cover of book

Fictions Of Feminist Ethnography
by Kamala Visweswaran
University of Minnesota Press, 1994
Paper: 978-0-8166-2337-2
Library of Congress Classification GN635.I4V57 1994
Dewey Decimal Classification 305.420954

Although feminist ethnography is an emerging genre, the question of what the term means remains open. Recent texts that fall under this rubric rely on unexamined notions of "sisterhood" and the recovery of "lost" voices. Writing about her work with women in Southern India, Kamala Visweswaran addresses such troubled questions in the essays that make up Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. Blurring distinctions between ethnographic and literary genres, the author employs the narrative strategies of history, fiction, autobiography and biography, deconstruction, and postcolonial discourse to reveal the fictions of ethnography and the ethnography in fiction. In the process of reflecting on the nature of anthropology itself Visweswaran devises an experimental approach to writing feminist ethnography.

What sets this work apart from other self-reflexive feminist ethnographies is its rigorous engagement with the concrete inequalities, refusals, and misunderstandings between the author and the women she worked with in India. In each essay, she takes up the specific ellipses of power differentials in her field research and works out their epistemological consequences. The result is a series of contextualizations of the politics of identity in the field, at "home," and within the lives of women who particpated in the Indian nationalist movement. We learn in lucid detail about the partiality of knowledge and the inevitable difficulties and violations involved in representing the lives of women, both inside and outside the United States. Clearly and forcefully written, this book should be of interest not only to anthropologists but also to cultural theorists and critics, feminist scholars and writers, and other social scientists who grapple with epistemological and political issues in their fields.

"Fictions of Feminist Ethnography is an ambitious, experimental, comprehensive and learned book directed at a professional (anthropological) audience. I find the book thought-provoking and highly recommendable because of the sensitive, critical and sometimes even surprisingly innovative handling of 'data'. In addition to the sharp analyses, it succeeds in elegantly combining form and content, and in mastering the unification of literary criticism with identity politics and a sophisticated feminism." Folk - Journal of Danish Ethnographic Society

"The text provides an excellent resource for thinking about what constitutes 'reading,' 'writing,' and 'researching' from a feminist ethnographic positioning." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography

"In reaching beyond traditional ethnographic form, Kamala Visweswaran places her own style of feminist ethnography at the nexus of feminist anthropology and literature-in the forms of autobiography, personal narrative, fable and fiction. By working through these 'experimental' forms Kamala Visweswaran puts her own theories of feminist ethnography into practice, calling traditional positivist ethnographic form into question, as well as the rather limited definitions of current experimental ethnography." Cross Cultural Poetics

Kamala Visweswaran is an assistant professor of anthropology in the graduate faculty at the New School for Social Research.
Nearby on shelf for Anthropology / Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology / Ethnic groups and races: