute, later called the Center for Social
Research r 1-11: th- t in Lusaka.
S: And, of course, y11 all the British social
anthropologists and then the Americans .... I-s y' look
at the shelf...
S: Yt~e uaas Max Gluckman, Norman Long, Clyde Mitchell.:.;L
Shad worked there c p Van Velsen Then.. and
.Audrey Richards, then Elizabeth Co' son, Ted
a~fE-fe 1~ .~ S Bates.. .-.....t...a -3
a3j33A:"t. All of these people had been associated....
R. -Ma^Le Datcb? A'
S: .i_---_ 4h4___ ._ Had been affiliates or had
taught r through the old Rhodes Livingston Institute,
which was subsequently renamed after independence... [laughter]
w' ut -he-r-_knmw Center for Social Research or a--c
call So tbg: were / anthropologists, ad-~g all
recognized, aagt wd uitL of like, i ;-vM..Aw, the British social
anthropology [laughter] They were all there!
S: 4=11y 1=-- p F... MarwickJ. / worked in
Malawi. I guess he was slightly different. But anyway, yuwroMw, it
really was a big hub of anthropology and anthropologists. But when
I got to my field sites six hundred miles away,..
S: .. the word was never uttered because it
YOZ4 would have been to no advantage.
So I interviewed people in terms of standard stuff. I had the
surveys and questionnaires of people in terms of their health and
ritual and fertility and natality profiles. I apprenticed myself to
cgypthe two diviners. I did participant observation in terms of
the actual spirit possession rituals and cults. I was
Interested in the botanicals,"
all samples qgg to somebody in Lusaka at the University of
Zambia. All of the stuff was identified. I did pH (from the old
of the medicinals, especially those
that were ingested or stuffed into body orifices, which they were
fond of doing.
S: I saw a lot of curing rituals. I worked with a lot of
female healers and midwives. I saw a-2nd births and traditional
midwifery. It wasm -t... t yu knuw, I was r-a~ly immersed in the
village and lif ..
S: ... and was there for two years with my son and my
husband, and he got involved in another project.
Some time after I'd been there, and I've remarked on this in
the preface to the Agricultural Development and Gender Issues in
Malawi book. I had a delegation of Luvale women who came to my
house, and they said, "You know everything about our most private
medicines and ritual," because I'd seen all these
ethnogynecological, yi jw, procedures and the midwifery and
childbirth and the curing f -tf e. J-en, sme of it was very
elaborate. So they said, "You know everything about our most very
private aspects of our medicines and belief systems." Thought that
was a big compliment, but...
S: they said, "But you don't know what it is to be a
"Mmm. Excuse me?" [laughter]
R: Yes! [laughter]
S: They said to be a woman is to be a farmer. Well, of
course, I did disdain farming at that point. First of all, you had
to get up early in the morning. I was staying up all night to see
S: So that was sort of incompatible. My spouse, on the other
hand, was really interested in farming. He was out in the field all
the time! [laughter]
R: Yes. So he was learning how to be a woman. [laughter]
S: Well, the men did farming, too. But anyway, they said,
"Well, we're going to give you two pieces of land." And they gave
me land, and they gave me hoes to hoe it with, and they gave me
seed, and they showed me how to do it. I mean, really, I was
S: ... and not particularly interested.
R: Yes. [laughter]
S: So they gave me a piece of land.... And I have
photographs of all these things, of course. And they gave me a
piece of land close to the house.
S: Andr .e in between the houses is where people had, ,y
ko4ew- small gardens of vegetables and that kind of stuff, and then
land, yoQu-kew, outside the village far away where they+A/.-4-, "
End of Side 1, Beginning of Side 2
S: And I recall thinking, "Well! I'll just go to that little
town about fifty miles away, and I'll buy some seeds, vegetable
seeds, in addition to this traditional stuff that they'd given me.
And then we'll have a little, nice demonstration, won't we?"
S: [laughter] So these were seeds that were actually
produced within Zambia. They. ." r-ymay t- were not imports.
S: And it was a drought year, and, y w, I didn't know
how to farm. I didn't have a clue.
S: Ye a e... .-they helped me,..
S: .and we did manage to get the both areas planted.
[laughter] You k -nt] n^- a nInwf hey were ridged and planted
and weeded and all those good things.
S: And I have these marvelous photographs of the harvest. It
was absolutely dreadful.
S: Every one of those seeds--I probably bought carrots and
onions and so~eia'-m, u }kow, radishes...I mean, radishes, for
god's sake. You can hardly kill them.
R: Right. Right.
S: And nothing sprouted.
S: Adjttm It was a disas .
-- It- .... h-ra, er. If I'd had to feed my family on that,
we would have absolutely starved to death. And it did give me a new
S: ... [laughter] a beginning awareness and a new
awareness, simultaneously, of kind of a problem.
S: So that was all sort of finished by 1972, the farming
part. nld y iwp, I thought, "Well, very interesting, but," aSz
-aew-; "I'll take the ritual stuff anytime."
S: And I also was thinking about comparative samples,
because I took a sample of women who had delivered their babies in
the mission hospitals and compared those to people who had,-cgM.
1SS, birthed in the villages using traditional midwifery. So I was
putting in questionnaire .szC, comparative populations, some
multiple-site work with rf p nw, key informants, but a much
more elaborated, really working with these diviners..
S... over a period of time, going to their cases. Not just
sitting around and only chitchatting about how you used to do stuff
in the olden days.These people were still doing them,...
S: ... all these same things. So it was... pyeSIJj
very contemporary and participatory..
S> ... to go, to actually see them working, and then talk to
them about, "Why did you do this? Why did you do that?"
R: And you didn't have... there wasn't a problem because you
were working with more than one diviner? ....
S: No. Ter- .. .. I was able to do that.
S: And, also, these women healers...
S-e----.. And, of course, I was still doing these elaborate
genealogies and the mapping and lots of photographs and that whole
thing. So those were really the methods for the Zambian work. And,
of course, since there was enough surveys and questionnaires, those
data quantified, put on computer....
S: We had punch cards then. And.... [laughter] yfESR ...
R: That's right. No, I remember the punch cards.
S: And it was not very sophisticated statistical
manipulations, but it was enough to show, .p. kw, some
differences and cT- things that were, ct _s3w, significant...
popped out. So I think those were the methodologies in Zambia.
By the way, by the end of the 1970s,-I ~~ I went back to
the Luvale--I think I mentioned that--in 1977...
R: Yes. Yes, you did.
S: ... and was particularly interested, because I was kind
of linked up with Dana Rafael and her group, who were trying
e--- ----t- to get some cross-cultural data on
R: Yes. Yes.
S: Aad=z2T7o I threw in some questionnaires-type sff on
that a6 to help collect data, as I was interested... more like
these sort of sixth-culture studies or something like that, to be
able to have comparative data with other parts of the world. Azd -bqtc
o had tracked me down because of the midwifery and
ethnogynecology ad that I had written about that.
S: Anyway, by the end of the 1970s--I think it was 1979--I
was going to give a paper at the African Studies Association
meeting that was in Los Angeles tg -that year.
S: And I started to write a paper on what was happening in
terms of agriculture. So here it is seven years later. OK. And I
start going through the literature, and I start remembering that,
"Yes, Luvale women were trying to sell... sometimes sell their
products, and they'd gotten a better price in Angola than they got
in Zambia. And the government hadn't helped them, and their farming
was this and that." Anyway, to make a long story short, I wrote my
first paper on women and agriculture and presented it at that
conference and went through this literature and organized the paper
in terms of hypotheses. This it sort of even going back to previous
S _). we had about papers that read like chemistry
R: Yes. Yes.
S: Hypotheses about women and development that I was pulling
out of the literature of the 1970s/ wFi. a>t -- t women and
development was just starting. And it was started with Ester
Boserup's book me/n EpFa omi Dey1 prpn a Women's Role in_
Economic Development, -e# -hat's a 1970 publication.
S: So this is 1979.
S: And there'd been a few things: Ann idemanp?] wrote on
South Africa; James Brain wrote on Tanzania. ew things that were
coming out. Elizabeth Co son's S4t-f veryis ~ minimally on
women.There wasn't a lot to pull from.
S: But anyway, I put that together. And it was the same
lightning-bolt kind of thing __ having u-K7 r that I
described for that course, using the female pronouns and so forth
in agriculture, because I had disdained it so very much...
-S: < and thought it was just the most boring thing.-Ysa
ksFe, yes, I did my duty. I planted those things. Very interesting,
very nice. [laughter] You know!
R: Yes. You have to eat....
S: Yes, all that good stuff. But I was so focused on ritual
and symbolism and health care delivery systems, that I literally
did not find it particularly intriguing. Although I did find the
fascinating and worked on that. So I wrote that paper
and presented it, and it was like a lightning bolt had struck,-t*
th4rae- that one could pull out these principles and examine
the current ethnography and find things that were either, jeu know,
supported or not supported,...
S: ... but that were good.. *.- cT-, -v-,pra working /"
hpet-bsg ang..-feh. And the data were vE fascinating. And
basically, women were not being helped. I was vsf much influenced
S: Talk about books that have influenced me. The Turner
book, of course; Boserup, absolutely.
R: Had you read her before, and was that part of...?
S: I don't think so. I=E F! ...
R: Do you remember why you decided just to write this paper
on agriculture? Just because, or...?
S: You know, I almost don't.
S: I was looking for something.... I had given a lot of
papers and written a lot of st~ on traditional healing and ritual
in Zambia. Imas'--avh-ad. .-.7 I must have done five or six articles 0"1
at that point.
S: I had just had been at the Maxwell School at Syracuse to
do yet another symposium and with a published "on the healing
S: I had gty spent a lot of time from 1973... remember,
I was trying to get tenure and promotion befa-. .brezi T _eot
hircd at the University of Flnrida in 197 -
S: Se=gsot-------and I got promoted in 1978 and tenured. So
I had those five years, and I was working through tt -Luvale women
and ritual and fertility and traditional African religion -tiff.
S: And book, Women in Ritual and Symbolic Roles, plus
the articles, were what my tenure was based on. S- I-had p-ett
muhc-r-,I tlhuh... yea^tf, I probably should have written a whole
monograph on it, but I had strung together, pay-k-a, all these
S: : plus that book, which is a more generalized, ..-
R: And you also went back in 1977.
S: Also went back in 1977.
S: But anyway, I had this other material on other things
that women did, and I had never pulled it out. So I said, "Well,
I'll pull out the other things that women did." I'd been writing on
ritual and religion and health care and delivery, a~ndkufi know, I
just finished tenure and promotion, had gotten it based on all the
medical anthropology stuff...
and had used it up! you know what I mean?
S: I'd analyzed it. It was a done deal. So I started pulling
out this other stuff. And that's when I started reading this other
R: I see.
S: And I don't remember if that's when I read Boserup, to
tell you the truth. I'd have to look back at that paper and see if
she's cited. I almost think she wasn't... that I had not read it at
S: But I gave that paper in 1979, and that was like a
thunderbolt. The next year I was asked to go to Cameroon to help
design the national agricultural university. And it was a project
for U.S. AID and University of Florida, which had a large presence
in terms of doing these international a projects at that time. a5t
R: So were you hired at Florida, you think, because of
your... you were an Africanist, and they have.., had an agenda in
Africa? Or did you create the...?
S: Oh, no. I was hired at the University of Florida as an
R: Yes. OK.
S: No. They didn't mind the fact that I'd done a master's on
American Indians; that was all for the good.
S: But I had four job offers.
S: Well, actually, let me qualify that "as an Africanist"
R: All right.
S: I had four job offers. One was the University of Florida.
One was the University of Washington, Seattle. One was Tulane, and
the fourth was Florida International. And I had other interviews.
I was interviewed at MIT and other places. OK. But those actually
S: I came to Gainesville in February from Ithaca. [laughter]
And the weather was like this...
S: ... or better! [laughter]
R -L---ih, boy! -e.
2S. --- K?-
S: That was one. The other was, it wasn't in the
anthropology department. It was in the Department of Behavioral
Studies, which was a new interdisciplinary department that was
going to teach topical courses. And it was headed by a
S: But it would have a joint appointment, and I would have
to come up for tenure and promotion both in that department and in
the Department of Anthropology.
R: Oh. OK. Yes.
S: Which is what happened. r-- I remember creating the
course, The African Experience, An Introduction to African Studies,
one year afterwards, 1974.
S: I remember taking my Women's Roles Cross-Culturally and
turning that into... well, that's what I put in as a topic, but it
came back as Human Sex Roles Cross-Culturally, because Paul Dowdy
thought the word "sex" in the title would bring more students and
that even men would take the course.
S: Which was true, actually.
S: [laughter] I hated to admit it.
S: Adat course has always done very well in its
6eom A H ry GS was just like the magic flutist,& -k
enrollments. And Harry Gra p ] was just like the magic flutist,
or what is that?--piper.
R: Yes. Yes. The "pied piper."
S: "Pied piper."
S: He seduced all these faculty members into coming into
this department and creating these amazing courses.
S W =-- .ihey really were very amazing. They were
pooh-poohed by the regular academic departments, but they were
really fabulously interesting. I mean, the African Experience
class, for example... and this is where I picked up all the rest of
the information, by teaching that course, that I would have had as
courses, had I been at a real African programC A G 2$&- i',e&eeL S' o&
R: Got it.
S: So, for example, the way I learned African geography,
David Ni p], who was a prominent geographer, was in the
geography department. And I would have him every year come into
class every term, and this is at least for the first four times
that I taught it,..
S: ... and do that lecture. I was taking copious notes. I
was trying to learn African geography. And I can tell you that I
now know African geography.
S: I have his lecture notes. I have his slides. He passed
away last year, and I have all those materials. And I have them on,
,-y kfgw, my multimedia, and I have them on the computer,,adIdaa,
S: That's how I learned it. I would invite... Hunt Davis to
de-s tFf on African history. That's pretty amazing.
R: That's great.
S: Yes. So Harry qgge.r g=a b .. got me to do this
one course on human sexuality. And it started off with thirty
students. They had very carefully controlled research papers
w oth I L-T-1 They had
a fieldwork assignment and~---, fiy -'-tli' ley had
to write all the questions down,- ~ andr that kind nfe-tirg.
To make a long story short about that, that class built up to 150,
200.... The last time I taught, it--wa in the... excuse me. the
VL mid-1980s,-,aQ-I think it was up to 500.
R: Well, it sounds like you really enjoy teaching too.
S: And now it's up to 675 a term, and I won't get near it.
S: You know, I haven't taught it since the eight... fifteen
years now. I just overdosed on it. It was too much.
S: But did build that up. So, you know....
R: It sounds like a really heady start to a teaching career.
R: I mean....
S: It was big....
S: Teaching was. *es1pasmof focused on all these things.
Yet the Africanists were very happy to have me. But, in fact....
/i I taught these African courses. I taught The African
Experience /J to and I taught Peoples and Cultures of
Africa. I was, ye, well rewarded in the scheme of the
university for the African stuff. But quite frankly, it was this
pied-piper, you know, "teach these interdisciplinary courses," that
kind of lured me here. Plus, the anthropologists were really very
S: ... and always in.... You know, I felt part of that
The behavioral studies department was in ss ...
diversityy t llege, and it dissolved in 1979, one year after I had
come up in both department s.
0- -? for tenure and promotion. [laughter] It would have
been a whole lot easier to have only come up in one, you know, as
you can imagine.
S: So then we were merged. eant p.. Jt everybody in
that department was an anthropologist, but Tony Oliveemith[spt
Barbara PurdyD<1, and myself came into the anthropology
S: And, of course, we had almost been preselected to be
here, because the anthropology department had had a say-so in
whether we were hired or not at the very beginning, at least for
Tony and myself. I think Barbara had been here for a while.
But anyway, by 1980 I went on that project to Cameroon with
six .dean (retired deans and deans), from the College of
Agriculture, all men.
S: In fact, eur ve.ue College of
Agriculture here is pus> s, 1kpo~299 percent men, except (-p _
there's one department in home economics and a few other female
professors in this department or that depart.a few in nutrition.
S: It's just amazing. Anyway, it was at\eZ interesting
project Qo design it. and tn T really T was a big fight
between e y me and wg ether man from the College of
Agriculture, who was not a dean, actually--he was the only one. Ai -
He was in the food and resource economics department, ag-econ.
S: And from the point of view of the other people in
agriculture, that department is considered social science; whereas,
all the rest of them are in natural and production sciences. So
here were the social scientists...
S: ... fighting... [laughter
S-ji... the whole way through the project.
R: Yes. The two of you?
S: The two of us. Right
c'S- These old men--deans from the College of Agriculture--who
knew zero about Africa, who mispronounced everyone's name. I used
to just, \Ymsy^ cringe.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I mean, all I could say was, "Thank goodness they had
white hair, because at least people wouldn't make fun of them,...
R: [laughter] Yes.
S: ... as age is revered in Africa."
: Because they made so many errors. And, of course, they
were in control of the project, yo iow, as the senior
S: And I was a junior person, at least promoted to
associate professor at that point, [laughter] trC .and female.
S: So that was really hard.
S. Yes. Rea .
S: Very, very hard. And then, of course, ,^0 in the country
of Cameroon wanted to make sure that I did something on women
farmers and women students. And, of course, you can imagine how
happy the retired deans were on that particular subject! [laughter]
R: Yes. Yes.
S: Like, "That's a topic?" [laughter]
R: Yes. Right. Right.
S: Yes. So that was really difficult, although it was a 4-y
fun project. But....
R: How long were you there? I mean, how ...?
S: I think that was about three months.
S: 5fAgsh/yr p at project, yre then evolved
into a long-term project that the University of Florida had with
the country of Cameroon. Ad actually, that was the design team.
T!~, -,ul.Ly went on togg now, build part of that university
and staff it and to help develop curriculum and so forth. And I did
not get back to Cameroon, because that was 1980. I was developing
a y nice relationship with the imen and velopment office of
S: BSadhey funded my project to go to Malawi, which 1981 to
1983. There was also a University of Florida project in Malawi, and
my husband was on the University of Florida project, and e Office
of Women and Development i 3. submitted a proposal too theg
and they funded it. And they were v: very keen, and I had met
the... I knew the various directors there and had a rzjgt good
working relationship for many, many years.
R: Now, how did you establish contact? W-- FiP_...?
S: thc ~ fr..ra ii ~. I was invited to Washington to
participate in some work'ad conferences, and I got to meet people.
And then I asked them if they would entertain an unsolicited
proposal. And they were looking for things) ym-aiM d...
S: -. to fund, and I felt that Iwa ",.-_.= e n, I had..3E SO6.-a.
---r-i f iita- experience, and I was a tenured associate
professor Lnd so, r-nlean, vu.. e credentials were
S: It was really during the work in Malawi that I developed
a whole new methodology, completely different from anything that
had gone on before.
R: And did you develop this before you went into the field?
R: OK. That's interesting!
S: No. None of it was developed before. It was all literally
developed on the spot, in situ. In fact, .FJLg: a.I went to Malawi,
t-Idniy-, not knowing whether the project really was going to be
funded, because there was the head of the USAID office in Malawi,
an American woman, QbiJuusy. An Amr... wT m K-?
:o.--.-.lwho was against a project on women.
R: Wow! [laughter]
S: Yes. 1Arican-American woman, ./- catually very
difficult. She was removed,
R: Yes. Oh. OK.
S: She really was difficult. She really was the dragon lady,
although a pleasant parsxn, I'd say. Bufi eas ....
-Itn, I remember having a conversation with her about how,-ye
3w?, she did it the hard way, and what is this stuff about women
and women and development a i31l?
S: She was very hostile to that. But actually, she had other
problems and was actually removed by the ambassador, who also was
an African-American, who was absolutely a magnificent ambassador.
He and his wife, magnificent and sterling human beings, in
addition, so that they were extraordinary. But she was awful.
S: Anyway, so I went to Malawi not knowing whether the
project really was going to be allowed to...I had the funding
secured, but g without the approval4of the American embassy
in Malawi and the approval of the Ministry of Agriculture in
Malawi .,, and, of course, they wouldn't have overridden the U.S.
S: And I couldn't d4X1W begin the work. So...she was
extremely hostile. We finally got her to come around,... sort
of,...before she was removed. And the people in the Ministry of
Agriculture were very hostile, and I remember that the head of
extension came from one of the patrilineal groups.
S: Of course, I would pick this stuff up.
S: And he was extremely hostile to this idea, and I had
many, many discussions with him, and he eventually came around.
Oiy fijL c6e^^- Cp" e>^YA-v
And, in fact, I had him ~pg- one of my workshops.
R: Oh, great.
S: He became a very big supporter. In fact, I had a history
in that country of taking these people who were extraordinarily
hostile and getting them eventually to become supporters of the
idea~a< the process fnd the products.
Well, I just did things completely differently in Malawi. And
some of them are written about in that book and in other articles
that I have published. It was a national project.
S: It was through a government body, the Ministry of
Agriculture. Agriculture was the preeminent ministry and endeavor
in Malawi. It's a 90 percent agrarian economy.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: I had to work with government officials all the time. In
Zambia, TI- n I---.. never saw a local government official. ^
magi, I was with the people; I didn't want to deal withE w,
I had that idea of "Those people are unusual. Keep away from them.
Don't be associated with them. The people won't like you" kind of
perspective, which I think is a very standard anthropological...
S: -.. perspective. Whereas, in Malawi I was dealing with
everybody in government ..-tt .- .. m w, at the Ministry of
Agriculture .ad to deal with the Americans at USAID, with the
embassy people, with the expatriate community, you name it.
S: That whole,,y-y!! contingent. And dealing so much at
the ministerial level and in the Ministry of Agriculture and with
the head of extension, the head of research, with the head of
women's programs, I got to see how what they were doing in terms of
policy was affecting real people and entire sectors.
S: And also, I was living on a research station in a regular
big house with servants, that kind of sZAf4, Vut where people were
conducting agricultural research and surrounded by agriaC Qo2
R: Right. Right.
S: OK. I had research sites, pa===7, in village settings.
divided into three major regions aht different development
divisions--agricultural development divisions. So e-wanted me to
have a site in each of the regions. Of course, they're far away
from each other. [laughter]
R: Right. Right.
S: And all the regions and these agricultural development
divisions were -n* well organized in terms of program managers and
their staffs ~SHi ... all the hierarchies and levels. And a lot
of these ADDs--agricultural development divisions--were funded by
various ownRes particularly the World Bank had had a project in
ftj- ntral since 1968, and I was there in 1981. --a_* ie
S' l his was
the era & the early 1980s was a particularly good era of
donor-assisted development projects and integrated rural
development projects. It was also the era of women and development
from the donor perspective.
S: OK. So I arrive on the scene doing a women and
development project, funded by the men andjevelopment 6tfice of
S: And once I get through these couple of barriers i5e-
s have this tremendous backing of the entire government, two
governmentss.4y g to do this.
S: And the timing was just perfect, because they were t
switching from 'k __ a women's programs-home economics
model--this is a worldwide phenomenon at that time period, but
Malawi was just classic--to the women and atji=ature perspective.
S: And I was there to lead the charge.,y. at every
S: @ a -yoe--k-1 /en you deal with the head of
research, the head of extension, the head of women's programs, the
statistics people, the economics unit, you start to think
differently. And you think policy, and you think, "Golly, I'll do
it here. Well, yes! And I'll do it there. And, yes! I'll do it
R: Yes. Yes.
S: And so pretty soon I really got to see the whole thing as
a//4 large and comprehensive endeavor. And they, as I said,
wanted me to work nationally in three sites in -. different
ecologies ai'ethnicities and kinship structures and... that whole
business. And so I started working at several levels simultaneously
with the people in government, with these mid-level people on
research stations and in the villages... Oh, and in these projects,
there were the heads of projects, and there were a lot midlevel,
and there were a lot of A4 low-level, Z/14Aw. extension workers
with, py, one year or two years of training....
R: Who were nevertheless the field contacts.
S: Who were the field contacts and the only way you could
get to people in the village.
R: Right. Right.
S: And then the village people. So then I would go talk to
people in the villages and so forth. / tn t ur d t e tha
peol in.. ./C ed a ae rder istur ^ ff,^
&-S So I had several techniques: .C< I realized the
hierarchical nature of government and projects. ,w6, I realized
st1l the value,ef?^r"O r of working with local people to find
out what was really happening, because people in the hierarchy had
sort of differential understanding and interest and knowledge of
what was really happening. So I had a number of miniprojects, some
of which I called my Peace Corps experience/...
R: Sure. Yes.
S: .. of working with people in these project areas to
do various kinds of interventions, on the one hand, to do various
kinds of agricultural techniques and to see what worked, to do data
collection exercises with at the project level and programmatic
levels, V t-e of-dc cnlection. And the things that were
successful and which I thought could have a ray good multiplier
effect, I would then report and make into case studies for the
people in the Ministry of Agriculture. And then they could set
policies and change policies, and that would go out to
everyone everywhere in the country. But it had been grounded or
based on a small place or several small places where things had
actually happened and where they had worked.
R: Right. Right.
S: 4 I just thought this was one of the dandiest
methodologies, because it was really using ethnographic reality and
data and then using it in an applied way to affect policy. AeldF..
R: You have clearly shifted from the anthropologist observer
to the anthropologist enabler of good change... I mean, of policy
S: Well, to affect policy,...
S: ... to intervene,...
R: To inform policy to...
S: ... to inform policy to use the information that
anthropologists could gather, and put into service of
helping people in a positive way.
S: So that was a very big methodological theme.
R: How much collaboration did you encourage? I mean, I'm
sure you did, but, I mean, was this... was there quite a bit of
participation in terms of feedback that you'd get from the field?
S: Oh, OK. I should mention that I put together a staff,
that there was a project office, that I had Malawians working with
me. I could go anywhere in that country and garner the personnel to
go out to the villages or to collect data, either with me, or I
could set up that data collection.
R: Yes. All right.
S: It was really extraordinary. My husband used to describe
me--w-=Ma.F.- .tie- a development project,-h-L-.-. otc
... .as the Malawi government's favorite charity,...
S: ... because they would give me all these things!
S: nimZ n, I think I accomplished more in my project than
they did in their $9 million project.
R: Yes. Yes.
S: c I didn't build a building, but other than
R: Yes! [laughter]
S: I- t'r..eatS=-rc=^aeow, I'd say, "Well, I really need a
team to go out and map this." And, lo and behold, we'd assembled
three vehicles and ten people. =-i oREnow, I had my two staff
members and me and then there;g5- w, seven other people who
were, yu lPw, on the project for that.,,t.in that area for that
time period. aIa- .jkn.Wr I had to buy the gas for the
vehicles but, lo and behold, there were these vehicles. I didn't
even have a vehicle on that project. I had my own personal car,
yellow in this case.
S: [laughter] Not white!
R: Not white. The "Yellow Streak." [laughter]
S: "Yellow Streak." So it was really quite amazing.
The other thing that I developed was the farming systems
approach. Asp: was emq the rudimentary forms of all these
raid rural appraiseer which was I was to the refine in
a'p p .te(s eI
subsequent field work situations. But I did a lot of farming
systems work with local people. 'A;T-. re's how one of them
started: The Ministry of Agriculture thought that people should eat
soybeans. This is a very top-down approach. All right. Because o;t
h'ar a ID L=- f-- y contained a lot of fat and protein. Forget
about the fact that African people don't like soybeans. Soybeans
are very good for Asia.
S: They really require commercial processing, et cetera, et
cetera.[laughter] Just a wretched idea.
S: Nevertheless, 4wa w v ni- I was also studying all -
women in the country who were connected with agriculture.
R: Yes. The network.
S: -Si The categories.
S: And it wasn't so much a network as women extension
officers, women agricultural professionals, women who were in the
R: Yes. Yes. There... it's not a network. Right.
RC So all possible niches that women would be.
S: All possible niches. Yes. Exactly.
S: Yes. And the women extension workers were having a
refresher course soon after I arrived, and so I wanted to attend
S: And I was absolutely horrified and intrigued to see their
curriculum and what they were being refreshed in, which is to say
these gSC -rudimentary, QFo-know, basic home-economics kinds of
things. It was rfap pretty low level. Pretty amazing. For
example, the country was moving to metrification, to the metric
system. And everybody was totally confused as to whether, -y-e-k=ew,
one acre and one hectare were the same! [laughter] OK. Or one pound
or one kilogram was the same.
S: And, of course, there big-time differences between
those measures. So instead of teaching these women, y9EuDow, how
do ya convert a pound.... What is the relationship, and then how
do yj- make the conversion in such things as weight, volume,
measurements, and length--y~5S ow, very basic things to
measurement and quantification..
S: Their refresher section on metrification was knitting
needles. The differences in the size of the knitting needles!
[laughter] I a- T.. I mean, I have ar....
--SR:Z U must have....
S -I have photographs of all these things, of course, which
I have used v- y extensively in my courses and in public
R: Yes. No, that's amazing.
S: In terms of agriculture, what they were learning was
preparations that used soybeans.
R: Oh, OK.
S: That's where I'm coming from with Soybeans. And I'm
sitting and watching, and they're making soybean coffee and
S: ... and I'm going, "This is agriculture?"
S: [laughter] So I said, well... after I attended that....
And I interviewed people to find out what their interests were in
agriculture, what their training was, what they actually did with
rural women that was of an agricultural nature, compared to
everything that they did with women in their areas. I mean-gkei -...
their job was agricultural extension agent, extension worker, but
when I found what they did it had very little relationship to that.
They made doilies, or they, 4lyg-7n cooked up pineapple
upside-down cakes--just remote items from agriculture. So as I was
V>p4 horrified with that and determined to make some interventions.
S: And I think feeling much more comfortable with this
notion of making interventions.
R: Yes. That once you thought was not right.
S: But always getting the information first. So, for
example, I was interviewing farmers, and I'm finding out, gee,
these women really know how to grow beans and pulses, and here we
have soybeans. I wonder, tongue-in-cheek, can they grow them?
S: Or are they just going to be making scones and....
[laughter] I mean, how are they going to get thm?
S: So I came across a real class, a village group; (here
were fifty-eight women--or sixty-four women, rather--going to a
class that these ega- e female extension agents were
holding, in which they were trying to teach these women how to do
things with soybeans. And they were going to give each woman a
handful of soybeans to take home, plant, and then, of course,
they'd have I don't know how many more soybeans that they could try
to make these ridiculous recipes out of. And nobody even liked the
taste of them. fi r/ oun soybeans take a long time to
cook, and it was just ridiculous. But, nevertheless....
So I saw the class, and I was just, tW ..
S: ... amazed!
S: So I ? a. proposed this absolutely radical idea. I
said, "Do you know how to grow them?" because they're not exactly
like beans.And they did not know how to grow them. And if you can
believe this, I said, "Well, we'll teach you how to grow them"
S: [laughter] So I'm living at a research station, so, of
course, I'm doing research on how to grow them and reading
everything that the research station published on how to grow them.
And I realized that they have to be inoculated with this rhizobium
in order for them to nodulate and to fix nitrogen and actually
R: Oh, wow.
S: ... the nut, the soybean.
S: Whereas, ground nuts [peanuts], which is pretty standard
within Africa don't do that anrtdE x f
".' They're really quite different. [laughter] So I said to
them, "Do you think these women would like to learn this?" And I
said to the women, "Would you like to learn this?"
S: Fifty-eight of them showed up for the training session.
And I have these marvelous photographs, one of which is being used
as part of a case study of applied anthropology in the new Ember
and Ember book Simon and Schuster is publishing g
cmming-out or ju>st cam out. -
S: Anyway, all these photographs of me acting as though I
were an agronomist showing people how to inoculate the seed, how to
plant, the depth, the spacing.... I had it all worked out. And I
said, "Well, these women are illiterate, so we'll do is we'll give
them... we'll make sticks out of bamboo of the distance between
plants, how deep in the soil the seed needs to go, the distance
between rows, et cetera, et cetera. We'll do demonstrations on how
to plant, we'll do demonstrations on how to inoculate, and we'll
see if theyl;e interest....." Of course, they were just fascinated.
S: They all showed up. Fifty-eight of the sixty-four showed
up. The T a~ir / others had to go to a funeral or something.
S: And, I mean, they were all there. They all wanted to do
S: k\Ak.. I painstakingly went through the procedure over
and over and over again.
S: And then we gave them the bags of seed and inoculant,
and they went off on their merry way.
S: And, of course, then we did follow-up.
&S:\\ N ,noter...
End of Tape 6