As a young trainee anthropologist, I left my bomb-ridden Mafia-run town, Youngstown, Ohio, to study an "exotic" group, the Paiute Indians of Nevada. This is 1964: I'll be "the expert" and they'll be "the subjects." The sedate Paiute elders have other ideas: they'll be the "parents." They set themselves two tasks: to help me get a good grade on my project so they won't be seen as Failed Indians, and to send me home quickly to my new bridegroom. They dismiss my research topic, and introduce me instead to their spirit creature, the outrageously mischievous rule-breaking trickster, Coyote.
Why do the Paiutes love Coyote? Why do Youngstown mill workers vote for Mafia candidates for municipal office? I begin to see that Tricksters help us understand how two very different groups, both oppressed, function in a hostile world.
Losing field notes, being suspected of murder, having to use a police car to do research, all that and more awaits me. Trickster goes behind the scenes to bring fieldwork and its participants to life. Would this happen today?
Well, times change, anthropology changes, but fieldwork doesn't - so welcome to Trickster.
You can read the first two chapters of Trickster, an anthropological memoir as a pdf document by clicking here.
You can purchase Trickster, an anthropological memoir by clicking here or going to any online bookseller.
(The painting on this page is by Marlin Thompson, Paiute Tribal Historian)
The image on the right is of Eileen Kane chatting with Michael D. Higgins TD, who was recently elected President of Ireland.