Feedback from Prof. Michael Jackson

‘ It lifts my spirits, knowing that anthropology is moving in such novel and thrilling directions, transgressing or dismissing old borderlines, trying out new forms of direct experience, and looking for new ways of reporting on those experiences.’ (Michael Jackson. 2014)

It was really special to get such positive feedback from Professor Michael Jackson. I have found his many books hugely inspiring over the years. His preamble in Minima Ethnographica on intersubjectivity is, for me, one of the most powerful justifications for putting relationship  at the heart of  research. I also think the concept is incredibly useful to understanding the social impacts and challenges of contact improvisation. I had the opportunity to meet him for the first time after a keynote he gave in Basel, Switzerland on the 31st October, 2014 at the SEG-SSE Annual Conference entitled  Social Anthropology and Global Transformations where he gave a powerful presentation with vivid stories from his fieldwork. A month later I felt a strong urge to communicate that with him by email. I was very touched that he watched ‘Five Ways In’ the very next day and shared his feedback (see below). He drew some connections with my research in Tonga, which has opened some very interesting areas of future exploration.
I would like to share our email conversation:

From: Mike Poltorak
Date: Monday, December 15, 2014
To: “Jackson, Michael D.
Subject: Keynote in Basel-Thank You…
Dear Michael,
I wanted to thank you again for an inspiring Keynote in Basel and for the opportunity to chat and learn more about your work.  I have found your writing incredibly inspiring over the years. It heavily informed my doctoral research in Tonga more than 15 years ago, though I was not able to deliver on the initial phenomenological promise because of the nature of language use in Tonga.
I use your preamble in Minima Ethnografica as the key text in teaching visual anthropology and have also explored the resonances between your framing of different kinds of inter-subjectivity in my research and involvement in the movement/dance form of Contact Improvisation, which I feel gives unique experiential insights of your framing and which I am currently exploring. I think there are wonderful ways in which visual anthropology can deliver, if carried out with collaboration and co-creation, some of the experiential insights and framings you argue for.I can imagine how busy you are but I thought you might be interested in my recent project for that reason. My work has resonances with what the Sensory Ethnography Lab in your institution is doing, but I push my work more into spaces of collaboration and co-creation and the use of feedback. I feel, and will be arguing  that the dance form of CI give unique opportunities to explore intersubjectivity experientially.Here is the research website and a link to the film:
This is a small token of gratitude for all the inspiration you have given my students and I over the years.
Kind regards,

From: Jackson, Michael D.
Sent: 16 December 2014 17:46

Dear Mike,
I’ve spent a good part of this morning watching the contact improv film and reading your account of efficacious healing in Tonga.  Time very well spent!  I’ve some personal experience of contact improv, which came out of my training in Iyengar yoga and Tai Kwan Do, and felt very much at home in the Freiburg setting (incidentally, I was in Freiburg last month interviewing a German graphic artist as part of my new book on art and religion).  As for the Tonga piece, it’s impressive how well you bring together theoretical literature of models of healing and the ethnographic case you focus on, developing an edifying dialogue between issues in medical anthropological and real-life dilemmas and strategies that accompany life-threatening illness.  In every respect, you are realizing my more specifically literary goal of combining or juxtaposing (not integrating or assimilating) media that show/describe and media that comment/analyze/explain.  How can we have it both ways?  I love the way your work crosses between these two very different ways of exploring and responding to our embodiment, in sickness and in health.  It lifts my spirits, knowing that anthropology is moving in such novel and thrilling directions, transgressing or dismissing old borderlines, trying out new forms of direct experience, and looking for new ways of reporting on those experiences.
With many thanks for sharing your work and providing such excitement to my otherwise academically stuffy day!


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