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Empathie et culture du secret
Jason Throop sur l'île de Yap en Micronésie

Séminaire du 2 février 2017

C. Jason Throop,
Suffering and Sentiment.
Exploring the Vicissitudes of Experience and Pain in Yap
,
Berkeley, UCP, 2010.

Une ethnographie de l'expérience vécue de la douleur dans un contexte culturel façonné par le système local de parenté (Schneider 1984, cf. ci-dessous, est une référence fondamentale pour introduire le concept de compassion), par les savoirs traditionnels et par les règles locales de moralité.

Une approche postcoloniale — d'un romantisme contestable — où l'endurance dans sa propre douleur physique et l'empathie pour celle des autres qu'exprime publiquement l'ethnologue (par ses pleurs, p.38) lui servent d'introduction sur le terrain.

L'enquête est orientée par la question suivante: — Comment une personne donnée, dans la culture locale de l'île de Yap, peut-elle transformer une douleur (amiith) au départ passive, subie, inutile, en souffrance (gaafgow), c'est-à-dire en une expérience morale plus positive?

Je laisse de côté les développements spéculatifs sur le concept d'experience (en anglais) et l'ethnographie de la douleur, qui est d'une richesse exceptionnelle, en me limitant à la présentation de deux thèses particulières, qui nous intéressent dans notre séminaire du point de vue de l'anthropologie linguistique.


Localiser l'empathie à Yap
La dynamique entre souffrance et compassion

La thèse centrale de l'auteur est formulée pp.40–41, et elle porte sur les fondements (underpinnings) psychologiques et moraux du modèle indigène de structure sociale.

Significantly, the psychological and moral underpinnings /41/ of this model include the negotiation of relationships as mediated through a dynamic interplay of viscerally palpable experiences of suffering (gaafgow), endurance (athamagil), work-induced exhaustion (magaer), and compassion (runguy).

Magaer est la sensation ou le sentiment de fatigue, d'épuisement ou de burnout produits par un excès de travail, et Throop l'interprète comme un ajustement sensoriel (sensory attunement) à la situation, moralement configuré pour attirer la compassion des autres en démontrant les capacités d'endurance du sujet. Dans le cadre d'une moralité locale où la souffrance est une vertu:

(51) "My elder told me, suffering is good , it shows you humility, it shows you respect, it shows you compassion [runguy], it shows you care, it shows you helping and sharing, it places endurance [athamagil] within your mind. If you suffer, you discover how to work and you are given the strength and motivation needed to work effectively."

Se juchant sur les épaule d'un géant, comme le disait plaisamment Michel de Fornel au séminaire en présentant Suffering and Sentiment, Throop fait une lecture aussi perspicace qu'inattendue du chef d'œuvre de David Schhneider, A Critique of the Study of Kinship (1984), qui montrait la dynamique entre souffrance et compassion à l'œuvre sur Yap dans les échanges entre clans apparentés.

(56) It is out of the dynamic interplay of runguy and gaafgow, between compassion and suffering, that titles to land are thus transacted from one clan to another. While devoting no more than a quick paragraph to this crucial insight, Schneider did note that it is precisely " runguy that makes a citamengen [ father] care for his fak [child] , that holds together those who are hierarchically related" ( 1984, B). And, moreover, it is the dynamics of suffering and compassion that are held to be the qualities that propel exchange since it is "the motivating feature of the gift" (Schneider 1984, B). Accordingly, if any individual approaches another "saying, 'Ah gafago) ( ' I am destitute' ) then the other should have runguy) and help the destitute person, who will then be subordinated and owe an eventual return" (Schneider 1984, 34) .

Cette dynamique des sentiments entre souffrance et compassion ne motive pas seulement les échanges de terre entre clans apparentés et d'une génération à la suivante, mais aussi la commensalité et la transmission des savoirs — techniques de massage, remèdes, divination, magie, architecture, navigation. It is thus sentiment in the form of suffering and compassion that mediates the exchange of knowledge, foodstuffs, and land (57).


Une culture du secret
L'opacité concertée de l'interlocution

(141) In Yap, knowledge is understood to be largely a private possession. Knowledge is only shared with others when those others are deemed to have properly earned access to it through suffering, hard work, service, and care directed toward the possessor of the knowledge .

La connaissance, c'est une affaire privée. La grand-mère, qui possède le secret des plantes médicinales, ne donne pas la liste complète des cinq ingrédients du remède à sa petite-fille qui est venue la lui demander. Il faut que la petite en bave aussi avant d'accéder au savoir! Le grand-père avait prévenu sa petite-fille de cette culture du secret, et se moque d'elle pour la confiance naïve avec laquelle elle interrogeait sa grand-mère, avant de finalement lui livrer le nom du cinquième ingrédient.

(138) Buulyäl said that when she asked her grandfather for the medicine, he was puwaen ("justifiably angry"), although she did not say why. Instead of giving her the ingredients, he told her to go ask her aunt, since she also knew some of the family's medicines. He warned Buulyäl, however, that there was a possibility that her aunt would not give her the awochean ea falaay (the main active ingredient for the medicine). He told her that the medicine had five ingredients and that if she was not given five, her aunt was not providing her with the true formula. When Buulyäl left her grandfather she recalled being absolutely shocked that there was a chance that her beloved auntie would lie to her. She was all the more shocked, however, when later that day her aunt told her only four ingredients for the medicine. At the time, Buulyäl remembers asking her aunt if she was sure that there were only four ingredients, to which she replied that she was not sure, but that if there was another ingredient she had forgotten it. Buulyäl said that she could tell that her aunt was lying. When she returned to tell her grandfather what had transpired, he smiled, nodded, and said that she did not give her the awochean ea falaay. He then told her the fifth ingredient.

L'élève doit mériter l'accès aux connaissances les plus précieuses par son endurance et son dévouement.

(142) As Buulyäl's story attests, another good example of this personalized stance toward the possession of knowledge is found in the context of medicinal knowledge. While the most basic forms of medicinal knowledge are often widely shared within a family (e.g., the medicines used to stop bleeding from a small cut or scrape), more powerful medicines (e.g., used to treat wounds inflicted by a stingray [une raie armée]) are always very carefully guarded and kept secret by their possessors. A possessor of such knowledge will only share it once he or she has been able to determine that a given individual has sufficiently demonstrated through care, respect, and service, his or her deservedness for acquiring such knowledge.

Le rôle du secret dans la cueillette et la préparation des plantes pour les remèdes est étroitement lié à l'idée de la force (potency) du remède (144). La valorisation du secret dans la transmission du savoir explique les réticences souvent exprimées à inscrire le savoir dans des textes. On raconte toutes sortes d'anecdotes où quelqu'un se fait voler ses cahiers de recettes de médicaments. On dit que le seul lieu sûr to store such knowledge is in one's mind (144). Plus généralement, on doit cacher ses connaissances et ses émotions. Prevalence of indirect or "oblique" speech (146). On va dire l'inverse de ce qu'on pense:

(149) There is a practice that many of my teachers and friends labeled (using the English phrase) "talking in opposites." I was repeatedly reminded in the first few months of my fieldwork that I should always be careful not to take what individuals said to me at face value, since the people I would be speaking to would often "speak in opposites." That is, individuals would be likely to say "yes" when they meant "no." They would claim to be poor when they were in fact wealthy. Or they would proclaim that a particular presentation of gifts was worth very little when in fact it was quite valuable. As one friend explained to me, if you are looking for a person who has access to a specific type of medicinal knowledge, for instance, it is almost always the person who claims to know absolutely nothing about medicine who is most likely to have the knowledge in question.

On entretient l'opacité dans l'expression des pensées par l'emploi concerté de la tromperie et du mensonge, (150) an attempt to foster nontransparency between internal states and forms of expression is tied to outright deception or lying (baen). En fonction du contexte, on justifie moralement le mensonge, le sarcasme, et autres moyens d'entretenir l'incertitude dans la communication.

(153) Finally, paralinguistic aspects of speech are also often aligned with both implicit and explicit attempts to ensure uncertainty in the context of interaction. Eye gaze, body position, volume and tone of voice, are all means by which individuals attempt to conceal their "true" thoughts, feelings, and opinions from others.

Jason Throop décrit cette opacité concertée de l'interlocution dans toutes sortes de situations, avec une exceptionnelle richesse de détails précis et concrets.