When I think of Anna Lomax Wood, one word comes to my mind: empathy. Anna does not settle for her own comfort zone but chooses to view the world through the gaze of others. That’s what makes her a wonderful anthropologist, a successful director of ACE and a great successor to her father’s unique work. I could not feel anything less than grateful, since our interview with her reminded me why I became an anthropologist myself.
We were at the same space (at ACE, at Hunter College, in New York City) where Alan put both his visions and his recordings in order; we could see pictures of his fieldwork on the walls, listen to songs of his folkloric research, read some of his ethnography, and access parts of his archive.
When we entered the room where the interview was going to take place I saw Murdock’s Outline of World Cultures on a shelf. I smiled and Anna looked at me and said “Today’s anthropology is much too introverted. Ethnographers barely travel anymore”. And she is right: in a world where arts and humanities are underfunded, ethnography shifts its focus to everyday life, but ethnographers can barely travel to see the embodiment of everyday life.
I know that Alan’s methodology and work have been criticized a lot. “Alan aspired to capture authenticity in anthropological film making. Yes, there was a methodological complexity but how else could you do it?” Anna asked me. “I do not understand why people feel annoyed instead of finding ways to keep what really works and get rid of what doesn’t”. At that point, I felt that those words are words that motivate the researcher to understand what theory and methodology bring to the field. Instead of immediately rejecting an approach because it appears flawed, perhaps we should investigate what does work and discuss what does not. Her openness is what I believe is Anna’s most precious gift.