Choosing Your Own Adventure: My Life as a Teenage Dungeon Master and How It Prepared Me to Become an Anthropologist

In many ways, Dungeon Masters are the ethnographers of their own worlds. Granted, we’re not exactly interviewing the people who populate them, and we’re inventing most of the traditions and customs out of the content in our own imaginations. But when it comes to building a narrative about people and their ways-of-being, there isn’t all that much difference between narratives of “a” world and narratives of “the” world. This is something we actually have in common with fiction writers as well. Ethnographies share, to an extent, certain characteristics of novels; such that both the author and the anthropologist are setting out to involve their readers in a particular time and place, with a particular group of people (set up as pseudonymous dramatis personae), all who will hopefully tell us something about ourselves in the end.

Metaphysics Is a Piece of Cake

...time is not natural: it is a social product. A year might be the duration that has elapsed as the Earth circles the sun, but our planet’s orbital position tends to have little bearing on how I conduct myself as a person. However, a New Year’s Eve party? There you’ll see me reflecting, resolving, disclosing, mourning, celebrating, making amends, taking chances, jumping into new beginnings, and, above all, falling back into the same old patterns. Time is made knowable through the procession of meaningful events that we use to punctuate its abstract passage.

Reflections on Novel Writing in Anthropology

Ethnographers have long struggled with the nebulous in-between spaces of science on the one hand, and story-telling on the other. It was what my frustrated seminar professor described as the tension between “a world” and “the world” in the writing of ethnography. Are we, the researchers, tasked to be faithfully re-creating the world as it actually was during our fieldwork? Or are we simply weaving a fiction; complete with dramatis personae, compelling character arcs, and promises of redemption that exist purely in a world of our own perspectives? Are we following the clues to solve our case, or are we leading our audience down a path that was already drawn from the beginning? A little of both and neither?