Dados vol. 27 n. 1 Rio de Janeiro 1984

Encontrando Taso, Me Descobrindo

Mintz, Sidney W.


The author presents a critical analysis of the origins and methodological implications of an original study of his, Worker in the Cane, based on the life history of Taso Zayas, a Puerto Rican rural worker. This was the first time that the method was used for the study not of primitive societies but of a society at the periphery of the Western capitalist world. The history of Taso and its social representativeness open the way for a wider debate concerning the object, the method and the scope of Anthropology as well as the limits of its possible objectivity. For this reason, the paper begins by evaluating the role of the informant in defining the anthropological method, following the discussion between Franz Boas and his disciples. One central theme of that discussion is the principle of estrangement, often taken for scientific objectivity. Such estrangement implies, among other things, the establishment of a distant and asymmetric relationship between the anthropologist and his informant such as the one that exists between teacher and student, father and son, psychoanalyst and patient - a principle that the author challenges. From this standpoint, the author reconstructs the origins of his study of Taso Zayas as well as his own motivations to undertake it. Critical book reviews serve as important material for evaluating the fieldwork, the relations between the anthropologist and the informant, and the different ways of analyzing the data collected.

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Encontrando Taso, Me Descobrindo