Join Date: Oct 2009
"I can understand why you believe I ask for too much from somebody when I expect a serious keris researcher to be able to read and understand Indonesian at least, and perhaps also Javanese."
A. G. Maisey
I think I have to clear a misunderstanding here. I think your answer references to my sentence that you are hanging the ladder to high.
I choosed this words because I didn't want to compromise a person which is standing behind Achim Weihrauch and without his help Achim Weihrauch never would have been able to do his work, the person I think you are talking about in your answer to David.
In fact I agree completely with you that
"the keris is a cultural icon, and if we wish to understand the keris within the context of its originating culture we need to be able to approach the keris with a mind-set that at the very least can understand the Javanese world view and the way a Javanese person sees and understands those things around him."
In this context I also think that it is not
"possible to achieve this level of understanding in the absence of an understanding of language."
and you view that
"This attitude of mine appears to be shared by many, if not most anthropologists who engage in serious field studies. Time and time again I will read of an anthropologist who has embarked on some project or other, and the first thing they do is to move in with some local family and learn the language"
is absolutely true, more - it is a must in the cultural anthropology! Even if taking a native speaker as a translater this will be a problem and will not be enough for understanding the cultural background.
You are yourself expirienced in the javanese culture and so you might know how difficult it is to receive worthfull informations. Especially the javanase but you can transmit it to other indonesian ethnics try to be polite to foreigners and one of the behaviour of javanese people is that they if you come with a question they start thinking 'what kind of answer you might await' and if they think they know what you are awaiting they will give you an answer in this direction and this answer is of no worth for the serious researcher - not really. What I am talking about is related to a direct questionary system requestinig cultural aspects and background, a questionary system sociologist like to practise.
Under this point a research about a cultural system via a material cultural object is a good tool to receive generel or special cultural information which you otherwise might not have received or already with an interpretation beared in the head of the person you are asking to. If you ask via a material cultural object you will receive answers where the informant does not think that much first, he will talk, you let him talk and possibly will indirectly receive a lot of general informations abbout the cultural system. But herefore it is absolutely important that you can speak and understand the languge and as already postulated above, even a native translater would not be enough. It is hard to get true answers upon directly sensitve questions in Java or probably in Asia general.
"I believe that somebody told me that Achim Weihrauch is currently living in Bali. If this is so, it may be possible that at some time in the future he may feel the need to revise some of his writing."
This information is wrong - since his final work Achim Weihrauch has never been to Indonesia again. And if I take your statement
"any understanding of the keris that is able to be gained in the absence of an understanding of the relevant language(s) can only ever be a technical understanding, it can never be an understanding on a societal or cultural level"
then I must say that Achim Weihrauch is a great person in the practical, technical understanding of the keris. Not everybody is born to go into a native culture and live with the people. Therefore in former times there had been a so could 'fieldresearch pratica' at several universities - the aim was that students of cultural anthropology were "thrown into the field" to see if they are able to practise what they are learning at the writing desk.
Unfortunately in the present world studies like cultural anthropology are not featured well any more - not by the state. And the private companies as sponsors? - it will go to far here - everybody can imagine that they have interests.
I hope I could clear the misinterpretation of my words here and I also hope I was cautious enough not to compromise the at the beginning of this answer mentioned person to much.