Since one thing
is to try to understand works and activities by using the available intellectual
tools produced by the social sciences for their own use, another is to try
to understand these same works and activities in their relation to the interpreter.
In the former case interpretation is open to discussion according to the
rules of argumentation. It can be decided wether a proposal is true or false
insofar as it is strictly validated or not by the data. A ritual such as
wedding, a technique such as that of lighting the first fire in the alps,
a system of property transfer by inheritance are correctly interpreted when
the theoretical logic proposed and its language account for the totality
of the collected data. The truth thus obtained by validation is a high truth,
but it remains restricted by the perspective in which it has been established.
I have proceeded to this work of interpretation by following the lines of
thought of what is commonly called structural anthropology and semiotics.
In the latter case the work of interpretation consists of describing the
works and activities such as they appear to the individual who starts to
decipher them in situation. A proposal of interpretation is then to be considered
in its relation to the position of the interpreter. And the interpretation
of the whole is to refer to the succession of these positions, i.e. to the
very history of the field investigation. It is what I did here following
what could be called a reflexive anthropology and an hermeneutics.
the ethnologist validating an interpretation with two informants.