1. Introduction Thesis
2. Introduction to Anthropology:
3. How does Abbey construct himself as an Anthropologist
◦ Separation from Humanity
▪ Include field notes from Dopefiends to compare to
4. What is his goal? How does it compare to real Anthropologists
◦ Disgust but observations target real issues
◦ Compare to Dopefiends goal for better treatment
◦ Blame shift: disgust with pete masks levitates responsibility of system (Doctors, cops, changing demographic of san fran)
5. Counter: Abbeys ending
◦ Why is he going back to humanity? Why wouldn't he stay in the desert?
◦ talk about Anthropologist who have become to involved with their work. Is this the same thing that is happening to Abbey?
◦ Dopefiends 12 yrs in the field
1. Edward Abbey’s novel “Desert Solitude” may just seem like a well put together polished journal that catalogues his time spent in Arches national park, but it is important to acknowledge Abbey wrote this book to serve a greater purpose. In the introduction to this novel Abbey reminds readers that although much of it is based on the time he spent in arches the desert of arches is a “medium” not the subject of the book. Abbey’s goal in desert of solitude is to take a step back and observe humanity and culture in relation to nature. To make himself seem credible Abbey composes himself to have desirable characteristics of a successful anthropologist. His novel is composed of both fictional and true events works to highlight the qualities that make him an anthropologist and omit the qualities that don’t. The final product when compared to an actual book of anthropology work in similar ways with culture to achieve a final conclusion. I will be putting in parallel “Desert Solitude” and a book I read for my pop-cluture class “Righteous Dopefiends.
Abbey constructs himself as an anthropologist both through spiritual separation and physical separation of himself from humanity. In the beginning of his book he says “
He also doesn’t talk about his family at all during his book even though he was a father. It seems like a large part of your life to exclude. The Abbey we know is totally disconnected from any past in humanity. This distance is admired in anthropologist. Anthropologists have to find the perfect balance of being close enough to observe the culture yet distant enough that you don’t disturb it or become to involved in it. These will hurt the credibility of the study because you could affect the culture or the culture could affect your objectivity. In “Righteous Dopefiends” the anthropologists described the struggle to stay both objective and the balance of involvement needed to properly observe the community. They say “At first, we felt overwhelmed, irritated, and even betrayed by the frequent and often manipulative requests for favors, spare change, and loans of money. We worried about distorting our relationships by becoming patrons and buying friendship to obtain our research data. At the same time, we had to participate in a moral economy to avoid being ostracized by the network…We had to learn, therefore, not to take their petty financial manipulations personally, and refrain from judging them morally. Otherwise, we could not have entered their lives respectfully and empathetically” (Bourgois and Schonberg 6). They talk about the relationship between them and the community. On one hand they had to make sure they didn’t disrupt or muddle their relationship as observer and observed, yet on the other they needed to partake in order to stay in the community and not be “ostracized”. The balance allows them to be objective and more open to the community. Abbey does some of the same things when describing the Cowboys and Indians. Abbey works as a rancher with the cowboy. He observes them and their lives yet he leaves little impact. He is able to observe the changes in them. Abbey states they are “dying off or transforming them selves by tortuous degrees into something quite different. The originals are nearly gone and will soon be lost forever in the overwhelming crowd” (Abby 111). He explains that cowboys have given in to the new “mechanized and automated”(109) food market. Although he is very opinionated on the subject it is clear he does not express this opinion to the actual cowboys when he fantasizes what became of them.
Edward Abbey continues to separate himself even more from culture and humanity through his spirituality. A good chunk of the book focuses on Abbey’s mysticism. He tends to mock the more traditional ideas of religion in his book in favor of something more natural.
Abbeys spiritual beliefs show a reluctance to identify with humanity. Although he admits he can not perfectly separate himself from humanity and become part of the desert it is not for lack of trying.
5. The ending of “Desert Solitude” comes as a bit of a surprise. In the last chapter Abbey admits he is leaving the desert and returning for New York.
Why would Abbey include this ending when he simply could have left it out or written a new one? After all his work to construct his credibility why would he ruin with this end? The ending destroys the boundary that is necessary between an anthropologist and their work. Edward Abbey might not be the perfect anthropologist, but his ending is not uncommon in the field of anthropology. Often the most passionate anthropologist get too involved in the culture they are studying.
hey I know this is a little messy but the highlighted parts are where I haven't put a quote in yet (I highlighted most of the ones I wanted to use, but haven't typed them up) or am thinking of changing the quote.