From my students: a few taboos and future visions of ethnology
I had my students for the course Critical Readings of Current Ethnological Research (in Finnish) take a group test where they had to reflect on their views about the discipline*. For example, they had to think of a subject that is too much a taboo to be a topic of ethnological research. The four groups came up with these titles:
The Other Kind of Sex Business: A Case Study about International Zoophilia on an American Farm
Yum-yum without Consent: Interacting with the Dead
The Couriers of Human Trafficking: Their Motives and Moral Views
"Hey, We are Tripping!": The Recreational Use of Acid
Obviously, sex derives all sorts of taboo around the world, especially when we are talking about the "proper" persons/objects/things to have sex with. To have sex with animals or the dead is a parade example of a sexual taboo - which is rarely taken up by researchers. Also, to study the motives and moral views of persons that are seen as morally corrupt is surely a risky business as the researcher might become labeled as "too understanding" of the people he/she studies. Lastly, the use of drugs surely attracts only problem-based research. This is very understandable as we know what kind of problem drug-use can be to a person and the society but surely many people manage with drugs without having a problem with it. But researchers rarely want to talk about it.
Finally, as a special (tongue-in-cheek) question my students had to vision what kind of topics of research the discipline might derive in the future or in the year 2060 to be exact. The students let loose and came up with these titles (one group making up two):
Granny Gangs: Violence as a Means of Participation
Feet on the Ground: People Born in a Space Colony Conceptualizing the Life on Earth through the Nostalgy Discourse of the Immigrant Generation
The Rise and Fall of Ethnology: The Uselesness of Hermeneutics in an Innovation Society
Experiencing Culture in a Mind Transferred into a Machine: Humanism and the Dawn of Transhumanism
My Father is a Robot: The Human Rights of Computers
Now everybody, it's your turn to let your imagination fly!
* In our university ethnology is strongly influenced by cultural anthropology and folklore studies.