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Metcalf analyses the contradictions of fieldwork in connection with a particular 'informant', a formidable old lady who tried for twenty years to control what he would and would not learn. At each stage, the author draws out the general implications of his predicament by making comparisions to the most famous of all fieldwork relationships, that between Victor Turner and Muchona.

The result is an account that is accessible to those unfamiliar with the current critiques of ethnography, and helpful to those who are only too familiar to them. His discussion shows, not how to evade the critiques, but how in fact anthropologists have coped with the existential dilemmas of fieldwork. Excerpt This is an essay about lies: white lies and ones black as night, evasions, exaggerations, delusions, half-truths, and credible denials.

Read preview Overview. Lewis Routledge, Cultural Analysis, Vol. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. Academe, Vol.

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Used Condition: As New Soft cover. Save for Later. About this Item An unmarked as new copy. Bookseller Inventory Ask Seller a Question. About this title Synopsis: They Lie, We Lie is an attempt by an experienced fieldworker to engage recent critiques in ethnography, that is the writing of culture, made both from within anthropology and from such disciplines as cultural studies and post-colonial theory. Store Description Adjacent to Fitzroy's vibrant Gertrude Street, a few minutes from Melbourne's CBD, Page Two is located in an eclectic warehouse space which started life as a furniture factory and had many incarnations before being reborn as a bookshop.

Many of our books are not listed online, so we invite you to visit in person - we open each weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, from More Information. Shipping Terms: Orders usually ship within 2 business days. Add to Wants. I claim no qualitative difference between what I observe and what, say, a journalist might observe.

For the moment, however, the point is that there is no absolute discontinuity between ethnography and other forms of reportage. Perversely, those who argue that an ethnographer has less right to point out injustices than a journalist promote the very proposition they attack: that ethnography is radically different to other forms of writing. Lies 15 The same disclaimer applies to charges of sensationalism. It is undeniable that anthropology makes use of the exotic, just as the tabloid press does, to attract the attention of an audience.

Ever since The Golden Bough our material has been sensational, indeed irresistible. How many dinner-table conversations, earnest or witty, wrongheaded or insightful, has it sparked over the years? Who could possibly say the same about the National Enquirer? However much we might now disdain Frazer's evolutionary theories, it is impossible to deny the intellectual impact of the book.

Its enduring relevance comes about because Frazer not only points to strange things, but also puts them in a framework in which they signify something; that is, he engages in interpretation. In all the social complexities of the contemporary world, it is not at all necessary that this other culture be far removed in time or space. In so far as this produces a sense of understanding, the exotic is lost. As for headhunting, it is no lie to say that the severed heads of enemies, or long-dry relics of the same, were at one time used in ritual contexts in some parts of Borneo, and even that people were murdered to furnish such trophies.

Moreover, these practices are deeply mysterious, and it is a long-standing conundrum to decide what religious or historical context offers the best promise of insight. There is plenty of scope here for ethnographic analysis. Now we might ask what it is about Western culture that strikes Bornean people as so terrifyingly predatory. The point of this defense of representation is not, however, to brush aside criticism. On the contrary, my goal is to deal directly with some at least of the provocative issues that have caused ferment in anthropology in the last decade.

I want to emphasize what Kasi understood plainly, and what her phrase so neatly conveys: that all our doubts announce not the end of a story, but the beginning of one.

The lies our culture tells us about what matters --- and a better way to live - David Brooks

They lie, we lie. I suppose I might, but it is in practice my intellectual ancestors that I invoke. Nor is it my stance that I simply repeat what they said, though I mean to preserve a close relationship with them and what they said. Even that is not the end of it, however. I also plan to repeat at least some of what Kasi told me, just as her grandchildren might do in years to come, or may in fact be doing even as I write.

I graft myself on, as it were, to her ancestral root; I make her my ancestor. Learning experiences It is perhaps only a mild overstatement, a harmless rhetorical conceit. The researcher begins in a child's relation to adult culture, and ends by speaking with the wisdom of experience. It is interesting to observe how, in the 18 Struggle text, the author's enunciative modes may shift back and forth between learning from and speaking for the other. Perhaps the most famous educative relationship in all of anthropology was that between Victor Turner and his Ndembu informant Muchona.

Watching him, I sometimes used to fancy that he would have been truly at home scoring debating points on a don's dais, gowned or perhaps in a habit. He delighted in making explicit what he had known subliminally about his own religion. A curious quirk of fate had brought him an audience and fellow enthusiasts of a kind he could never have encountered in the villages. In this situation, he was respected for his knowledge in his own right. What has become of him since? Can he ever be again Struggle 19 the man he was before he experienced the quenchless thirst for objective knowledge?

What would most ethnographers not give for such a productive, mutually satisfactory relationship? I read it differently, however: Muchona exists as a model and an ideal for many ethnographers. Most ethnographers are at some level constantly on the look-out for at least partial reincarnations of Muchona, and in my experience a great number claim to have found them. That is to say, an interpretation suggested by one rite gains conviction if it seems to shed light on some other ritual, or a myth, from the same culture.

Certainly, I learned a great deal from her, as I described in the previous chapter. If she was my Muchona, she was a very partial one, or perhaps even the inverse of one. My goal is to disentangle those aspects of our relationship that have to do with our eccentricities, hers and mine, from those that are inherent in the practice of anthropology.

Edie's recollections of Muchona are of his high-pitched, rapid voice. Windson was no mere employee, however; he was keen to learn more about his own people, and consequently the three of them sitting round a table inside one of the Turners' tents did indeed have the incongruous air of a scholarly seminar, an effect that Edie smiles to remember.

But where did Muchona acquire his didactic style? He was certainly a ritual specialist in a mode familiar to Ndembu themselves. His expertise was widely acknowledged, and he was often invited to assist at large rituals, where he would not hesitate to hold forth on what should happen and why. In the s there was a magistrate named Frank Melland stationed in the Kasempa District of what was then Northern Rhodesia now Zambia , a District that included the Ndembu.

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It was of course for people such as him that the Royal Anthropological Society prepared its famous Notes and Queries as a checklist for amateur ethnographers. It is the sort of book that later ethnographers seize on because it provides valuable nuggets of comparative information from an earlier date.

Anthropology and Sociology

Melland left the District in , and it was thirty years later that Muchona met Victor Turner. Judging by the way she treated me, she would not have been impressed by the supposed egalitarianism of his professional relationship with Turner. For a Western academic, especially in the colonial period, it might seem virtuous, but I suspect that Kasi would have seen it as merely presumptuous. To underline that, let me begin with a vignette: Kasi in disciplinary mode.

Photograph previously unpublished, courtesy of the Turner Archive. To begin with, my linguistic abilities remained shaky, so that I was always nervous that I would make a fool of myself. In these circumstances the education of the ethnographer becomes a daily reality, and no mere allegory. It required great concentration to hang on to the thread of a conversation and that was tiring, but there was nowhere in the crowded longhouse where I could hide myself away from interaction.

If I tried to read, children would pull the book down to see what I was looking at. If I pretended to sleep late, people would ask, in all kindness, if I was ill. Photograph by author. Struggle 25 very well that it was perverse in me to resent such a wealth of sociability. Ethnographers elsewhere found themselves among people who lived in isolated households, or else kept outsiders rigorously at arm's length, and they were surely worse off. Even so, I doubt that anyone raised with Western middle-class attitudes to personal space can live in a longhouse without psychic discomfort.

During that time, I was gradually feeling my way around, trying to work out who was who. This was impeded by a complex etiquette having to do with names. Everyone had multiple names, teknonyms and nicknames, which were liable to be changed from time to time. In the case of old people whose teknonyms hid their body names, I sometimes learned only from their tombs what their proper names were. Moreover, the etiquette of conversation prohibited anything like cross-questioning; one or two questions in a row perhaps, never three. Consequently, it was impossible to collect a genealogy at one sitting.

The people I knew best were my immediate hosts, the governmentappointed headman and his large family. For me to stay with them was the normal arrangement: travelers with no kin in the longhouse invariably stayed in the headman's apartment. They, however, seldom lingered more than a few days, and it worried me that my long-term residence was an abuse of custom, and a drain on my host's resources. I tried to make appropriate gifts to pay my way, and I cast about for some other accommodation.

The longhouse was, however, an old one, not rebuilt for a generation, and since there had been no opportunity to segment, each apartment was crowded with the married children and grandchildren of the 26 Struggle founders. There were no empty rooms that I could use, and so for the moment I had to stay put. In my indecision, I aimed at targets of opportunity, collecting whatever I could with whoever would spend time with me.

In that frame of mind, I discovered Tama Usang Weng, or he discovered me, for he was a man starved for conversation.


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Like old men elsewhere, he wanted to talk about his youth and the things he had seen and done, but most of his neighbors found his endless anecdotes boring, and laughed at him behind his back. I was as much a godsend to him as he was to me, though I often found him exhausting. He had been married at different times to women in several longhouse communities, and he would absentmindedly switch back and forth between different languages.

I was often totally lost, but my panic was reduced when I found that others sitting nearby were equally adrift. It was hard not to conspire with them with covert winks and nods, but I resisted the temptation. Unlikely as our relationship was, I felt a warmth towards him, and a loyalty of friendship.

After a while, I discovered that Tina Usang had been for many years a shaman of note, although she had given it up some years ago on account of her age. He also interpreted what advice the spirits, speaking through Tina Usang, had for those who came to her with problems, often illnesses in the family. They became increasingly excited by their reminiscences, and, unknown to me, they resolved on a comeback. On the next occasion that a woman shaman performed in a neighboring room, Tina Usang got up and joined her. Tina Usang's renewed activity as a shaman was judged a success, and people began to pay attention.

It was remembered that she had been an adept in various shamanistic practices not recently seen. This came about, I later learned, because shamanism is prone to fashion. Supposedly, each shaman is individually inspired to perform in his or her own way, entirely idiosyncratically, but there were in fact styles characteristic of particular longhouses and periods. Tina Usang, having acquired her powers many years before, had a style so old-fashioned as to seem novel.

People talked about the good old days when things had gone better in every way, and the excitement spread. It was to be erected by several shamans over several nights, led by Tina Usang, and it was represented by a physical barrier made out of creepers of various kinds collected from the jungle. The chosen creepers were covered with thorns, so that the result looked strikingly like a barbed-wire entanglement.

While preparations for the rite were in progress, I was suffering doubts about the sudden enthusiasm that my enquiries had triggered off. On the other hand, shamanism was thought to be a dangerous business; anything unexpected, any kind of shock Tina Usang experienced while her soul was away from her body on its astral journeys, could be fatal.

She was frail. What if something went wrong? Would I be blamed? In the end, I need not have worried, because Kasi had already made a decision. In the middle of the afternoon, when a small crowd was weaving the fence of thorns and preparing food offerings, she suddenly appeared.

No one demurred, and Kasi stalked off.


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Tama Usang shrugged, and only Tina Usang grumbled openly about Kasi's highhandedness. As for me, I felt mixed emotions. Her intervention had taken me completely by surprise, and I didn't understand it. Unable to appreciate the reasons that Kasi had given, I took her actions personally. She had made it clear that I had no such prestige as that associated with the former colonial order that would prevent her from interfering with whatever plans I made. She had reduced my friends in my eyes, and me in theirs. Did that make my grant application a lie? Having found out that the project I had designed was neither practical nor relevant, was I operating under false pretenses in continuing to spend the money that I had been given?

My funding, as it happened, came mostly from the Ford Foundation via an agency, now defunct, called the Foreign Area Fellowship Program. But I might as easily have received my major support from a government program, such as the National Science Foundation, and then I would have been dithering at taxpayers' expense.

I might note that my funding was tiny compared to the sums spent on projects in other sciences, in total barely more than twelve thousand dollars, and that my day-to-day living expenses were minuscule, but that would be a quibble. I had for months been completely absorbed with pressing practical problems: how to get about by river, where to stay, where to sleep, how to feed myself, how to get by without plumbing, how to start conversations and avoid offending people.

My previous existence as a graduate student became remote and unreal. Moreover, throughout this stressful period, I had been constantly asked to explain myself, and what I was up to. For longhouse people, however, this account was largely meaningless, and I came up with bromides about studying their way of life, and writing a book.

The problem was that the more I repeated these half-truths, the more vacuous they became, and I found it harder and harder to remember what in heaven's name I was supposed to be doing. I can also describe the process in cool professional terms. Preparing my grant had made me probe the existing literature purposefully, looking for productive issues. The literature was out of date and old-fashioned, however. Worse, it tended to lump together all the people of the interior, obscuring the ethnic complexities that I had been learning about ever since I arrived.

My experiences traveling about the watershed of the Baram river made the inadaquacies of the old literature apparent. Once settled, I set about looking for a range of institutions related to rigid systems of social hierarchy that were described in the old literature, and had provided the focus of my research proposal. Was I blind or stupid? Were my language skills so inadequate? In the meantime, there was my proposed research on class systems knocked on the head, and nothing in its place. Practices of secondary treatment of the dead are classically associated with Borneo, and have been the subject of speculation for a century, but the well-known cases are all in Indonesian Borneo, far away to the south.

What that meant ethnologically was only sorted out later Metcalf , but meanwhile the central place of elaborated mortuary rituals in Berawan culture became ever more obvious. Even talking about the weather, the very stuff of an Englishman's small talk, often led back to mortuary ritual, because the deaths of important people were expected to produce thunder, lightning, and torrential rains Metcalf Moreover, the death rituals were at that time the subject of intense controversy.

Since the s, conversion to one or other version of Christianity had been gathering momentum in Upriver communities. By then, Long Teru was the only community in Baram to have persisted in its old religion throughout, staunchly resisting both foreign and Bungan missionaries, and providing me with an opportunity not to be missed.

At the same time, however, the old ways could hardly remain unchanged when every longhouse festival brought guests self-conscious about their new faiths, and every marriage 32 Struggle outside the community brought on a crisis. Consequently, there was constant debate about what rituals should be retained, and what concessions could be made. Kasi throws up her defenses My new research interests set me off in fresh directions.

With various companions, I traveled far and wide to see old graveyards, with their beautifully carved wooden tombs. These were made of durable ironwoods, immune to rot and termites, and even when the jungle had grown over them their massive supporting posts, soaring up into the canopy, remained impressive and evocative of ancient glory. My guides were proud to show them to me, because they embodied the history of their nation.

I also accepted invitations to funerals in neighboring communities, and no one found that in the least odd since death rites constitute the largest of all longhouse festivals, opportunities to socialize uninhibitedly, eat and drink prodigiously, and initiate all kinds of new social interactions, including marriages. There were many people whom I could usefully talk to about the death rites, but often I found myself referred back to Bilo Kasi as the expert.

My encounter with her during the Tina Usang affair had hardly been auspicious, but that was perhaps an exception and best put behind me. So I made my prestations of arak, and sat at her feet as she told stories of the ancestors whose tombs I had seen. Nevertheless, I remained cautious and respectful, never quite sure what she thought of me. Like other longhouse people, Kasi thought that the English were on the whole good-hearted, but unsophisticated. Uncorrected, Englishmen had a tendency to make people uneasy by striding about as if they were in the jungle, and standing over them in postures that implied a childish truculence.

Kasi was much concerned with breeding, and listening to her it was easy to see Long Teru as a refuge of civilization in a brutal world. At these times, sitting in Kasi's room during the day while she dandled a grandchild on her knee, I saw her in a relaxed mood.

She was most comfortable, however, with a circle of women of her own age who had grown up together in the longhouse. They enjoyed an easy familiarity born of an entire lifetime spent together, all idiosyncrasies known, all frictions long since resolved. Particularly when things were quiet in the longhouse, they could be found in one of the kitchens at the back, perhaps with a bottle of something.

Together, they had a schoolgirlish mischievousness about them that belied their age. In this mood, there was absolutely nothing they would not talk about if they so chose. They would guffaw scurrilously about all manner of ancient quarrels and the foolishness of men living and dead, and when they were done teasing me, they were the best informants in the world. Kasi's skills appeared best in domestic settings. She was not prominent in rituals, where men took the lead, for instance in prayer. In addition to her storytelling, Kasi was expert in the epics sung about heroes of the past, warriors who fought monsters and climbed to the heavens.

In the early s, she regularly held a crowd all night long, singing verse after verse, with her audience providing the chorus. Increasingly, however, she needed to be coaxed into a performance, and she made the excuse that her voice was too old and cracked. This did not prevent her, however, from producing with impressive verve and volume the praise songs customarily offered as a courtesy to visitors, along with a glass of arak, which had to be drunk down at one go, no heel taps.

If ritual was to be my new research topic, then mortuary rites would inevitably occupy a great deal of my attention, and at the sacred core of the mortuary rites were the death songs. Nothing else in the religion of Long Teru was hedged about by taboos as they were. To sing them when there was no corpse in the longhouse was to cause a death, since the ancestors, once alerted to the arrival of a new member, would ensure there was one. Even to hum their tunes was dangerous, and anyone who forgot themselves so far as to do so was quickly and angrily hushed.

I recorded many hours of the death songs during funerals, but the tapes were impossible to transcribe. While the event was in progress, the handful of old people able to play a useful part in them were up all night long singing. It was hardly reasonable to expect them to sit with me during the day, and it would anyway have taken far longer than one day to transcribe a night's recordings.

At other times, no one would countenance me playing the tapes, let alone listening to them with me, over and over, line by line. The dilemma was sharp: the more I learned about the songs, the more central they became, and at the same time, the more impenetrable. In the end, daunted by the intractable problems involved in making full transcriptions, I settled on the lesser goal of obtaining detailed summaries of their contents.

But, to my frustration, these also proved elusive. Whenever I pursued the topic, the people I usually relied on became embarrassed and evasive, and slowly, by hints and nods, I was made aware that I was dealing with more than forgetfulness, more even than fear of offending the ancestors. Gradually it emerged that Bilo Kasi had once again decided to intervene forcefully. Kasi herself, masquerading as my chief informant, talked about the songs in vague generalities, laying smokescreens, deliberately misleading me.

Struggle 35 The siege2 The realization that Bilo Kasi was obstructing my research initiated a long struggle.

They Lie, We Lie: Getting on with Anthropology

Her behavior seemed to me unreasonable, not because I expected to be trusted with sensitive information, but because I already possessed the power to provoke the ancestors if I wanted to, and everybody knew it. I had the songs themselves on tape, and no one had seemed bothered when I had made the recordings during several death rituals over a period of months. Meanwhile, everyone agreed that it was the songs themselves, those words and cadences, that were lethal; merely talking about their contents was by comparison relatively unthreatening.

Kasi's prohibition was therefore not prompted by fear of what harm any indiscretion of mine might bring to the community. I decided to evade it. My tactics were those of siege. Time was on my side because secrecy is hard to maintain in the close social environment of the longhouse. It would take a great deal of vigilance on Kasi's part to police casual conversations, and her attempts to do so would sooner or later cause resentment.

Her authority was great, but not unquestioned, and in the quotidian democracy of the longhouse all I had to do was wait. In the meantime, I probed my adversary's defenses. I learned to slip in a question about the death songs here and there, whenever vaguely relevant, trying to catch people offguard. When I secured a snippet of information, I would refer to it casually while talking to someone else, implying I knew more than I did. Sometimes I drew startled looks, but more often my allusion prompted new information easily enough.

Then I nodded away knowingly, my pencil set aside casually, while concentrating hard, so as to remember what I was told. I began to enjoy the espionage. I learned how much could be inferred from careful collation of what I already knew. From 36 Struggle simply being present when songs were sung, I knew their names and proper order, which were prescribed and which optional, and how long they lasted. The key ones were not the longest. Without any translation, I could work out a great deal about metrical structure revealed by repetition of phrases, lines, and verses.

One important song had a very simple repetitive structure. I knew which songs had a narrative form and which did not.

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Sometimes I could recognize a word or two, or a proper name. This was enough to suggest questions that I might slip into conversations, and even evasive answers often provided information if carefully considered. All in all it was a valuable exercise in the close reading of ritual and its indigenous exegesis, for which the language of sleuthing, of clues and leads and sources, provides an appropriate vocabulary. In contrast to many places in the world, religion at Long Teru was not a matter of esoteric knowledge. People varied greatly in what they knew, but this was a matter of personal inclination, not restricted access.

Generally speaking, anyone might learn any ritual skill who took the trouble to pay attention, imitate, and ask questions. Questions, however, had to be about how to perform rituals, not what they meant. Moreover, the enquirer had to chose whom to follow; nothing was more likely to provoke old people into heated discussion than an innocent question about the niceties of ritual. The only real secrets at Long Teru were family secrets, and I found them out without trying. They were invariably betrayed to me by someone with a grudge, even though I usually had no reason to be interested.

Not surprisingly, I had always asked questions in a way that set me apart from other inhabitants of Long Teru. For one thing, I was more relentless in pursuit of particular topics, and this was risky because any appearance of cross-questioning was offensive. I was sensitive to the laughter that my questions sometimes provoked, in case it marked irritation, but in fact it was not easy to impose very far on Upriver People.

If they disliked the direction of a Struggle 37 conversation, they would change the subject or just wander away. Usually their laughter indicated that I had asked a question that no one had ever heard asked before, and that was interesting. Usually I was asking questions that had no answers, as far as they were concerned, the sorts of questions only children ask. Very rarely, I had the satisfaction of knowing more than anyone expected.

But mostly, of course, I was aware only of my own clumsy persistence. In seeking to overcome Bilo Kasi's prohibition, I went one step further: I set out to exploit the tensions that divided the community. Direct confrontation with Kasi's authority was impossible, and if I was ever tempted to speak ill of her, I thought better of it. To do so would certainly have caused people to close ranks against so obvious an outsider. There remained the possibility of collusion: I could engineer for potential prohibition-evaders a situation of credible denial.

Strangely enough, I was not entirely unhappy with this development. They found them too simple to be fully 38 Struggle human. My best informants were not at all the most gullible. Nor were they necessarily motivated by petty malice. As on other topics, some of my most reliable sources were the irrepressible old ladies who made up Kasi's own peer group, and with whom she enjoyed such easy relationships.

They, after all, were the least likely of anyone in the longhouse to be intimidated by her, and they were ready to make up their own minds about what I should know and not know. One even volunteered to come down to the coast with me, where we could sit in a hotel room and play the tapes. What did she care, she asked, if the songs killed people down there?

This possibility excited me for a while, but there were practical problems: how long was it reasonable to expect her to stay in that alien environment, and could I afford hotel prices? In the event, the project was vetoed by the woman's family, who wanted to know what would happen if the songs killed her. It is considered a great misfortune to die a long way from home, because corpses more than a few hours old cannot be brought into the longhouse, and are therefore denied proper funerals.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all these alarms and excursions, a general picture of the death songs was emerging. On the opening night of the festival, the ancestors were summoned en masse to the longhouse, initiating a season of dramatic liminal confusion, at once empowering and dangerous. Eight or ten nights later, the dead and the living were carefully disentangled. The former, with their new recruit, were sung back to the land of the dead, while the souls of the living were called home again, one by one, to make sure they had not left with the ancestors.

On the intervening nights, songs could be chosen in more or less any order from a vast repertoire, including ones borrowed from neighboring communities and sung in different languages. Others again recounted myths, somewhat like the epic songs that Kasi sometimes sang to entertain people in the evenings, but, once again, reserved for death rituals. I had come to terms with what I could and could not achieve.

But I had not reckoned with Tama Usang Weng, husband of the shaman whose plans to revive her skills and throw a spiritual barrier around Long Teru had been so abruptly terminated by Kasi. Tama Usang was, after Kasi, the most important singer of the death songs. It stood level with the veranda directly in front of the room of the headman, with whom I maintained formal residence. It looked like one of the storage sheds under the line of trees by the riverside, but enabled me to have my own cooking arrangements and not be a drain on the headman's stores.

It had been necessary because Long Teru was an old house, and crowded, with no spare rooms. Meanwhile status considerations made the headman unwilling to have me build on either end. Only newcomers would do that, poor immigrants from other communities, and the Figure 4 Oppis Pita. The longhouse is behind, with its steeply pitched shingle roof. The stairs at right lead up to the apartment of the headman. Photograph by Michael Melai Usang. Struggle 41 headman was reluctant to set me in that light. The back of the longhouse was reserved for kitchens, and that left only one option.

From my point of view, it was a good compromise. I had a pleasant view of the river on one side, so I could see who was coming and going, and on the other a panorama of anything going on on the veranda. At night a glance told me who was sitting up late to socialize or watch a shaman in action. This was odd behavior, but I had become accustomed to Tama Usang's idiosyncrasies and sudden enthusiasms. He sat me down next to him in the darkest part of the room, and began to whisper in my ear. He had decided that since I planned to leave soon, the time had come to tell me all about the death songs.

I had been looking forward to a nap, but this was too good an opportunity to miss. For hours through the heat of the day, cooped up in my airless room, Tama Usang talked on and on, barely allowing any interruptions, and I scribbled away. The longhouse slumbered, then roused itself to late afternoon tasks, and then bathing in the river, and then cooking the evening meal, and still Tama Usang talked on in his cracked whisper. Finally, at about eight in the evening, he decided that he was done, and demanded a drink for his pains. I was glad enough to give it and sat back to contemplate my amazing and exhausting day.

But it was not over yet. Having downed a couple of stiff drinks, Tama Usang made me collect my notes and trail off with him to the room of Bilo Kasi. She received us with stiff formality, while Tama Usang called her bluff. He did not want anyone saying that he had got it wrong or told lies, so now Kasi would hear me through 42 Struggle and say whether it was right or not.

And that is what she did, smiling thinly whenever I looked up from my notes. Only a couple of times did she interrupt to correct a small point while I stumbled along, prompted by Tama Usang. It was the early hours of the morning before it was done. Kasi had been outmaneuvered, and not by me. Unfortunately, however, the journalists are in the right of it. There is no escaping the fact that in English the terms are virtually synonymous.

What is unsettling about this is that informers act by betraying the weak to the strong. Rightly so in my opinion. Though, indeed, the creatures swarm there'' Informers swarmed in nineteenth-century Ireland because there was constant resistance to a deeply resented colonial regime, and they were despised because 44 Power poverty made treachery so fatally attractive.