Daydreaming, intimacy, and the intersubjective third in fieldwork encounters in Syria

by John Borneman

In this article, I analyze three episodes of daydreaming and reverie by young Syrian men that were occasioned, in part, by the presence of the anthropologist in ethnographic encounters. Such daydreaming calls forth an “intersubjective third,” which privileges the experience of the interlocutor but is powerfully defined by the relationship of the roles of anthropologist and interlocutor. This construction opens a space in which both unconscious and conscious aspects of experience can be recontextualized, leading to a better understanding of interlocutors’ wishes and anxieties—in this article, for transgression of genealogical and gender orders, the excitement of Internet pornography, and seductions of the modern. I conclude by theorizing the specificity of the ethnographic encounter's relation to knowledge and the different commitments for the anthropologist in the encounter and for the psychoanalyst in a therapeutic session.