The astonishment of anthropology
If there is a piety in cultural anthropology it is the conviction that astonishment deserves to be a universal emotion. Astonishment and the assortment of feelings that it brings with it – surprise, curiosity, excitement, enthusiasm, sympathy – are probably the affects most distinctive of the anthropological response to the difference and strangeness of “others.” Anthropologists encounter witchcraft trials, suttee, ancestral spirit attack, fire walking, body mutilation, the dream time, and how do they react? With astonishment. While others respond with horror, outrage, condescension, or lack of interest, the anthropologists flip into their world-revising mood.