Wednesday, January 26, 2011

CCA: A new but necessary lens in my research

If the act of developing a working knowledge of a theoretical framework using the culture-centered approach is like jumping off a diving board, then I’m certain I just left the board. While my own research has continually revolved around the area of culture, CCA is a lens that provides a wildly new view. I gladly embrace it for its valuable insight and ability to establish a dialogue with and among audiences that have typically been set out on the peripheries of the social environment. But, frankly, it is just plain hard… not because it is hard to accept, but because it is hard to practice. For the first time in my education and research, I have to deconstruct many of common understandings of audiences and social dynamics that I’ve been taught over the years and begin rebuilding them simply to be more purposeful in my research.

Therefore, I’m thankful for the readings which challenge me with this new lens. For example, the Boddy article regarding spirit possession was, of course, a hurdle using my CCA lens. The difficulty was not in the content… I can understand that anthropologists are often pushed to “demystify analytical terms and resist being seduced into thinking that they dispassionately reflect reality…” (p. 408). This, of course, is not surprising when it comes to the topic of spirit possession. It’s seems reasonable to break down the phenomena through rationalization (i.e. medical terms, physiochemical body issues, and psychiatric disorders). Rather, the difficulty came for me when I personally began to consider the differences between central and peripheral possession. As Boddy identifies and discusses the rationalized research, it became very challenging for me to set the medical, psychiatric and even sociological explanations aside and simply look at spirit possession as a functioning and, dare I say, necessary component of the structure, agency and culture of each of these groups.

This challenge I’m faced with doesn’t make me doubt the applicability of CCA. Rather, I become more adamant of recognizing how this fits and why it needs to become a necessary component of my research. I’m certain it has a place and I look forward to a few months down the road when this lens is much more comfortable.

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