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Catherine Prendergast

This article reports on the multi-year collaboration between the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) at the University of Illinois and the University's Rhetoric Program, a required first-year writing course. I argue that this collaboration was successful in large part because the goals of writing programmes in American higher education settings – teaching the process of research, inviting students to see themselves as producers of knowledge and fostering collaboration between peers – are highly consonant with principles of EUI. Indeed, my own history with EUI reflects the parallel commitment of Writing Studies and the methods and goals of EUI. I suggest that EUI can serve as a powerful model for universities if they seek to place undergraduate student research writing at the core of their mission.

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Donald H. Holly Jr.

For most people, travel writing is ethnography. Whereas few will ever read anything written by a professional anthropologist, travel literature is widely read and popular. Consequently, the public has come to trust journalists, travelers, and other writers for accurate information about indigenous peoples, Culture, and other subjects that have long been the purview of anthropologists. In this context, travel writing plays a critical role in how the public imagines and understands the Other. This article surveys common themes and popular representations of that ultimate Other—hunters and gatherers—as penned in twentieth and early twenty-first century travel literature. In particular, the article focuses on the trope of self-discovery, a literary device in which the author’s encounters with foraging peoples—often portrayed as remnants of the original human society—serve as a mirror in which the author reflects on their self, and writ large, modernity.

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Ghosts in the Head and Ghost Towns in the Field

Ethnography and the Experience of Presence and Absence

Jonathan Skinner

This article is about an anthropologist coming to terms with the field and fieldwork. In 1995, I left - was evacuated from - my fieldsite as a volcanic eruption started just as my period of fieldwork drew to a close. These eruptions dramatically and instantaneously altered life on the island of Montserrat, a British colony in the Caribbean. While Montserrat the land, and Montserratians the people, migrated and moved on with their lives, Montserrat and Montserratians were preserved in my mind and in my anthropological writings as from “back home.” Revisiting Montserrat several years into the volcano crisis, I drove through the villages and roads leading to the former capital of the island, where I had worked from. My route to this modern-day Pompeii threw up a stark contrast between absence and presence, the imagined past and the experienced present. This is understood, in part, by examining the literary work of two other travelers through Montserrat, Henry Coleridge and Pete McCarthy, both of whom have a very different experience of the place and the people.

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Misunderstood, misrepresented, contested?

Anthropological knowledge production in question

David Mosse

This article draws out some of the implications of the fact that what anthropologists claim to know, or want to say, is unavoidably and in complicated ways bound by the ethics of involvement, detachment, and institutional location. I will first consider the increasingly common practice of circulating the output of anthropological research within the social context of its fieldwork, among the various research participants and interlocutors. Second, I will try to account for the sometimes negative reception of ethnographic accounts, especially where the research has focused on organizations (e.g., NGOs), activists, or others professionally concerned with public representations of their work. Third, I will reconsider the notion of “speaking truth to power” by pointing to the unacknowledged power of ethnographic description. Finally, I will suggest that ethical concerns are generated as much by the theoretical framing of research as by fieldwork practice, and that these are matters of choice rather than inherent in the ethnographic method.

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Traveling Representations

Noa Noa, Manao Tupapau, and Gauguin’s Legacy in the Pacific

Heather Waldroup

Paul Gauguin has earned his place as one of the most significant artists of the European avant-garde. His works have also traveled to the postmodern Pacific, taking on roles outside his original artistic project. As an index of the tourist fantasy of Tahiti, adorning postcards and advertisements for cruise ships, Gauguin's paintings in a popular context underscore the intertwined histories of colonialism and exoticism. As a powerful symbol of imposed identities, they have also become one site of many for politicized response through the production of creative works by indigenous scholars, artists, and activists. The critical discourse on the artist, therefore, needs to shift: while continued art historical analysis of the artist's work is still needed, scholars should also account for the various sociopolitical arenas that Gauguin's work inhabits in the twenty-first century. Considering Gauguin's relationship to a variety of nineteenth-century vernacular productions, both written and visual, as well as the current popular reproduction of his works and appropriation by indigenous artists and writers, the language of photography and its role as material culture provides a rich model through which to re-examine his work. This essay argues that Gauguin's work and legacy are both productions of travel, and objects that have traveled to the present.

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The Suslov legacy

The story of one family's struggle with Shamanism

David G. Anderson and Nataliia A. Orekhova

This contribution consists of excerpts from the diary of a missionary-priest, preceded by an introduction to him and his descendants. Mikhail Suslov was a central figure in the Enisei Missionary Society in the late nineteenth century. He had a deep sympathy for the peoples with whom he came in contact, attempting to understand the shamanic world-view as well as to spread Orthodoxy. His son, also Mikhail, served a six-year apprenticeship with Evenki reindeer-herders before following in his father's footsteps. The third in the line, Innokentii Mikhailovich, became an early Bolshevik administrator, adopting an approach, recalling that of his grandfather to an earlier stage of modernisation. The excerpts from the diary evocatively describe the harsh conditions of the natural setting, the way of life of the native peoples, and aspects of their reception of Russian culture.

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Where Ethnographers Fear to Tread

The Counter-Influence of Ethnography on Christopher Kremmer's The Carpet Wars (2002) and Christina Lamb's The Sewing Circles of Herat (2002)

Corinne Fowler

Since travel writing predates ethnography, much research has centred on the influence of travel writing on ethnography (rather than the other way around). Ongoing debates over the crisis in anthropology mean that scholarly investigations of ethnography’s indebtedness to travel writing tend to be valued for their contribution to the crisis debate. Less attention has been paid to the question of counter-influence: the presence of ethnography in contemporary travel narratives about Afghanistan. My comparison of ethnographers’ and travellers’ accounts of Afghan games reveals that recent travel writing about Afghanistan relies heavily upon the long-established (and much maligned) textual practices, varieties of ethnography that have long since become outmoded and discredited. I hereby refer to pre-crisis modes of ethnography as ‘classical ethnographies’.1 Attending to the intertwining of travel writing and ethnography reveals the crucial relationship between travel writing about Afghanistan and the establishment of narrative authority to define and explain, in the words of Sir Alfred Lyall, ‘the unruly Afghan’ (quoted in Azoy 2003: 21), or to perpetuate what I shall describe as the ‘warlike Afghan’ thesis.

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Reflections on Fieldwork in Yemen

The Genealogy of a Diary in Response to Rabinow's Reflections of Fieldwork in Morocco

Daniel Martin Varisco

In preparation for writing an ethnographic monograph on fieldwork in Yemen, I compare and contrast my field diary, written in 1978–9, with Paul Rabinow’s Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco (1977). The underlying question is what post-fieldwork reflections reflect meaningfully about the immediacy of ethnographic fieldwork? I criticise the reflexivist trope of privileging ‘writing culture’ over the significance of ‘being there’ in the field. Point by point, I examine the implications of graduate training in anthropology, culture shock, health problems, language skills, the unreflective male voice, visual ethnography and the rhetoric of narrative writing.

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Animals, Plants, People, and Things

A Review of Multispecies Ethnography

Laura A. Ogden, Billy Hall and Kimiko Tanita

This article defines multispecies ethnography and links this scholarship to broader currents within academia, including in the biosciences, philosophy, political ecology, and animal welfare activism. The article is organized around a set of productive tensions identified in the review of the literature. It ends with a discussion of the “ethnographic” in multispecies ethnography, urging ethnographers to bring a “speculative wonder” to their mode of inquiry and writing.

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Marilyn Strathern

This is an exercise in the re-making of knowledge. Stimulated by certain recent writings on bodily activity, the author returns to a section of an earlier work (in The Gender of the Gi, Strathern 1988) that had felt incomplete at the time of writing, as well as to some ethnographic material from Melanesia that she thought she knew. The new context deflects attention away from some original preoccupations onto the manner in which two anthropologists and a philosopher ascribe agency to persons.