Professors, Performing Monkeys and the Off-Grid Green Myth - Part 1

| 3/21/2012 11:17:18 AM

We recently had a professor come to visit us.

Professor and Canada Research Chair Phillip Vannini is doing research on people who live off grid. He is an “ethnographer.” 

According to Wikipedia “Ethnography is a qualitative research method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group.” Our daughter Katie is an anthropologist and she was quite excited about his visit. She described ethnographers as researchers who get right out to observe people and ethnic groups. That sounded good, not sitting in an ivory tower but getting out there and mixing it up “with the people.”

He and his graduate student/research assistant Jonathan arrived on a Sunday evening in time for dinner. We enjoyed getting to know both of them over a bowl of homemade tomato soup while Michelle put the finishing touches on two big pizzas. After dinner, we sat around drinking tea and eating home baked blueberry cake while we covered a wide range of topics.

It felt kind of like we were research subjects and he was examining us under a big microscope. Apparently he wanted to see what strange behaviors the “off-grid” species engages in. How do they forage for food? How do they build their nests and homes? How do they reproduce? (Okay, maybe not quite that far…)

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