the global transplant community of surgeons and patient activists, the rumors are groundless, pernicious lies that need to be exposed, refuted, and killed.To the anthropologist, however, working closely with the urban poor, the rumors spoke to the ontological insecurity of people “to whom almost anything cold be done.” They reflected everyday threats to bodily security, urban violence, police terror, social anarchy, theft, loss and fragmentation. Many of the poor imagined, with some reason as it turns out, that autopsies were performed to harvest usable tissues and body parts from those whose bodies had reverted to the state: “Little people like ourselves are worth more dead than alive.” At the very least the rumors were “like the scriptures” metaphorically true, operating by means of symbolic substitution. The rumors express the existential and ontological insecurities of poor people living on the margins of the postcolonial global economies where their labor, their bodies, and their reproductive capacities are treated as spare parts to be bought, bartered, or stolen. Underlying the rumors was a real concern with a growing commodification of the body and of body parts in these global economic exchanges.
30How Can Fieldwork Strategies Be Useful even if I’m not a professional anthropologist going off to Brazil?You don’t have to go to Brazil to become an anthropologist or to use the skills of an anthropologist. Maybe you will be inspired by this book to explore a culture in another part of the world. Or maybe you will see how to apply these skills to your everyday life. In chapter 1 we suggested that you are already an anthropologist, working hard to try to understand the complicated human world around you and figure out how you fit into it. Whether it is your family, your workplace or your school, you have to understand the people there and the way they interact in order to succeed or even just to get along. Likewise, you already use many of the strategies, skills, perspectives and analyses of ethnographic fieldwork to navigate your daily journey through life. You participate and observe, establish rapport, listen, interview, gather life histories and map out family and social networks. If you keep a journal or diary you already have started taking fieldnotes about what you are learning about the people and cultures around you. And you are constantly assessing who has the power, how they got it and how they use it. The goal of this chapter has been to help you identify the tools you already use and to help you begin to apply them in a more systematic and self-conscious way.Anthropologist Brackette Williams suggests that fieldwork can also be a kind of “homework”, a strategy for gathering information you will need to make informed decisions to act morally in the world. What must be done and why? What are the consequences of doing it one way or another? Williams studied homelessness and begging in New York City and Tucson, Arizona, over a period of several years. She began with some very practical questions about if she should give money to homeless