Ted Ownby on Subduing Satan, 25 Years Later

The sources were my friends, and I took pleasure in going into archives and looking at papers without a great deal of preparation. The mentalités scholarship allowed me to think about what it might have meant when diaries said virtually the same things except on Sundays, or when diarists listed the numbers of ducks they killed, or when they wrote at length about circus visits, or when young women wrote, night after night, “Did my work today,” and meant they sewed, darned, or knitted. Sources were often surprising. I had never heard of ring and lance tournaments before they appeared in some letters. An otherwise frustrating trip to Savannah yielded the diary of a teenager who worried about the ramifications of making fudge on Sunday. I certainly recall finding a letter at the Southern Historical Collection in which a young man bragged about having sex with a young woman in a buggy after Sunday night services. And sources taught me things I then needed to analyze, like the self-conscious modernity of county fair organizers or the decline in church disciplinary proceedings or the practice of town women staying away from town squares when rural men invaded on court days and Saturdays.

Notes from the Field: Miguel La Serna Returns to Ayacucho

Miguel La Serna, author of The Corner of the Living, recently returned to his research communities in Peru to donate a copy of his published work to local archives. Here, he shares his field notes from that experience, including some sobering updates on his community collaborators.

Excerpt: The Corner of the Living, by Miguel La Serna

In many ways, my initial trip to Chuschi reflects the challenges of doing historical anthropology about the late twentieth century. […] the very people about whom I had been reading—and forming opinions—in the archives were still living. Even in cases where the historical actors had passed away, their children and neighbors still lived. As such, I had to deal with something I never anticipated: the feelings of my archival subjects.