TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  "Over There" Knowledge
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  10-30-2001 on 06:47 a.m.
Dear folks -

Another thing that I think many of us look for in the dealers we continue to deal with is a real, and credible knowledge of both the rugs of particular rug-producing areas and of the culture of countries and societies which usually, at best, most of us only visit, if that.

This is because for many of us, the attraction of oriental rugs and textiles moves beyond aesthetic beauty (although that is usally central) to the anthropological. Our rugs function, partly, as little "windows" on the cultures within which they were made.

A dealer is more attractive and useful to us, if he/she has such knowledge. Sometimes, this can come from scholarship and experience, as with a Kate Fitz Gibbon, but it is often also to some extent the result of a dealer's having been a native of the area in question. One Washington area, dealer to whom I have sometimes referred, to is treated by even the most experienced and scholarly local collectors and dealers here, as a knowledgeable resource on Persian weavings and Iranian culture and society, because he was born there and lived there until early adulthood. He knows that world from the inside.

I think this is also a dimension that shapes the attractiveness of dealers for us.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:"Over There" Knowledge
Author  :  Vincent Keers mailto:%20vkeers@worldonline.nl
Date  :  10-30-2001 on 11:41 a.m.
Dear John,

Never, never buy any wooden shoes from me.
But, maybe you're lucky.

Best regards,

Subject  :  Re:"Over There" Knowledge
Author  :  Jerry Silverman mailto:%20rug_books@silvrmn.com
Date  :  10-30-2001 on 02:41 p.m.
I think John's on to something here. It's the difference between first-hand and second-hand information. Any scholar worth his/her sheepskin will tell you that primary sources are preferable to secondary.

Evaluating the quality of the information is the tricky part. An unobservant or confused or mistaken primary source is unlikely to be a informative as a knowledgeable secondary one. Ego or "salesmanship" may also enter in. There's an Iranian rug dealer I've met who grew up, according to him, in the midst rug weavers. Show him any Persian rug, and like a wine expert who knows which side of the hill in which vinyard the grapes were grown he'll tell you not only which village but possibly which family wove it. His performance is highly convincing and, I assume, effective as a sales technique. Whether his opinion has any validity is another matter.

Still, certain questions can only be answered definitely by field research.


Subject  :  Re:"Over There" Knowledge
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  10-30-2001 on 04:37 p.m.
Dear folks -

Jerry's got hold of what I intended here.

[Vincent, I'm not talking about dishonest natives. Actually, I bought Jan Timmerman's collection of antique Dutch ice skates so I'm not on the market for shoes. (If you understand that piece of trivia, you're likely spending too much time on this site.)]

There's an "observer" perspective (that's usually "us") and there's a "verstehen" perspective (the "internal" understandings of the cultural native).

Both are valuable, but I notice that often things that appear to be significant, or relationships that appear to be discernible, from the observer perspective, turn out to be naive, real distortions and even laughable to cultural natives.

That's not to suggest that we shouldn't keep trying. Only that we should be slow to move to conclusion on the basis of things we gleen from our observer perspective.


R. John Howe

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