Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

“Dare to Know” (Kant)

by • October 25th, 2008

This post distills a series of thoughts from reading three different texts: The Heroic Model of Science (Chapter 1, Telling the Truth about History by Appleby, Hunt & Jacob, 1991); The Talmud and the Internet by Jonathan Rosen (2000), and an Interview with Ilan Stavans by Richard Birnbaum (@ 2003).
Three threads are primary: language, interaction, and science. “Language” is engaged theoretically and in practice, particularly the practices of interpretation. Although the references in the three selected texts refer mainly to written translations, I extrapolate ‘down’ to in-the-moment generation of understanding in everyday talking with each other, based on cooperation or agreement between people about meaning. I also extrapolate ‘up’ – or at least ‘over’ – to the interlinguistic skills that are most obviously evident in simultaneous interpretation. As to interaction, there are numerous levels from the microsocial to the macrosocial and the temporal to the ephemeral. The history of science is significant because of its influence on how people in western countries learn.
Why these three texts, beyond the coincidence of reading them more-or-less at the same time? Appleby, Hunt & Jacob (hereafter AH&J) investigate “what sorts of political circumstances foster critical inquiry” (p. 9). They

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Breaking Role to Serve Justice

by • July 11th, 2008

“One could feel the moral fabric of society coming apart beneath it all.”

I will be interested to know how things unfold for Professor/Interpreter Eric Camayd-Freixas, “Immigrant of the Day“, for whistle-blowing on an oppressive criminal prosecution against agricultural migrant workers. My curiosity regards him as an individual, interpreting as a profession, and the complicated ways institutional meanings are made among persons interacting with each other through various languages.
“The questions they asked showed they did not understand what was going on,” Professor Camayd-Freixas said in an interview for the NYTimes. The video accompanying the printed text details some of the evidence by which the defendants (read, human beings) were denied voice.
The detailed disclosure by Professor Camayd-Freixis struck a chord with Helly, who describes “working within the Hong Kong legal system to achieve justice for domestic workers. Although there are legal processes in place that should protect migrants as well as citizens, in reality, the protection of the law is far weaker when applied to migrant populations.” This is also the case for the American Deaf Community (who are domestic citizens). Interviews (unpublished, 2005) with Turkish immigrants in Germany attest to a similar phenomenon, there. I am also

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Fadiman on interpreting

by • October 25th, 2007

“It is one thing to read in medical school that the ideal doctor-patient-interpreter ‘seating configuration’ is a right triangle, with the patient and interpreter forming the hypotenuse, and another to recollect the diagram in a roomful of gesticulating Hmong toward the end of a twenty-four-hour shift” (272). The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

Interpreters face similar dilemmas when they move from the training ground to the field of independent practice. 🙂

When a patient refused surgery for stomach cancer, “I had expected the resident to move heaven and earth to bring in a decent interpreter. instead, I found him in the Preceptor Library, his head bowed over four articles on poorly differentiated gastric adenocarcinoma” (273).

Interesting on several levels: that there was not an interpreter to begin with and/or that the point of crisis invokes the need/desire for interpreters. Also because we see Fadiman’s priority (communication with the patient) in contrast with the resident’s (learn more about this medical condition).

“At Harvard, all first-year students are required to take a course called “Patient-Doctor I” (significantly, not “Doctor-Patient I”) in which they learn to work with interpreters, study Kleinman’s eight questions, and ponder…conundrums…” (271)

Fadiman’s commentary is on the

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more of this

by • October 6th, 2007

In keeping with Kenneth Burke’s mission to purify war, the use of social science to shift problem-solving from violence to conversation is a welcome development.
Burke says, “language… [is] the ‘critical moment’ at which human motives take form” (from GM 318, in Kenneth Burke: Rhetoric, Subjectivity, Postmodernism by Robert Wess).
Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones, a feature story from the NYTimes, has demonstrated the “ability to understand subtle points of tribal relations,” enabling soldiers “to focus more on improving security, health care and education for the population.”
This kind of humanitarian army is the cooperation that our world needs. We must learn to eat with our enemies. Liberal leftists (I assume?) are criticizing the experimental military program for institutionalizing yet another way to coerce local peoples to accept occupation. My initial lean, however, is that the military does not “‘yet have the skill sets to implement’ a coherent nonmilitary strategy,” as explained by United Nations’ official Tom Gregg (download a Real Audio interview by CBC radio, June 2007). One of the critics, Roberto, J. González, might characterize himself as an empowered critic of western domination. He is of course correct that the military machines have

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follow-up on 11 Sept 1906

by • September 17th, 2006

This article, Mahatma Gandhi: A Century of Peaceful Protest complements and expands on the post I made on 9/11.
Chief Seattle was a leader of Gandhi’s type. This dirge for his people makes me cry. The paddle sweep: quote of the day (copied from a bumpersticker in Earthfoods) comes from a revised version written as fiction some years later.
Interestingly – having filled out a questionnaire for non-Muslims who might be interested in reading the Qu’ran earlier this morning – I’m not sure the “fictional” quote is out of context. I suppose this could be just because I’ve heard it in this form so often.

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Eyewitnesses at Nuremberg

by • November 17th, 2005

…doing an ordinary job in circumstances so extraordinary as to be unforgettable” ~ Hilary Gaskin, Eyewitnesses at Nuremberg (1990:178).
“There is no room for vengeance, there is no room for real justice in the world. You cannot revive the six million who were murdered; you cannot even do justice by reaching everybody who has committed a crime. What does that do? The thing to do is to learn what happened, and to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, ever.” (149-150)
“When the national government abdicates in time of crisis, and cedes its power and law-enforcement functions to organized mobs, then it is possible for Holocausts to occur, anywhere and at any time. It is all to do with the attitude that freedom can be taken instead of given.” (150)
Peter Uiberall, interpreter at Nuremberg

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Berdahl (again!)

by • July 14th, 2004

“[Informant] Thomas Speigal[‘s] warning about judging the past from the perspective of the present, about the simultaneous solidification of boundaries and blurring of distinctions between victims and perpetrators” (p. 217).
This quote continues her analysis of the commemoration parade, in a chapter she calls “Dis-membered Border”. This seems (to me, smile) to parallel my relational struggle – we are contesting who was/is “victim” and who was/is “perpetrator.” I see the ways in which both of us did both, AND my “20/20 hindsight” perceives the discursive evidence (what was said and what was not said) in much sharper relief than I heard at the time. I need to learn to hear/interpret differently (or at least with other possibilities in mind) and I think this is the crux of acting into a new discursive future when one recognizes a PM.
Berdahl’s work doesn’t ground the discursive “collision” in any specific microsocial instant of real interaction – she juxtaposes what people said in one context with what they say in another context. This is what I hope to do with the critical discourse analysis paper that I intend to write analysing the key new finding (a discovery!) from the workshop in

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