Laycock for the fourth
so i’m posting about Laycock again*, the fourth time actually, and somehow i think not the last. i finally ordered the book at the end of july; they said three weeks, but it hadn’t yet arrived in the store when i checked by today. they said they would text me when it arrived, “by the end of the months” – not much time, guys, that’s monday. i hope to have it, and have it read, by the time i visit my sang again, and i will certainly post a critical review of it here.
coincidentally yesterday also saw the publication of another interview with Laycock. i continue to be impressed by the lucid style of his writing, and really hope that will also be present in the book.
as i was also in chat, we talked a little bit about what the book might or might not bring. one thing which was regretted was that Laycock totally avoids the ontological question (or at least that is the very strong impression one gets). i’m not sure that is a bad thing; he is concentrating on that which he knows how to do – ethnography – and leaving aside that which he can’t say anything about, which is both the metaphysical and the biological aspects of vampirism. on the other hand, to really understand vampirism one would have to include those two aspects.
a possible analogy is gender and sex. if we write about gender we can write an awful lot about the social construction of gender, about identity politics, can do anthropological and ethnographic work, psychological studies. but sooner or later we are going to be confronted by biology. and for all that it was popular (for a while) to say that it was all social construction, that the only difference was gender, and sex was negligible, we’ve had to accept that biological sex is complicated and powerful and can not be dismissed. not only that, if we presume that it’s simple, or use ideologically tainted ideas of sex, our work on gender will be falsified and corrupted. consequently, we either have to very carefully delineate what we can write about – and stay conscious of that during our whole writing – or we have to study medicine and biology in some detail as well.**
when it comes to vampirism, we have that problem writ large. we have an identity of vampire, but then we have sanguinarian blood-drinking and the strong claim by many sangs that it is a physical, biological need. this issue would be open research – if vampirism were taken seriously by the medical community. even more intractable are the metaphysical questions about psi-feeding – we currently don’t have any scientific tools with which to examine the question, and are left with mystical or religious explanations.
with a masters in theological studies Laycock ought to be very aware of how far he can take the ethnographic approach, and where he has to admit that he doesn’t have the tools to talk about things. it is one of the most important lessons one learns when studying religion scientifically.
so yeah, i’m hopeful that the book will be good at what it’s supposed to be, i.e. vampire community and vampire identity, and will carefully acknowledge the questions it can’t deal with. and i promise that this is my last major post about Laycock’s book until i’ve read it.
*for those who don’t remember or are new to my blog/the vampire community, Joseph Laycock wrote “Vampires Today: the truth about modern vampirism“, an ethnographic study about real vampires. i’ve mentioned him in at least three previous posts.
**the same problem presents itself to people studying sex instead of gender, they too come to a point where they have to include gender in their studies.