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Anthropologist-baiting

by Lye Tuck-Po

18 September 2023

The anthropologist won this round. Kuala Yong, February 2010, with Sarik, Bateyu, and Cipyɛp.
The anthropologist won this round. Kuala Yong, February 2010, with Sarik, Bateyu, and Cipyɛp.

This game is called anthropologist-baiting. It is much enjoyed by Batek children, and is played whenever the anthropologist in residence produces a camera. This game may have its roots in 1990s fieldwork, but persists to this day possibly due to inter-generational transfer of knowledge.

A boy running away from the camera, trying to hide behind his mother, Taŋuy (February 2017)
A boy running away from the camera, trying to hide behind his mother, Taŋuy (February 2017)
The rule is that the player must appear in the anthropologist’s field of vision, then dash away before the anthropologist is able to lift the camera. It is desirable to shift the position of the body so that only a posterior or a portion of neck is within camera range.
Variations include running behind a parent, a tree, or a built structure, and allowing a portion of the ear, knee, or elbow to be photographed. Not all players achieve this level of expertise. Failure often leads to giggles and, less often, temper tantrums.
The anthropologist may initiate the game by scowling meaningfully at the children. Eye contact is the signal to begin play, following the established script.
The game begins with a simple dash-and-disappear by the children, and concludes with the anthropologist turning round and round panning the children with the camera.
This game is best played by a young anthropologist. Older anthropologists might feel a sudden need for emergency knee surgery.

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