FOLK ANTHROPOLOGY

Lakewood Ohio’s Visionary Alignment often finds its grip on the Observation Deck of the Lakewood Observer, the city’s all volunteer community newspaper. A thread there, unfolding since May 12, Race, Courage and the Future of Lakewood exemplifies the spirit of deep inquiry that is one of the core facets of this project.

The Visionary Alignment is about marshalling citizen-centric inquisitive resources for the sake of developing community understanding. When I was a part of the project close to its inception in 2005, I suggested that if a community implemented enough informal anthropological capability, its energetics would be transformed and, over time, the deep processes of relationship between and among residents, institutions would also change. A second supposition is: this would also alter the ecology of the city’s socio-cultural and economic and political economies.

This long discussion is extremely important and worth close attention. It is possible that Lakewood is among the very few communities in the US with the chutzpah and commitment and devotion to proceed to dialog openly and with a certain genius about some of the most difficult issues post-industrial suburbs are faced with today.

Back in 2005, we dreamed about how processes of inquiry could be designed and implemented by non-professional investigators. At the time, it seemed such a folk anthropology would require training investigators in how to make inquiries, document them, and interpret data without infecting any part of the process with too much pre-conceived prejudice, cognitive biases, and impulsive agendas. One thing we put on the table was the possibility that high school students could lead the effort.

This remains an excellent idea and I’m reminded how valuable a little bit of training in anthropological method and in social cognitive psychology could be.

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