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Introduction

Anthropological Knowledge Making, the Reflexive Feedback Loop, and Conceptualizations of the Soul

Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard

In this introduction, we propose a new approach to anthropological knowledge making that would observe the ‘hyper-reflexive’ quality of ethnographic exchanges. We show that anthropological ideas infiltrate themselves into the discourse of native thinkers, even as native ideas regenerate anthropological theory. Our starting point is ‘animism’, a key concept of anthropological theory. We suggest that anthropologists and their interlocutors jointly reinvent animistic ideas through a process we describe as the ‘reflexive feedback loop’, in which abstract ideas about practice and belief are appropriated and recirculated by research participants. By way of conclusion, we reflect on how anthropologists and their collaborators ‘animate’ soul concepts through diverse forms of agency such as metamorphosis, doubling, autobiographical narrative, hidden jokes, and even technological animism.

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Ceasing Fire and Seizing Time

LA Gang Tours and the White Control of Mobility

Sarah Sharma and Armonds R. Towns

LA Gang Tours went on its inaugural ride through Los Angeles in 2010. Black and Latino former gang members from South Los Angeles lead the bus tours, sharing personal stories of gang life with mostly white tourists. A popular critique of the tour is that it facilitates a tourist gaze. However, we argue that to focus on the tourist gaze misses a more pressing opportunity to examine the production of whiteness. We shift the focus to consider the bus’s movement and the power it exerts in transforming the spatial and temporal dynamics of South Los Angeles. Based on participant observation, ethnographic interviews, and discourse analysis of materials surrounding the tours, we found that the tour lays the figurative foundations for gentrifi cation and reconfi rms a white control of mobility in the neighborhood. Th is white control of mobility extends beyond Los Angeles to impact the lives of people of color throughout the United States.

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Cristina Grasseni

In this article, skilled vision is presented as a capacity acquired in a community of practice that enables specific ways of knowing and acting in the world. The analysis of skilled vision is obtained through the ethnographic study of the artefacts and the routines that structure certain ecologies of practice. The example chosen is that of the skilled gaze of animal breeders, in particular of the children of dairy cow breeders who, by playing with relevant toys and emulating the adult world of cattle fairs and exhibitions, learn how to value certain criteria of animal beauty and to "discipline" their vision accordingly.

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Anupama Arora

This article examines the travel narratives of three Indian visitors to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Occupying a precarious space between spectacle and spectator at the World's Fair, these visitors returned the ethnographic gaze and instead offered cultural self-representation that co-existed with and contested the prevalent perceptions of India (and other non-Western peoples). In the process, their narratives both questioned the civilized/primitive dichotomy as well as disrupted the grand official narrative of Anglo-Saxon supremacy and progress celebrated at the exposition.

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Sex, Sleaze, Slaughter, and Salvation

Phoren Tourists and Slum Tours in Calcutta (India)

Atreyee Sen

This article explores the violence and voyeurism in viewing poverty in urban slums. By uncovering the social, economic, gendered, and racialized politics within a small-scale travel industry, I show how the latter cater to certain personal, sexual, and religious curiosities among a breed of travelers visiting developing countries. I did my ethnography in the slums of Calcutta, where travel entrepreneurs organized a range of discreet tours of ghettoes for white foreigners (primarily from Australia or the United States). These popular expeditions offered “sightings,” such as half-naked women bathing at water tanks, ritualistic animal sacrifice, and neighborhoods for prostitutes. While reinforcing stereotypes of the primitive other (as opposed to the exotic other), these secret tours allowed travelers to indulge in a range of emotions, from real life voyeurism to “showing gratitude to God for being civilized.” By emphasizing the ambivalences and contradictions in viewing and representing the other, this article argues further that the immoral and critical gaze of a small group of foreign tourists can affect the nature of morality and commercialism among large sections of the urban poor in India.