Anth 280: The edge of anthropology
How ethnographic writing responds to its subject
Anthropological writing is diverse and innovative in both style and subject. Although ethnography and fieldwork are terms that have become widely used in other disciplines, writers identifying themselves as anthropologists remain at the cutting edge of research-based accounts of social and cultural phenomena—both on the periphery of the modern world system and at the heart of it.
The course examines the range of genres and techniques of representation that anthropologists—and anthropologically-aware writers—have used to convey the lived experience of other cultures—and their own. It contrasts the different styles of description and analysis that have been applied to particular societies, examining the tension within the discipline between making cultures comprehensible, respecting their difference, and rendering them in a framework of theory. Finally, it considers the aesthetic problems and ethical controversies that arise from writing at the outer limits of academic discourse. Genres addressed in the course include classic field-based ethnographic monographs, travel narratives, historically-informed indigenous critiques of earlier ethnographies, reflexive accounts of the process of field work, journalistic reportage, and works of fiction. The course takes the form of close readings of outstanding examples of this wealth of research and writing, drawn mainly from accounts of societies in Africa and the Americas. These are set in context by representations in other media, visual and oral.
Texts to be discussed will be drawn from the following:
Bronislaw Malinowski A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term
Claude Lévi-Strauss Tristes Tropiques
Napoleon Chagnon The Yanomamo: The Fierce People
Jacques Lizot Tales of the Yanomami: Daily Life in the Venezuelan Forest
Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman
Ruth Landes The City of Women
Don Kulick Travestí
Michael Taussig My Cocaine Museum
Carlos Castaneda Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
Sharon Hutchinson Nuer Dilemmas
Dave Eggers (with Valentino Ajak) What Is the What
Leni Riefenstahl The Last of the Nuba
Adam Ashforth Madumo, A Man Bewitched
Paul Gauguin Noa Noa
V.S.Naipaul A House for Mr Biswas
James Clifford and George E.Marcus (Eds) Writing Culture; The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography
Ruth Behar and Deborah Gordon (Eds) Women Writing Culture.