Edith Turner Interview Transcript - Learn and Teach
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Edith Turner Interview Transcript

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“The final Participant Observation; Cultural Anthropologist Confront Their Own Aging and Their Own Last Chapter of Life” 

Watch the interview here.

Edith Turner: And you are Dr. Philip Singer?
Dr. Singer: Philip Singer, Right.
Edith Turner: This is great to have Dr. Philip Singer here.
Dr. Singer: Well, thank you very much I appreciate that.
Edith Turner: I am Edith Turner, and MA from the University of Virginia, of all things on creative writing and also I have honorary degrees and have been working in anthropology since about 1940’s or 1944. When I was with my husband in Africa Central Africa in Zambia. And there already we had three children with us.
Dr. Singer: Right
Edith Turner: And the children with us they were the greatest assets and I was friends with the people they knew. As you might think I have children and I wasn’t likely to be a witch.
Dr. Singer (01:54): And you are 92 now?
Edith Turner: I am 92-years old now
Dr. Singer: And teaching?
Edith Turner (02:00): And teaching! And I feel I sort of got away with it somehow or other. Nobody has noticed if I have gone on teaching and I just do it. I keep on having the students wanting to come, too many in the classroom and I read their letters and then I can’t resist. And they come from of all places as Vietnam or South Korea. And they have strange names, and they look very very eastern and I think they are going to be very interesting. They all are and they are working hard. I asked, you’ll never believe, one student who's an architecture student, architecture.  And zoning into cities and I thought to myself, do you have to zone cities according to what type of people are going to live there? And I thought I don’t really like zoning very much, it smoucks of Fahrenheit 44…
Dr. Singer: I remember that, right.
Edith Turner: and you know he has recently died Ray Bradford, I didn’t mention this to the young man. So I said oh you’re very ambitious, I like that! See what happens in my class and I don’t think “what are you kids are doing in my class?”
Dr. Singer (03:45): So you know why I am here? I’m here… the title that I said and wrote to you in my email was “The Final Participant Observation; Cultural Anthropologist Confront Their Own Aging and Their Own Last Chapter of Life”.
Edith Turner: Absolutely, I have no other agenda whatsoever, but just that!
Dr. Singer (04:18): Right, I know that you were very concerned; you have written and spoken about the importance not just of studying the other, but of being the “Other”.
Edith Turner: That’s right, the practitioner
Dr. Singer: And right now, you are the “Other”.
Edith Turner (04:40): Yes, and I am a practitioner because I practice being 92.
Dr. Singer: Right.
Edith Turner: I can’t help it
Dr. Singer: And so how has anthropology influenced or has it influenced how you think about getting old and dying? Edith Turner (05:02): How has anthropology? I have from anthropology gotten a great love and hope for their curiosity and for their quite thorough investigation of its own field. They are always taking up and noticing other people is interest and critical and different opinions and type of fieldwork. One of the things I love the most about anthropology and it’s trying to keep to the great thing of doing actual fieldwork, to be there in the field personally. Now there is this problem about mutual or what you might call, computer-wise field work. And the department here of Anthropology were trying to be persuaded to take up computer classes on a huge scale and not have the students there physically you see. And every one of the members of the department signed saying they weren't going to do that. So I’m very proud that this sort of thing comes up now.
Dr. Singer (06:36): So at this point in your career and your life, as in mine, you are confronting the cultural reality of getting old and facing the inevitability of death.
Edith Turner: Oh quite so
Dr. Singer: How are you dealing with that as “Edie Turner anthropologist”?
Edith Turner (07:02): I think probably I’ll just figure out and have a fond memory of Edie, that would be quite nice. On the other hand, I might be cavorting around in the fields of heaven, like Alexander who wrote that popular book called Proof of Heaven.I met this guy too and went to his tour and backed him up. People do have experiences of this, I’m not sure everybody, every 100 percent deserves it or anything. I’m not quite sure all about that matter but I think, rather like the garden, being everyone gets it nice and in.
Dr. Singer: Talk to me a little bit about what you think about death?
Edith Turner: Define
Dr. Singer: Meaning?
Edith Turner (07:57): Oh yes that’s right. Ok. I wouldn't like it to be slow but I don’t mind it at all. I think it's possibly very interesting and the worst of it is really hard on people they will be crying around you or something, I wish they just wouldn’t.
Dr. Singer: Do you see death as the end of life?
Edith Turner: No, I can't
Dr. Singer: Tell me more
Edith Turner (08:32): Well I just don’t see I’m just going to stop the interesting of going around all kinds of places, of meetings and finding people and talking away. I just don’t imagine it and so if I can’t imagine it and I imagine all kinds of stuff. Well what I got, you know my imagination is working all the time and as far as I can see, because once the brain and body decays okay. But there is something that rather that says I’m very interested in what scientists says. The brain is such a beautifully complicated thing. It’s in itself consulting itself in every part of it all the time and it’s a marvelous kind of organ that could take in the great breadth of spiritual understanding, quite simply and what you call it run away with it as it were, you like now I got it and it’s alright. And the brain has that ordinary capacity as an interacting within itself organ and that it’s taking in all the world’s knowledge that it can get. And it’s also includes the knowledge of what they call anomalous unexplainable things that have happened which are actual matters of spiritual miracles in fact. That is not supposed to be able to happen.
Dr. Singer: So are you an atheist?
Edith Turner (10:43): I’m not sure, I’m not particularly interested in God who says women
aren’t allowed to be priests.
Dr. Singer: You saw what Pope Francis said? He said church is spending too much time with all that stuff.
Edith Turner (11:02): Absolutely I am just reading it here. What I could be interested in is, us not poking into where Pope Francis said so and so and so, but what his own impulses are doing now and who is doing those impulses. And it’s always something else outside and it’s obviously spirit, when you get an impulse to do something, suddenly.
Dr. Singer: Now when you say it’s “obviously spirit”, can you expand on that, what do you mean by “obviously spirit”?
Edith Turner (11:50):  Because anybody can consult in themselves such a fashion of say a mother who suddenly thinks my children, oh I got to go and immediately impulse suddenly comes like that. And she doesn’t know and she goes and saves their lives and so on or something like that. There are these impulses that come to one and have the idea. What is an idea? And the idea is that all our sciences are based on are the actual Archimedes. You know I got it, its realization, of course Archimedes is a good mathematician. And these are really spiritual moments and to try to define them out as against spiritual moments, it’s a futile endeavor because of the nature of our brains which can take in all that. And has the capacity, has what you might say have a faculty in there. Here we have our sight and so on and we have our brains and thinking and we have which isn’t, hearing isn’t a faculty right. You know the power of thought in ideas are more like a true faculty of any living or ancient of the beings we know because they exist out of sort of nowhere. They are miracles.
Dr. Singer: So in your work in field of anthropology, have you encountered spirits?
Edith Turner (14:22): Yes I think I have a story when I was in Africa. The second time after my husband died.  My friend John, children at that time and he went with me to Africa. And so in this ritual to cure a woman of heart… just cleansing her body and troubles and possibly dwelling in her of an old ancestor who wanted to get back to her and give her a mean time as a punishment for her ancestors, which is a rather nasty far-fetched kind of resentment isn’t it? Anyways they had a beautiful ritual and it’s an experiencing ritual in a book I have written. And then at the climax when we tried hard in a way, in our way, seen our kind of what you might call faith, as if it were our own, going along with it. Let’s have it, let’s have it! And we are all willing, we are all for it and singing very beautifully in a song. And it went (ehaya ehaya ehaya ehaya) Resonance of how the trees echoed you know. And it is almost an undetermined moment the thing sort of broke like a baby’s womb when it starts to open and the baby is born. It sort of the resistance broke. And we were all clapping and I saw with my own eyes this sort of round thing but so big, spherical. and it seemed to me like an “aeegh” to the Africans. And indeed it was just this fuzz ball of “egghh” I wouldn’t in the world put it in my finger anywhere near it. I knew it was bad. And the doctor had this on the woman’s back and he was wearing his protective medicines and he was taking it and he had gone and he had a little vaseline jar, which is the only thing he can get at the store, vaseline. And he popped the top off and then he had to feed this hamburger as he calls it, the jealous ancestor spirit.
Dr. Singer: How did he feed it?
Edith Turner (17:43): He got a little bit of corn meal and he got from a hunter a bit of blood. So he opened the jar and he sprinkled the corn meal on the top of the liquid in the jar and then on top of that, some of the blood and screwed the top on firmly. And you could take that with you hunting and you quickly for sure to get your game because it was a thing that was grabbing suddenly to get it.
Dr. Singer: Do you think that was a spirit manifestation or was it sleight of hand?
Edith Turner (18:30): It was, Victor thought it was a sleight of hand but I thought…
Dr. Singer: Your husband, he thought sleight of hand, Victor?
Edith Turner: He thought this in 1988.
Dr. Singer: He thought sleight of hand?
Edith Turner:  He thought sleight of hand but no, I didn’t. I was watching carefully. And then… both him and I really sort of felt the same thing and I know that evil had passed. It’s a thing you know.
Dr. Singer: How did you and Victor reconcile your different viewpoints, sleight of hand vs.spirit? Edith Turner (19:27):  I was whatever he said was interesting to me and he put that in his earlier lectures. He admired the medicine man for that, had a very great understanding of the crowd and the people. Yet he himself became a Catholic after having done all his social science work.
Dr. Singer:  He became a Catholic, he converted to Catholicism from… What was he before?
Edith Turner: He was an academic.
Dr. Singer: What was his religion?
Edith Turner: He was brought up in the… I think Presbyterian and he had not gone to church in don key’s years.
Dr. Singer: Why do you think he converted to Catholicism?
Edith Turner (20:31): I think it was because he… both he and I were pushed there ...to go in there and he was… and we just went into that church.
Dr. Singer: And, of course, you are a Catholic?
Edith Turner (21:03): I am actually what I see at the present as something I just do partly because I’m fascinated with the ritual and also that I think that nature itself as says that he doesn’t let people go just easily into complete sort of nothingness.
Dr. Singer: Nothingness?
Edith Turner (21:46): Nothingness yes. That everything is gathered up in its, its natural way including all the discussions, everything as a sort of what I’m trying to describe an idea in the mind…it’s a kind of knowledge that this is true and it keeps coming back to show itself every now and then. Have it ever happened to you that something like that has come to show itself later on?
Dr. Singer: Something has come to show itself later on…
Edith Turner: Have you never had any nice moments?
Dr. Singer: I have had many nice moments…
Edith Turner (22:49): Yes, but haven’t they come back sometime to show themselves? Do they come out of you know the average time when you get a lot of people so that are *** so that on the average you can have a good time. Somewhere average you can even make it average after it…so on and so forth. But you have an idea or maybe you don’t have an idea but these things seem to come back and they do come back. Or don’t you have that sense at all?  
Dr. Singer: Let me bring it back to what do you think will happen to you when you are dead?
Edith Turner: I don’t know the future; I think it’s going to change next minute.
Dr. Singer: So you have an open mind at this time?
Edith Turner (23:40): I have an expectation of a lot of hope and things. From this second onwards, yes. Always and a bit sort of “huh?” You know “huh?”
Dr. Singer: Are you afraid of death?
Edith Turner (23:57): I’m rather afraid of a sort of prolonged period of cruelty and what you might call anomie that nobody…they are doing everything just because they have to and so on. On the other hand, I know people who have been doing that and I am doing that now, at this moment. I have a certain sort of a certain kind of a strong will. I have a sort of will that, that with all the silly fuss and bother there might be. Or if I can imagine parts of my family who used to call me, they are not doing it now. All the world in a rather balance rather parlous state and so on. And I have a pretty good idea and I mean I did in the best sense of mind that it’s totally alright, it’s just alright. We look at the leaf that comes out, how does it know that it has got to be green? How does the dickens did that leaf know that it’s got to be green, colorful in it. And it is green and why should it be necessary for it to absorb human oxygen and stuff.
Dr. Singer: You have been critical of anthropology as not being able to enter into the spirit of the people, the group, the tribe, the individuals that they have been studying…
Edith Turner (26:06):  Well that does happen and that’s a concern and they have not just…Just the other day I was at a department gathering, (don’t go too often). And there was a man called Murkle, Larry Murkle. A psychiatrist in UVA hospital, I know him a little bit. And he had been up in West Virginia, where there are villages who have some rather kind of their own type of Baptist which are just their own particular style and he understood they were people who needed psychiatric help there. So he went there. And they sort of more or less, I gathered… weren’t courteous to him…He wasn’t able to as take away for treatments or suggest any treatments or anything like that. They didn’t like him very much. When I saw him the other day I said, Larry you know what you should have done? You should have gone to that little church and beat them to it and done that Baptist thing. He glared at me, “I couldn’t do that!” It’s their own kind of, some kind, of religion that tells them they can’t give themselves wholly to anything else. They are psychiatrists. Anyways I still got hopes for Larry maybe he will wake up at 3 am and think about it. Maybe I’m wrong you know, I haven’t tried that…people do this sort of thing.
Dr. Singer (28:27): So I’m trying to enter into you at this point and I’m trying to enter into your thinking, your feelings, your spirit. And I feel a-kin to you because I am 88, and because I am 88 and you are 92. I’m concerned about getting old and fragile, old and fragile and not able to take care of myself and I have made out a Living Will. Do you know what the Living Will is?
Edith Turner (29:19): Oh, I have got some time to think and I think I’m going to take back my
Living Will.
Dr. Singer: Take it back because?
Edith Turner: I think it was that some doctors saying they do not revival or something like that. I’m just not sure about that.
Dr. Singer: How do you feel about revival?
Edith Turner (29:32): I’m not sure that we are in the same *** revival or anything.
Dr. Singer: That’s what I said, but I don’t want to take it back…
Edith Turner: You want to end completely or whatever…
Dr. Singer: Because I don’t want to be dependent, I don’t want to be dependent on anyone,
including the people I love.
Edith Turner: Oh quite so, I know.
Edith Turner: I think that’s probably why I first made the doctors went through really that she should decide not someone else; I think it’s up to the doctor.
Dr. Singer (30:18): So do you want to have intervention if you are not able to eat and they put a tube down your mouth. Would you approve of that feeding by a tube?<Edith Turner: I don’t know of course. They want to play all sorts of games of theirs and it
pleases them they get a great kick out of their methods.
Dr. Singer (30:55): Even if they think: “Well your vital organs are too weak; we can keep you
alive by intervening with a feeding tube by intervening by putting an oxygen mask on you”. Are
you prepared to accept those things?
Edith Turner: I’m fascinated about what people think of that stuff and they have my interest in their thinking. I’m interested in their thinking... However they do it, they probably will do what they want at the end.
Dr. Singer: But that’s up to you…
Edith Turner (31:39): I’m not sure if I got a legal presence when I got a tube in my mouth or something. I have no idea or know laws about this.
Dr. Singer: That’s why there is what they call a Health Care Proxy. You give to somebody else, children or friend or anyone…
Edith Turner: But I have no idea…I’m not in the present mood to go and find a proxy and all that, excuse me B-U-L-L-S-H-I-T
Dr. Singer: Bullshit?
Edith Turner: Yes, quite so.
Dr. Singer: Right, and its bullshit because? Why is it bullshit?
Edith Turner: Because is just another lot of fussing.
Dr. Singer: On me and on you?
Edith Turner (32:26): You can do what you like, go ahead and try everything if you feel like
keeping somebody alive. Have your experiments and all the rest of it. And have a good time
fellows.
Dr. Singer: On me…?
Edith Turner: On you. Or whether you personally dear Philip… If you explicitly would stop me from doing that I would have to get some papers out and say I hereby exonerate Phil from any of this and from all that sort of bullshit.
Dr. Singer (33:05): Let’s go back to your experiences in anthropology. How has your experience in the field, in witnessing spirits and entering into the culture as profoundly as you can, how has that influenced how you think now about these things of dying?
Edith Turner: All together, yes absolutely. And I’m wondering about their understanding of ancestors and so on, I’m fascinated, and a man died of tuberculosis and so on… And I know all the people felt… I know all the people felt as I did feel sorry for the dear poor old man he was totally weakened. He had TB and died in front of us. There is a sort of… there is a dear and sad sense going around. I love to see that sympathy, I just love it, their sympathy so and of
course which is the same old b.s
Dr. Singer (34:25): BS. Now you said in some of your writings or an interview with Montero I believe. That you enjoy the Catholic ritual…
Edith Turner: I’m sorry with who?
Dr. Singer: Montero, he did a long interview with you.
Edith Turner: Montero, who is that?
Dr. Singer: Uh… Roy Montero? Anyway it was a long interview with you
Edith Turner: What was it called? I have forgotten the name…You got that?
Dr. Singer: I don’t remember now, I will look it up.
Edith Turner: How long ago? About 10 years?
Dr. Singer: About 10 years, in which you said you enjoy the Catholic ritual and you take
communion.
Edith Turner (35:07): Yes I do take communion, I enjoy it, yes. 
Dr. Singer: Now when you take communion do you take it in the belief that it is truly trans
-substantiation. That it is truly the flesh and the blood of Jesus? Do you believe that?
Edith Turner: Yes, I believe that. And I know. This whole thing is in process itself and those moments. At that moment and all of the rest part of the actual process of divinity and the whole of the creation. Creation is going on at this moment somewhere and how can it help it, it’s in how the way its set up for that it’s extraordinary.
Dr. Singer: How do you feel about becoming disabled? Unable to feed yourself…
Edith Turner (36:21): Well so be it. If they can’t afford it then I don’t know what they do actually but whatever they do okay they do. It’s not hospice or anything. I don’t know, you tell
me what they do? You are pinned down and you can’t move a limb and they are pouring stuff into you to keep you alive. So you know all about that, you told me about it…and okay if they want to do that sort of thing then do that stuff, that’s how time goes on.
Dr. Singer (37:07): And that’s ok with you because? It’s okay that they can do that to you, why?
Because you think that there is something new that will go on that you will discover? Why is it
okay for them to do that to you?
Edith Turner (37:26): Well that’s quite a good thing that you just said. They are going to go on and discover new things, and they are going to do it. If you think strongly enough, if any person thinks strongly enough that they shouldn’t have to do that because it’s a waste of time or
whatever reason. It is also a waste of important funding for better courses and so on. Okay you
can go on thinking it…
Dr. Singer (37:58): I am fascinated by what appears to be your sense of, do what you want to
me, I’m interested in what you are going to do to me. Is that true?
Edith Turner: Oh I’m interested in partly as a sort of experience as you might say…
Dr. Singer: An experience in which you are not capable of appreciating because your mind is
gone.
Edith Turner: Oh you mean I’m not experiencing?
Dr. Singer (38:43): Well if experiencing means you have to have an intact mind and your
situation is that your mind is not intact, but your organs are continuing to function…
Edith Turner: So you don’t think that this thing about mind and the brain is able to get a faculty
for spiritual things?
Dr. Singer:  I don’t know.
Edith Turner (39:05): You see, and I don’t know anything for certain like that but this is
a…there is some might say a kind of premise possibly it is the case, possibly it isn’t. But I have a
sense of this as lots of cases.
Dr. Singer: And you’re willing to go on…
Edith Turner (39:27): Willing to go on as long as there is the least bullshit as possible that’s all.
Dr. Singer: So what constitutes bullshit?
Edith Turner: Fuss you know and people going: Oh god what are we going to do. Oh we don’t
have enough money. Oh, it’s all too sad, It is so terribly sad and so on. And she wouldn’t of liked
it or she would have liked it. We don’t know of course and she’s a very difficult character and
we know that you better leave her alone. And I think they better leave me alone, they just better
just go around their business quietly the way they want.
(Granddaughter Comes in the room/ joins conversation) (40:12)
Edith Turner (40:23): This is my granddaughter
Dr. Singer: Is she living with you?
Edith Turner: Yes, down in the basement.
Dr. Singer: Is she also studying anthropology?
Edith Turner: Absolutely, she is just about to get her PhD.
Dr. Singer: Really? With field work? Or she’s going out now?      
Edith Turner: You try and guess where.     
Dr. Singer: Africa?
Edith Turner: No.
Dr. Singer: America?
Edith Turner: No.
Dr. Singer: Uhh…I give up
Edith Turner: Iran
Dr. Singer: Really?!
Edith Turner: Yes!
Dr. Singer: And does she speak Farsi?
Edith Turner: Yes.
Dr. Singer: What gave her that interest?
Edith Turner: The women and families
Dr. Singer: Can we have her join the conversation? if she wishes?
Edith Turner: I’m sure she will like to.
Dr. Singer (41:27): I understand that you are getting your PhD in anthropology?
Turner’s Granddaughter: Yea I am.
Dr. Singer: Would you just sit alongside your grandmother
Turner’s Granddaughter: Wait, who are you?
Dr. Singer (41:40): I am a anthropologist, 88 years old…
Turner’s Granddaughter (42:09): She can’t actually you know stop those things she is living in a body that is maybe older but her spirit is just fundamentally young and she wants with all her vigor and human capacity to be and do everything that she can…Still every moment. It’s kind of a war between her desire to go out and just you know run around and talk to people and meet all kinds of different people. Her slowing down of her actual body to do that and now she is literally…she literally lost a hand but it will come back. So yes she is alive, she is more alive than most people.
Dr. Singer (42:58): In your contact with your peer group, younger anthropologist getting their
PhD’s. Do you find they have that sense of adventure that we are talking about?
Turner’s Granddaughter (43:11): I do, I think that going… it’s something that motivates people in anthropology. I mean why else would you go to a field where you are going to have to go somewhere for a long period of time, somewhere new, but you will develop all these new skills. And I think that my peers really and that’s something that definitely gets them on the plane.
Dr. Singer: There is something that becomes old…it still exists in us…
Edith Turner: Like Phil himself, he is old…
Dr. Singer (43:49): I mean I am 88 and we still want adventure
Turner’s Granddaughter: You personally get adventure now?
Dr. Singer: By being interested in people like Edie
Turner’s Granddaughter (44:08): Yeah. I think I mean, life can be the normative life of a person say America, seems to me because I have been brought up in this family but…seems to me pretty mundane you know.  I want to go and… like you, I want to go and always be or at
least every now and then, be going and doing something where I’m not sure what is going to happen and I am meeting a lot of new people…I like that sense.
Dr. Singer: Have you ever talked with Edie about getting old and dying?
Turner’s Granddaughter: Have we?
Edith Turner (44:50): I don’t think so. I think we sort of take it for granted that it will be quite a scene but I think it isn’t too much of a hereby… it’s not too much of a weeping scene and all kind of fuss and balls. And I would say not too much bullshit.
Turner’s Granddaughter: I think it will be a scene. We talk about scenes that Carthwick Drive.
Dr. Singer: Scenes of?
Turner’s Granddaughter (45:13): The road we are on is called Carthwick Drive so we talk about amazing scenes of Carthwick Drive whenever you know something dramatic happens. And I’m sure at the end there will be very shortly amazing scenes at Carthwick Drive. So we can be sure of that.
Dr. Singer: What do you think about what Edie said to me: “Well if I lapsed into a coma and they stick a feeding tube down me and an air tube, let them do whatever they want because I’m curious even though I’m not aware, I am curious about what it’s going to happen to me.” Is that a fair statement?
Turner’s Granddaughter (45:55): Well as far as I know she doesn’t want to be like brutally manhandled and resuscitated in the last moments of her life. Right?
Edith Turner: Apparently the doctor…he got this thing saying: don’t resuscitate her or something.
Dr. Singer: But I gathered from Edie that she is still curious enough so that she may want to be
resuscitated…
Turner’s Granddaughter: I don’t think that …that’s the case. I think that she wants to. I think she is curious all the way up the last second but she doesn’t want to have pain inflicted on her to come back. A lot a lot of pain inflicted… Right...We should talk aboutthis
Edith Turner (46:38): I don’t think I would be bothered to go to the doctors and rescind what we have there, which is a not resuscitate one. I don’t think I could be bothered to change that to something different.
Turner’s Granddaughter: But would you like to?
Edith Turner: Not particularly…that’s another lot of bullshit you see…And I am not that interested in ins and outs of it. In a ways, sort of people possibly knows best… I don’t know…
Turner’s Granddaughter: Do you want to go on living whatever? Or do you want to end peacefully?
Edith Turner (47:33): Whatever people think best…
Turner’s Granddaughter: But what do you think is best?
Edith Turner: I have no idea I haven’t been taught what to think about people
Turner’s Granddaughter: Well, we all have to talk about it…
Edith Turner: Let’s go on… talking and talking.
Turner’s Granddaughter: I think some of this stuff sometimes is a hard issue for us because she wants to go on and be young and adventurous. And just certain things are happening will make that really hard. I don’t know the driving force in Edie is greater and more powerful than anything… so I don’t know what will happen but I know that we have to make it as amazing as possible. “An amazing scene”. It’s a hard issue this is a really difficult issue for me.
Dr. Singer (48:38): And I was interested in how does anthropology influence how we think
about that?
Turner’s Granddaughter: Yeah. Well I read a book in ethnography on hospitals and hospices… And that has influenced on how I think about it. It talks about end of life care, some anthropologist had actually researched.
Dr. Singer: Do you remember who it was?
Turner’s Granddaughter: I probably have it downstairs…
Edith Turner: What was the conclusion?
Turner’s Granddaughter (49:09): Well the conclusion was that you know it makes a lot more sense to not aggravate someone in the end in a hospital setting… where you could potentially just know that they are dying except that people have got to come to accept death. One of their conclusions was that people in the United States don’t really accept death, they are afraid to talk
about death.
Edith Turner: So did they go on to do that?
Turner’s Granddaughter: They ought to talk about it and accept as a part of life and talk about what’s going to happen…
Edith Turner: Oh that’s right, that’s right. That’s a right conclusion…
Dr. Singer: In my interviews with anthropologists the prevailing attitude seems to be… “When it comes I will face it, I don’t need to talk about it or think about it”. When it comes just like when I go into the field whatever comes, comes and I will face it. And if death in its various forms comes, I will face it at that time; I don’t have to think about it. It’s another form of participant observation.
Edith Turner: I like that, don’t you?
Dr. Singer: I do. That’s what I call being juvenile and adolescent.
Turner’s Granddaughter: Yeah.
Dr. Singer: Well, I thank you very much for coming in and joining in.
Turner’s Granddaughter:  Yeah, no problem!
Dr. Singer: Is there anything Edie that you would like to add in terms of what we have been discussing which is how or whether anthropology has influenced how you think about getting old and dying? Any thoughts you want to share?
Edith Turner: Oh I personally am tremendously grateful to them all. They deserve everything as I have said in one place for all their patient and accurate and careful field work they have done all over the world in so many, many years. It’s absolutely great patience and great privileges and I dearly thank them and respect them for all that. And we are lucky to have, I would say, real people, people field workers.
Dr. Singer: Do you have any final thoughts about your own aging and your own imminent death? I hope not…but…
Edith Turner: I think I have said this and it’s whatever, whatever. And I don’t suppose I will be so retentive as I expect to be because I won’t be there in much of a brain. But on the other hand the brain does many things and I am always interested and if anybody is out there just say hello a little bit louder and I will probably hear them!
Dr. Singer: (Ha-ha), alright thank you very much.



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