As anthropologist Kirin Narayan put to readers of her book Alive in the Writing, the creative process of ethnographic writing can grow from ‘the impulse to find company amid the often isolating and difficult aspects of writing’. In ethnographic writing, we need to somehow re-galvanise our fieldwork experiences that are now in the past.
The 27th of May to the 3rd of June is National Reconciliation Week in Australia. Reconciliation, for anthropology, includes reckoning with the discipline’s colonial past, and confronting the ongoing problems within anthropology today. Anthropology and anthropologists have been involved in violence and dispossession against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And it is still yet … Continue reading Hearing Indigenous Voices
We need to acknowledge the role we all play in silencing research. Consider the times we have dismissed a colleague’s idea because it ‘isn’t worth it’, or immediately assumed a paper must be faulty in some way because we don’t like its conclusions.
It doesn’t go without saying, so I’ll say it: I’ve never worked for the CIA, or done any intelligence or security work of any kind, nor would I. But all through my years living abroad, in Indonesia and Australia, I harbored a secret fantasy, that maybe, one day, I would be tapped.
Elizabeth has an agency all of her own, albeit one that we might not be familiar with, and so to reduce her experience only to the ties of sociality that bind her to others, is I think, to miss a significant portion of the story.
A shaft of afternoon light began to stream through the window of the clinic room. Observing the light reflected in my eyes, she now saw in them the “Holy Spirit”. Assured, she said I could look at her again.
Ana provided me with generous amounts of knowledge, time, and care. She knew I was doing a doctorate, and the understanding between us was clear: her knowledge, and her story, would be at its core. Now, that isn’t going to happen. I can use her information for articles, but it doesn’t feel the same.
There’s anthropological spirit in investigative journalism that anthropologists could better acknowledge. Regardless of whether it has a anthropology qualification attached or it is embedded in complex cultural theory, it is something that sparks thinking about the ‘other’; the ‘strange’.
Online ethnography, where researchers may never share a physical space with the participants in their research, is finding its methodological feet. Combine that with an analysis of these sorts of online media, combining intimacy, community, public speaking, and private listening, and you’ll see what makes podcasts so fascinating and potentially fruitful for anthropologists.
I still remember vividly the words of an informant who, when asking him about his vision of a freer Iran, responded adamantly, “we don’t need more freedom, what we need is less corruption”. While such a view is not obviously universally transposable, I think it taps into a certain social current.