Anthropologist Will Give Talk Advocating Working Slowly

Apr 25, 2019

Dr. Paul Stoller

Organizations often privilege fast results from employees. So, making an argument for working slowly might seem counter-intuitive. But that's exactly what anthropologist Paul Stoller is doing.

He says we live in a fast-paced world. "And it doesn't give us enough time to take a deep breath, and think about, perhaps, what's important, or what is essential, or to think about the future. We don't have time to remember the past. And all of these kinds of issues have deep social implications," Stoller says.

Stoller has spent nearly forty years studying the Songhai people of Niger. He says he's gained valuable insight from going back year after year, rather than packaging his fieldwork into one or two years.

"One cannot learn about another society and its culture in one or two years. It takes a very long time, it takes a lot of maturation, and in the end, the insights that you glean from a slow pace of anthropology are much more profound than if you just go for one season, for example," Stoller says.

Stoller says his West African teacher kept saying, that's it for this year—you'll have to come back next year for more. He says that's because the Songhai people believe that the human mind develops over a lifetime, and it takes exactly that long to learn real wisdom. Stoller says Americans don't tend to place a premium on wisdom, but that perhaps we should. His talk is at 4:10 p.m. on Friday on the UW campus in Laramie.