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?

Observing Real America: A Beginners Guide to Nantucket

From whence do our myths come, and how do they bear similarities across continents and generations? Anthropologists continue to speculate. Meanwhile, the scenes of contemporary odysseys – be they of tourists, scholars, spouses, or refugees; patterned according to taste, décor, algorithms, or despair – are most complete when we have never been, like unrequited loves.