Direct and inverse relationships - Math Central
The relationship between two variables is a direct relationship if when one increases so does the other or as one decreases so does the other. The radius of a. He pleads for a new kind of medical morals, and holds that pessimism or the sense that the found in civilized man “in direct proportion to the learned notions or to the sensations of art accumulated in his brain, and in inverse proportion to the. 3 Correlation and Causation; 4 Quantitative and Qualitative; 5 Objective vs. Unlike the physical sciences, sociology (and other social sciences, like anthropology) also often seek .. A correlation can be positive/direct or negative/ inverse.
The peer review process is not always successful, but has been very widely adopted by the scientific community. The reproducibility or replication of quantitative scientific observations, while usually described as being very important in a scientific method, is actually seldom reported, and is in reality often not done.
Referees and editors often reject papers purporting only to reproduce some observations as being unoriginal and not containing anything new.
Occasionally reports of a failure to reproduce results are published - mostly in cases where controversy exists or a suspicion of fraud develops. The threat of failure to replicate by others as well as the ongoing qualitative enterprise designed to explore the veracity of quantitative findings in non-controlled settingshowever, serves as a very effective deterrent for most quantitative scientists, who will usually replicate their own data several times before attempting to publish.
Sometimes useful observations or phenomena themselves cannot be reproduced in fact, this is almost always the case in qualitative science spanning physical and social science disciplines. They may be rare, or even unique events. Reproducibility of quantitative observations and replication of experiments is not a guarantee that they are correct or properly understood.
Errors can all too often creep into more than one laboratory or pattern of interpretation mathematical or qualitative utilized by scientists.
Correlation and Causation[ edit ] This diagram illustrates the difference between correlation and causation, as ice cream consumption is correlated with crime, but both are dependent on temperature. Thus, the correlation between ice cream consumption and crime is spurious. In the scientific pursuit of quantitative prediction and explanation, two relationships between variables are often confused: While these terms are rarely used in qualitative science, they lie at the heart of quantitative methods, and thus constitute a cornerstone of scientific practice.
Correlation refers to a relationship between two or more variables in which they change together. A positive correlation means that as one variable increases e. A negative correlation is just the opposite; as one variable increases e. Causation refers to a relationship between two or more variables where one variable causes the other.
In order for a variable to cause another, it must meet the following three criteria: Ice cream consumption is positively correlated with incidents of crime.
Employing the quantitative method outlined above, the reader should immediately question this relationship and attempt to discover an explanation. It is at this point that a simple yet noteworthy phrase should be introduced: If you look back at the three criteria of causation above, you will notice that the relationship between ice cream consumption and crime meets only one of the three criteria they change together.
The real explanation of this relationship is the introduction of a third variable: Ice cream consumption and crime increase during the summer months.
Thus, while these two variables are correlated, ice cream consumption does not cause crime or vice versa. Both variables increase due to the increasing temperatures during the summer months.
It is often the case that correlations between variables are found but the relationship turns out to be spurious. Clearly understanding the relationship between variables is an important element of the quantitative scientific process.
Quantitative and Qualitative[ edit ] Like the distinction drawn between positivist sociology and Verstehen sociology, there is - as noted above in the elaboration of general scientific methods - often a distinction drawn between two types of sociological investigation: For instance, social class, following the quantitative approach, can be divided into different groups - upper- middle- and lower-class - and can be measured using any of a number of variables or a combination thereof: Quantitative sociologists also utilize mathematical models capable of organizing social experiences into a rational order that may provide a necessary foundation for more in depth analyses of the natural world importantly, this element of quantitative research often provides the initial or potential insights that guide much theoretical and qualitative analyses of patterns observed - numerically or otherwise - beyond the confines of mathematical models.
Quantitative sociologists tend to use specific methods of data collection and hypothesis testing, including: Further, quantitative sociologists typically believe in the possibility of scientifically demonstrating causation, and typically utilize analytic deduction e.
Finally, quantitative sociologists generally attempt to utilize mathematical realities e. Qualitative methods of sociological research tend to approach social phenomena from the Verstehen perspective.
Rather than attempting to measure or quantify reality via mathematical rules, qualitative sociologists explore variation in the natural world people may see, touch, and experience during their lives. As such, these methods are primarily used to a develop a deeper understanding of a particular phenomenon, b explore the accuracy or inaccuracy of mathematical models in the world people experience, c critique and question the existing assumptions and beliefs of both scientists and other social beings, and d refine measurements and controls used by quantitative scientists via insights gleaned from the experiences of actual people.
While qualitative methods may be used to propose or explore relationships between variables, these studies typically focus on explicating the realities people experience that lie at the heart or foundation of such relationships rather than focusing on the relationships themselves. Qualitatively oriented sociologists tend to employ different methods of data collection and analysis, including: Further, qualitative sociologists typically reject measurement or quantities essential to quantitative approaches and the notion or belief in causality e.
Finally, qualitative sociologists generally attempt to utilize natural realities e. While there are sociologists who employ and encourage the use of only one or the other method, many sociologists see benefits in combining the approaches. They view quantitative and qualitative approaches as complementary.
Results from one approach can fill gaps in the other approach. For example, quantitative methods could describe large or general patterns in society while qualitative approaches could help to explain how individuals understand those patterns. Similarly, qualitative patterns in society can reveal missing pieces in the mathematical models of quantitative research while quantitative patterns in society can guide more in-depth analysis of actual patterns in natural settings.
In fact, it is useful to note that many of the major advancements in social science have emerged in response to the combination of quantitative and qualitative techniques that collectively created a more systematic picture of probable and actual social conditions and experiences.
Subjective[ edit ] Sociologists, like all humans, have values, beliefs, and even pre-conceived notions of what they might find in doing their research.
Because sociologists are not immune to the desire to change the world, two approaches to sociological investigation have emerged. By far the most common is the objective approach advocated by Max Weber. Weber recognized that social scientists have opinions, but argued against the expression of non-professional or non-scientific opinions in the classroom.
Weber did argue that it was acceptable for social scientists to express their opinions outside of the classroom and advocated for social scientists to be involved in politics and other social activism. The objective approach to social science remains popular in sociological research and refereed journals because it refuses to engage social issues at the level of opinions and instead focuses intently on data and theories.
The objective approach is contrasted with the critical approach, which has its roots in Karl Marx's work on economic structures. Anyone familiar with Marxist theory will recognize that Marx went beyond describing society to advocating for change.
Marx disliked capitalism and his analysis of that economic system included the call for change. This approach to sociology is often referred to today as critical sociology see also action research. Some sociological journals focus on critical sociology and some sociological approaches are inherently critical e.
Building on these early insights, the rise of Feminist methods and theories in the 's ushered in an ongoing debate concerning critical versus objective realities. Drawing on early Feminist writings by social advocates including but not limited to Elizabeth Cady StantonAlice PaulIda Wells BarnettBetty Friedanand sociological theorists including but not limited to Dorothy SmithJoan Ackerand Patricia Yancey MartinFeminist sociologists critiqued "objective" traditions as unrealistic and unscientific in practice.
Specifically, they - along with critical theorists like Michel Foucaultbell hooksand Patricia Hill Collins - argued that since all science was conducted and all data was interpreted by human beings and all human beings have beliefs, values, and biases that they are often unaware of and that shape their perception of reality see The Social Construction of Realityobjectivity only existed within the beliefs and values of the people that claimed it.
Stated another way, since human beings are responsible for scientific knowledge despite the fact that human beings cannot be aware of all the potential biases, beliefs, and values they use to do their science, select their topics, construct measurements, and interpret data, "objective" or "value free" science are not possible.
Rather, these theorists argued that the "personal is political" e. Whether or not scientists explicitly invoke their personal opinions in their teaching and research, every decision scientists make will ultimately rely upon - and thus demonstrate to varying degrees - their subjective realities.
Some examples of the subjective basis of both "objective" and "critical" sociology may illustrate the point. First, we may examine the research process for both objective and critical sociologists while paying attention to the many decisions people must make to engage in any study from either perspective. The selection of a research topic this selection reveals something the author believes is important whether or not it is The selection of data this selection reveals data the author believes is reliable whether or not it is If the researcher decides to collect their own data, then they must: While they will have to do the final four items listed above, they must also: Trust that the data collection occurred properly Trust that the data was organized properly Trust that the questions were answered properly Trust that the sample is appropriate As you can see above, the research process itself is full of decisions that each researcher must make.
As a result, researchers themselves have no opportunity to conduct objective studies because doing research requires them to use their personal experiences and opinions whether these arise from personal life, the advice of the people that taught them research methods, or the books they have read that were ultimately subject to the same subjective processes throughout the process.
As a result, researchers can - as Feminists have long argued - attempt to be as objective as possible, but never actually hope to reach objectivity. This same problem arises in Weber's initial description of teaching. For someone to teach any course, for example, they must make a series of decisions including but not limited to: Deciding what subjects to cover within the overall course Deciding which readings to use to convey information Deciding what measures of learning will be used and what measures will be left out of the course Deciding what counts as an appropriate or inappropriate answer on any and all measures used in the course As a result, Weber's objectivity dissolves before the teacher ever enters the classroom.
Whether or not the teacher or researcher explicitly takes a political, religious, or social stance, he or she will ultimately demonstrate personal stances, beliefs, values, and biases implicitly throughout the course.
Although the recognition of all science as ultimately subjective to varying degrees is fairly well established at this point, the question of whether or not scientists should embrace this subjectivity remains an open one e. Further, there are many scientists in sociology and other sciences that still cling to beliefs about objectivity, and thus promote this belief political in and of itself in their teaching, research, and peer review.
As a result, the debate within the field continues without resolution, and will likely be an important part of scientific knowledge and scholarship for some time to come.
Ethics[ edit ] Ethical considerations are of particular importance to sociologists because of the subject of investigation - people. Because ethical considerations are of so much importance, sociologists adhere to a rigorous set of ethical guidelines.
The most important ethical consideration of sociological research is that participants in sociological investigation are not harmed. While exactly what this entails can vary from study to study, there are several universally recognized considerations.
For instance, research on children and youth always requires parental consent. Research on adults also requires informed consent and participants are never forced to participate. Confidentiality and anonymity are two additional practices that ensure the safety of participants when sensitive information is provided e.
To ensure the safety of participants, most universities maintain an institutional review board IRB that reviews studies that include human participants and ensures ethical rigor. It has not always been the case that scientists interested in studying humans have followed ethical principles in their research.
For example, we may want to know how the inflation rate has varied in the Canadian economy from We would choose an appropriate scale for the rate of inflation on the y vertical axis; and on the x horizontal axis show the ten years from to with on the left, and on the right. We would notice right away a trend. The trend in the inflation rate data is a decline, actually from a high of 5. We would see that there has been some increase in the inflation rate since its absolute low inbut not anything like the high.
And, if we did such graphs for each of the decades in Canada sincewe would see that the s were a unique decade in terms of inflation. No decade, except the s, shows any resemblance to the s.
We can then discuss the trends meaningfully, since we have ideas about the data over a major period of time. We can link the data with historical events such as government anti-inflation policies, and try to establish some connections. Other graphs are used to present a relationship between two variables, or in some instances, among more than two variables.
Consider the relationship between price of a good or service and quantity demanded. The two variables move in opposite directions, and therefore demonstrate a negative or indirect relationship. Aggregate demand, the relationship between the total quantity of goods and services demanded in the entire economy, and the price level, also exhibits this inverse or negative relationship.
If the price level based on the prices of a given base year rises, real GDP shrinks; while if the price level falls, real GDP increases. Further, the supply curve for many goods and services exhibits a positive or direct relationship. The supply curve shows that when prices are high, producers or service providers are prepared to provide more goods or services to the market; and when prices are low, service providers and producers are interested in providing fewer goods or services to the market.
The aggregate expenditure, or supply, curve for the entire Canadian economy the sum of consumption, investment, government expenditure and the calculation of exports minus imports also shows this positive or direct relationship. Construction of a Graph You will at times be asked to construct a graph, most likely on tests and exams.
You should always give close attention to creating an origin, the point 0, at which the axes start. Label the axes or number lines properly, so that the reader knows what you are trying to measure. Most of the graphs used in economics have, a horizontal number line or x-axis, with negative numbers on the left of the point of origin or 0, and positive numbers on the right of the origin.
Figure 2 presents a typical horizontal number line or x-axis. In economics graphs, you will also find a vertical number line or y-axis. Here numbers above the point of origin 0 will have a positive value; while numbers below 0 will have a negative value. Figure 3 demonstrates a typical vertical number line or y-axis. When constructing a graph, be careful in developing your scale, the difference between the numbers on the axes, and the relative numbers on each axis.
The scale needs to be graduated or drawn properly on both axes, meaning that the distance between units has to be identical on both, though the numbers represented on the lines may vary. You may want to use single digits, for example, on the y-axis, while using hundreds of billions on the x-axis. Using a misleading scale by squeezing or stretching the scale unfairly, rather than creating identical distances for spaces along the axes, and using a successive series of numbers will create an erroneous impression of relationship for your reader.
If you are asked to construct graphs, and to show a knowledge of graphing by choosing variables yourself, choose carefully what you decide to study.
Here is a good example of a difficulty to avoid. Could you, for example, show a graphical relationship between good looks and high intelligence? I don't think so. First of all, you would have a tough time quantifying good looks though some social science researchers have tried!
Intelligence is even harder to quantify, especially given the possible cultural bias to most of our exams and tests. Finally, I doubt if you could ever find a connection between the two variables; there may not be any. Choose variables that are quantifiable. Height and weight, caloric intake and weight, weight and blood pressure, are excellent personal examples. The supply and demand for oil in Canada, the Canadian interest rate and planned aggregate expenditure, and the Canadian inflation rate during the past forty years are all quantifiable economic variables.
You also need to understand how to plot sets of coordinate points on the plane of the graph in order to show relationships between two variables. One set of coordinates specify a point on the plane of a graph which is the space above the x-axis, and to the right of the y-axis. Roman Catholic, that's what she is! In moving his protagonist from country to town, Naipaul is able to describe urbanrural relationships in a way unavailable to the Niehoffs and Klass, since their studies were classic anthropological community studies.
As some of the aforegoing quotations have indicated, he is also much more concerned with ethnicity and the cultural complexity of a society like Trinidad than the anthropologists were. Both the Niehoffs and Klass admit not having studied inter-ethnic relations systematically; the Niehoffs rely heavily on written sources and statistics in their statements about blacks, while Klass virtually ignores their presence in the more or less immediate neighbourhood of his Indians.
Consider the following paragraph, which is one of many highly condensed ethnographic descriptions in Biswas. This tells us about the relationship between town and country, and between East Indian and black. The other tenants were all Negroes. Mr Biswas had never lived close to people of this race before, and their proximity added to the strangeness, the adventure of being in the city. They differed from country Negroes in accent, dress and manner.
Their food had strange meaty smells, and their lives appeared less organized. Children were disregarded and fed, it seemed, at random; punishments were frequent and brutal, without any of the ritual that accompanied floggings at Hanuman House.
Yet the children all had fine physiques, disfigured only by projecting navels, which were invariably uncovered: And unlike country children, who were timid, the city children were half beggars, half bullies. The butt of most of the jokes in the book, Mohun Biswas consistently fails to behave in a way acceptable to urban creole society, like Mr Jagabir of A Morning at the Office. Uncomfortably wedged between traditions, he is truly an uprooted and homeless person.
And despite his tragicomical appearance, Mr Biswas has been an object of identification for many Indo-Trinidadians up to the present; he was among the first to give their frustrations and confusions a powerful and sensitive verbal form. When my Indo-Trinidadian acquaintance Pete exclaims, in a desperate tone of voice, "My nerves are raw!
The novel thus has a part to play as an instance in the reflexive monitoring of social identity in Trinidad. The good-humoured satirical depiction of low-caste people, for example, is never completely absent from the novels written by the young Brahmin Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul up to the early s.
Author as anthropologist
In this regard, Biswas and other novels may be read as ethnographic source material, not as ethnographic evidence. One should also note the explicitly autobiographical character of Naipaul's work, which is absent from the more detached and ethnographically oriented writer Mittelholzer.
In later books, Naipaul cunningly analyses his own society and thereby himself by way of fictional accounts. It is not easy to say in which way these interpretations shed light on West Indian societies in particular, or if their appeal simply lies in their diagnosis of uprooted and homeless individuals everywhere. Some of his novels, notably The Mimic Men and Guerillascan be read as theoretical statements about West Indian society.
Intro to direct & inverse variation
They can to some extent be judged and argued against on such premisses, although it is notoriously difficult to tell where the storytelling stops and the analysis begins. In so far as such a reading seems viable, the border between fiction and anthropology becomes fuzzy: Biswas does not belong to this category of novels.
Any theoretical conclusions which may be drawn from a reading of this book would be those of the reader, not of the author. Unlike Klass's and Niehoffs's monographs it is unsystematic and contains no testable or tested hypotheses; it does not attempt to assess the representativity of the sample and does not purport to account for mechanisms of integration in the community. Although it was not the intention of the author, Biswas has been instrumental in the forging of a genuinely Indo-Trinidadian identity.
It has contributed to raising a certain historical consciousness, and in its time, it gave expression and articulation to hitherto muted concerns. The last novel to be considered was written with such aims consciously in mind. The model of the text: The Dragon Can't Dance Unlike the earlier authors considered, Earl Lovelace cannot be accused of involuntarily conveying details about his private life and personal perceptions.
Akin to some anthropological texts from the same period or somewhat laterhis novel is a thoroughly reflexive and self-conscious contribution to the definition of Trinidadian identity. The Dragon Can't Dance introduces the residents of a neighbourhood in Laventille, a lower working class area in eastern Port-of-Spain. Many archetypes of Trinidadian folklore are present in Lovelace's book, some of them feared and stereotyped personages.
There is the badjohn, a rough black fellow with strong macho ideals and dubious moral character; there is the unsuccessful calypsonian, a middle-aged songwriter with lofty ambitions; there is the unspeakably beautiful carnival princess every neighbourhood has one ; there is the romantic carnival maniac who spends every spare cent and every spare minute on his carnival preparations; there is the shy Indian who never feels at ease in the black neighbourhood, and so on.
The badjohn Fisheye, for example, eventually emerges as a reasonable and generous man hiding his admirable integrity behind a fearsome mask. Although he uses Trinidad English in a much less consistent way than his countryman Sam Selvon, Lovelace uses colloquialisms quite extensively outside of dialogues, clearly in a bid for authenticity and closeness to social reality. Listen to this description of the quarter, where Lovelace poetically mixes the language of the street with journalism and high prose: This is the hill, Calvary Hill, where the sun set on starvation and rise on potholed roads, thrones for stray dogs that you could play banjo on their rib bones, holding garbage piled high like a cathedral spire, sparkling with flies buzzing like torpedoes; and if you want to pass from your yard to the road you have to be a high-jumper to jump over the gutter full up with dirty water, and hold your nose.
Is noise whole day. Laughter is not laughter; it is a groan coming from the bosom of these houses no not houses, shacks that leap out of the red dirt and stone, thin like smoke, fragile like kite paper, balancing on their rickety pillars as broomsticks on the edge of a juggler's nose. In addition, it is sociologically interesting in that it depicts aspects of respectability and reputation as properties of the class structure, and exemplifies that ambiguous normative structure which Peter Wilson has spoken of as "crab antics", showing how social mobility can be incompatible with socially embedded values.
The text can in this way be read as an anthropological analysis. In the present reading, I shall concentrate on a different aspect of the book, stressing its place in Trinidadian public discourse. Political themes are present throughout Lovelace's book, and, like a good anthropologist, he depicts politics as a culturally constituted activity and adopts a view from below; from the perspective of the powerless, that is.
The humiliation and anger experienced by the proud macho members of steelbands forced to seek commercial sponsorship is a typical example of this. Seen from the context of the urban slum, it appears rational and morally sound that the bandsmen should break their contract with the sponsor.
The significance of the annual carnival to the slum residents is occasionally highlighted; this also sheds light on their social condition. Towards the end of the book, a radical political movement led by Fisheye the badjohn carries out an ambitious, but ultimately unsuccessful, plot against the state. Lovelace shows how the many political disappointments, the resentments and the wild hopes of the slum residents act as an explanatory background for their desperate political action.
After its appearance, this novel actually had the effect of directing popular sympathy towards the Laventille slum. Its author was also among the first to indicate that several of the semi-official national symbols of Trinidad the calypso, the steelband and the carnival were rooted in the urban lumpenproletariat.
A conclusion immanent in this insight is twofold: Second, it could remind the ruling class, or civil society, that a segment of their own people were in a desperate economic and social situation despite the oil boom, which peaked at the time of the novel's publication. All of these effects, which had to a greater or lesser extent been realized, were anticipated by the author.
A lecturer at the University of the West Indies and thus an academic, Lovelace struggles for his street credibility and has consciously searched for the appropriate language for describing the human condition in the backyards of Port-of-Spain.
In this, his novelistic project differs from most anthropological ones, which rather try to use a shared theoretical terminology for comparative purposes. His moral vocation, on the other hand, is comparable to that of many anthropologists working in similar environments: Indeed, such was exactly the project of Michael Lieber as well, an American anthropologist working among the black working-class of Port-of-Spain in the late s Lieber Lieber's ethnography is actually very similar to Lovelace's.
Like Braithwaite, Klass and the Niehoffs before him, Lieber distinguishes himself from the novelist through contextualizing the ongoing flow of life into an analytical framework which render his findings comparable and which can make them fit into a general theory of capitalism and state societies. In his analysis, he stresses in particular the dependent character of Trinidadian economic life and the class structure created by an individualistic ethos and a capitalist economic system. But so does Lovelace!
The main difference, a parallel reading of the two works suggests, seems to be that the novelist does not make his position explicit in the same way as a social scientist would have to. Instead, he lets the badjohn turn out as a political hero who intuitively and spontaneously rails against the corruption, injustice and cultural humiliation which has been such a profound concern to many Trinidadians since independence.
Lieber's monograph is not a typical work of anthropology. Indeed, he appropriates some of the techniques from imaginative writing in order to add colour, life and substance to his field of study. He presents detailed portraits of individuals and their activities, fitting them into a vaguely marxist analytical framework intermittently. As he himself explains: Providing biographical and stylistic vignettes such as those above may seem an unusual mode of presenting ethnographically derived information.
But I feel these scenes serve a purpose in conveying something of the concrete quality of flesh-and-blood lives. In attempting to illuminate patterns of social relations in a place such as Port-of-Spain, there is very little "system" or "structure" to speak of We have here a loose and unstructured society Both writers wish to describe the humiliation suffered by working-class black men due to their powerlessness. Lovelace undertakes this by inventing a political revolt directed against the sources for the humiliation, while Lieber explicitly defends them against accusations to the effect that they are losers without culture.
Readers may have noticed that I seemed to have been taking sides throughout this book, sneering at the Trinidadian bourgeoisie and its presumptions. The single inescapable fact about the Caribbean is oppression. And it is absolutely clear who have been the oppressors and who have been the oppressed. In this particular case, the distinction between fiction and anthropology seems a very fine one; the novelist has ambitions in the direction of sociological explanation, and the anthropologist has chosen a highly impressionistic form of presentation in order to retain some of the "flavour" of Port-of-Spain street life.
One main difference is that Lovelace's book is much more widely read than Lieber's and thus has had a more substantial direct impact on society. Another difference concerns the degree of explicitness concerning causal relationships. However, supposing that Lieber's marxist-derived explanations were to be discarded, his ethnographic descriptions of Port-of-Spain street life would not necessarily convey more information about Trinidadian society than Lovelace's book.
Does this mean that the most relevant difference between fiction and anthropology consists in the explanatory power of the latter? I shall now turn to a discussion of this and related issues, and will try out some general assumptions about the relationship between fiction and anthropology, seen from the perspective of the anthropologistethnographer.
Some implications The three major novels of Trinidad which have been discussed each exemplify one main way in which fiction can be useful as a source of insight into a society where one is also carrying out fieldwork. A Morning at the Office can be read as a series of ethnographic statements about ethnic relations at the micro-level in the yearwhen it was completed.
As a micro-sociological enterprise, it is complementary to Braithwaite's  study of institutional ethnicity in Trinidad, carried out during the same period. Mittelholzer's persons are probably no more fictional than the protagonists of many anthropological monographs, although the events they take part in were clearly invented. A novel like Mittelholzer's is only credible in so far as it conveys actual features of Trinidadian society.
Need we trust it? My own observations indicated both continuity and change in the codification of ethnicity and ethnic relations since aroundand Mittelholzer's book is consistent with other sources from that period.
Unlike A Morning at the Office, A House For Mr Biswas has itself become something of an icon in Trinidadian society and has contributed to shaping ideology and reflexivity in that society. It can be seen simultaneously as an ethnographic description of the East Indian community in the first half of this century and can in this way be a source of historical and ethnographic insightand as a description of Trinidadian society which has reflexively fed back into the society with which it deals.
Although many have never read the book, many have, and it continues to influence the way many individuals think about themselves and their society. The Dragon Can't Dance combines some of the virtues of the two other books and adds others. Set in the recent past, the book supplies the reader with hypotheses and prepares him or her for the experience of urban Trinidad, as well as bringing ethnographic details from social fields where the anthropologist may for various reasons not be able to take part.
In addition, the book is a self-conscious attempt to contribute to defining what and who is an authentic Trinidadian a contribution to nation-building and to the definition of national identity, and an explicit critique of the failure of the then ruling PNM party to help the poor. While A Morning at the Office is mainly an ethnographic statement and A House for Mr Biswas is part ethnography and part an aspect of Trinidadian society, The Dragon Can"t Dance is a contribution to public discourse in that country, as well as having some of the qualities of a sociological analysis.
What use can we then make of such novels? They cannot be used as plain ethnography, since they do not profess to represent the truth and since their relationship to social reality is ultimately uncertain. Besides, if they are to be exploited as ethnographic sources and not as evidencethe reader must be familiar with the society at the outset of the reading.
They cannot, therefore, replace the ethnographic footwork either. It therefore seems a paradox that some of the best anthropological writings extant on Trinidad are works of fiction cf. Melhuus, infra, for a Mexican parallel. In order to assess their validity, a reader must have first-hand experience of the society. Objectivist ethnography is presumably meaningful without such prior knowledge.
It may have been noted that the aesthetic and artistic qualities of the novels have scarcely been considered in this essay. At certain levels of reading, such qualities are irrelevant, and there are good reasons for not including aesthetic evaluations of texts in assessments of their ethnographic qualities.
Now Shakespeare is thought of as being no more typically English than Ibsen is typically Norwegian, and the main point about Cervantes is not that he was Spanish. His topic is no less than the human condition, while the others paint vivid scenes of urban Trinidad and leave the issues there at the particular, the local. It could be said, therefore, that the ethnographic value of a novel is independent of its aesthetic qualities. A poor novel may be just as interesting for its ethnographic raw material as a work of genius.
On the other hand, novels which embody hermeneutic critiques of their authors' societies contain statements which may be comparable to anthropological statements.
As these readings of three Trinidadian novels show, there are three levels of reading which are immediately relevant to ethnographic endeavour.
First, novels may serve as ethnographic sources and may to this effect rank with informants' statements. At this level, the author whether he is a Mittelholzer or a Naipaul more or less unwittingly reveals aspects of his society.
As Bakhtin and many others have reminded us, the author is a prisoner of his own time. The author, known through the novel, is here seen as the production of a society. Second, novels may be read as ethnographic descriptions; that is, the information conveyed may be taken more or less at its face value, as a kind of ethnographic documentation.
Third, some novels may profitably be read as theoretical anthropology. These books embody a cultural analysis and reflexive critique of the author's society. The most outstanding West Indian example known to me is Naipaul's The Mimic Men Naipaulwhich is a devastating and controversial diagnosis of the inhibiting doxic structures presumably guiding the uprooted Caribbean peoples in their lives.
The author's perspective here can sensibly be dealt with in a theoretical way, but it cannot be argued against in so far as the text is a novel. Novels also form part of reflexive socio-cultural reality and to this effect are part and parcel of that society within which they were written. Lovelace's novel, in particular, had the explicit aim of being read by many Trinidadians in order that it might contribute to the definition of Trinidadian national identity and politics.
In considering this aspect of fiction, we enter the sociology of literature, where texts are seen as the products of society and where the relevant readings of these texts will be those of the members of that society, not our own. Anthropological studies of societies where reading is widespread should not ignore the direct cultural and social effects of texts or of other forms of "cultural consumption", for that matter.