Home > Archive >Dangerous Ethnography
Wed, Jan 23rd, 2008 01:43:54 PM
Topic: Dangerous Ethnography

Relying on later 19th century and early 20th century ethnographic and other reports concerning the Turkmen and their weavings as a means to learn what was happening in earlier times is mostly fool's gold.

The Turkmen style of life was irreparably changed, in fact destroyed, by that time and placing any credence in the idea what was happening then also happened 50, 100, 200 or more years before is highly questionable and doubtful.

RK has written about this fallacy before, but it seems there are many who still doubt we are corect.

What happened to the south-west native American Indians (the Navajo particularly) provides a very worthwhile comparison to the Turkmen.

With the American Indians it is readily apparent how different their lifestyle and culture became immediately after conquest.

This same paradigm of conquest and change took place in Turkmenistan as well, but because of the geographic isolation, other socio-economic and political reasons knowing just exactly how the Turkmen were living and making carpets prior to the 19th century is pretty much guess-work.

Believing what writers at that time observed cannot possibly be extrapolated into explaining how the Turkmen were living in 1800, 1700 or 1600.

Perhaps, someday, someone will discover a concise and exactly written account of the Turkmen groups and especially their weavings.

Until then, trusting late 19th and 20th century ethnography of this area is nothing more than grasping at straws -- it provides absolutely no credibility.

That said, we are pretty positive aspects of their early lifestyles remained imbedded in their later societies but it is impossible to judge which aspects were recently devised/adopted and which others were inherited from their ancestors.

RK is very interested in this topic. Our next, and long in coming, exhibition for the Weaving Art Museum will examine Turkmen history as it was recorded by much earlier writers and historians.

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