Karla Poewe, My Apprenticeship: An Intellectual Journey, Calgary: Vogelstein Press (2018).
By Mike Jones
When we think of academic subjects such as anthropology we may remember some of the textbooks we had to read in university. We may also remember late night efforts to sort through the information they contained trying to understand what we were being taught. What we often forgot to do was give some thought to the people who gathered, sorted and typed out this information. What were their stories? What did they experience while studying and gathering data about the people around them?
In writing My Apprenticeship Karla Poewe tells her story of living in Zambia and studying the residents of several rural villages. She describes the preparation leading into her journey and proceeds to take us through the encounters and experiences she had along the way. While we journey with her we read some of her diary and letters to family and colleagues. We can also read observations made at different times in her ensuing life and career.
My Apprenticeship is lived history that takes us beneath and beyond the page of a textbook. It takes us beyond the classroom and plunks us down on a hot, dusty road in rural Africa. The sentence that brings this all into focus for me is when Karla writes, “The field is not the ordered universe of the academy.” (p.150) It’s often difficult to appreciate our random and chaotic world while sitting in a classroom. Through Karla’s observations and insights we catch a glimpse of the sheer effort people go through to help us learn more about our world and even ourselves.
Karla Poewe has a writing style that is interesting, accessible and informative. She is both clear about what is happening around her and what she is thinking at the time it is happening. My Apprenticeship has an extremely wide potential audience. I would recommend it to students and instructors in almost any academic subject. I know it would have been a helpful contribution to the two internships I had to pass through on my way to graduation as an ordained minister. I would commend it to anyone reading a book or journal article and wondering about the person behind the page.