We're a tribe!

Finn Tschudi (finn.tschudi@psykologi.uio.no)
Wed, 08 May 1996 15:11:54 +0000

Just a brief terminological note. I strongly dislike not only the notion of
'cult' (calling to mind Jonestown etc.), but equally Lindsay Oates
'corporation' (IBM, General Motors etc.) Why not use the term 'tribe'
which as far as I remember Don Campbell first introduced for me in his
analysis of various scientific communities. 'Tribe' seems to me to have
several advantages. It is nowadays (we're all in some respects
'indigenous') not necessarily pejorative, yet it retains some ironic
flavour. Put otherwise it readily calls to mind that there may be goings on
in a given tribe which is not strictly amenable to a rational analysis
(whatever animal that may turn out to be), but it encourages us to give a
compassionate analysis of otherwise strange happenings.

To my mind the most interesting aspect of 'tribe' is that it also connotes
issues of identity. You (more or less) get some measure of identity from
belonging to a tribe. When I tell about my affiliations to colleagues from
different fields, I refer to myself as a card-carrying member of the Kellyan
tribe. I have noticed that other tribal members differ as to whether they
have membership in multiple tribes, extent of loyalty, extent of
acknowledging (respecting/ ignoring/ fighting) neighboring tribes etc.

As to the prime topic here - how does our tribe deal with an outsider, and
what can we learn from this - I'll return to this topic later since I happen
to know Bill Chambers quite well, having been his guest for several weeks
back in 1988.

I then made several notes especially on the coordinate grid which I will dig
forth when there is a day or two without pressing duties. Meanwhile it
could be interesting to think about =7Fpersons in other fields who to some
have been misunderstood geniuses to others enfant terribles or just
crackpots. A local example easily coming to mind is Wilhelm Reich who still
has a strong standing in Norway. A possible moral is that our
constructivistic heritage should encourage us to shun either/or thinking,
but there is also the problem of keeping the tribe intact.. And keeping
several perspectives in mind at the same time may be quite a strain. (I
could recount several illustrative, concrete episodes with Bill, but will
not burden the list with this, rather here state that persons who happen to
have a strong interest in background material can write to me directly.)

Finn Tschudi
University of Oslo