An intimate ethnographic narrative of one indigenous family in the twentieth-century Caribbean
Among the Garifuna is the first ethnographic narrative of a Garifuna family. The Garifuna are descendants of the “Black Carib,” whom the British deposited on Roatan Island in 1797 and who settled along the Caribbean coast from Belize City to Nicaragua.
In 1980, medical anthropologist Marilyn McKillop Wells found herself embarking on an “improbable journey” when she was invited to the area to do fieldwork with the added challenge of revealing the “real” Garifuna. Upon her arrival on the island, Wells was warmly embraced by a local family, the Diegos, and set to work recording life events and indigenous perspectives on polygyny, Afro-indigenous identity, ancestor-worshiping religion, and more. The result, as represented in Among the Garifuna, is a lovingly intimate, earthy human drama.
The family narrative is organized chronologically. Part I, “The Old Ways,” consists of vignettes that introduce the family backstory with dialogue as imagined by Wells based on the family history she was told. We meet the family progenitors, Margaret and Cervantes Diego, during their courtship, experience Margaret’s pain as Cervantes takes a second wife, witness the death of Cervantes and ensuing mourning rituals, follow the return of Margaret and the children to their previous home in British Honduras, and observe the emergence of the children’s personalities.
In Part II, “Living There,” Wells continues the story when she arrives in Belize and meets the Diego children, including the major protagonist, Tas. In Tas’s household Wells learns about foods and manners and watches family squabbles and reconciliations. In these mini-stories, Wells interweaves cultural information on the Garifuna people with first-person narrative and transcription of their words, assembling these into an enthralling slice of life. Part III, “The Ancestor Party,” takes the reader through a fascinating postmortem ritual that is enacted to facilitate the journey of the spirits of the honored ancestors to the supreme supernatural.
Among the Garifuna contributes to the literary genres of narrative anthropology and feminist ethnography in the tradition of Zora Neal Hurston and other women writing culture in a personal way. Wells’s portrait of this Garifuna family will be of interest to anthropologists, Caribbeanists, Latin Americanists, students, and general readers alike.
A daring, deep investigation into ethnographic cinema that challenges standard ways of writing film history and breaks important new ground in understanding archives
Bad Film Histories is a vital work that unsettles the authority of the archive. Katherine Groo daringly takes readers to the margins of the film record, addressing the undertheorization of film history and offering a rigorous corrective. Taking ethnographic cinema as a crucial case study, Groo challenges standard ways of thinking and writing about film history and questions widespread assumptions about what film artifacts are and what makes them meaningful. Rather than filling holes, Groo endeavors to understand the imprecisions and absences that define film history and its archives.
Bad Film Histories draws on numerous works of ethnographic cinema, from Edward S. Curtis’s In the Land of the Head Hunters, to a Citroën-sponsored “croisière” across Africa, to the extensive archives of the Maison Lumière and the Musée Albert-Kahn, to dozens of expedition films from the 1910s and 1920s. The project is deeply grounded in poststructural approaches to history, and throughout Groo draws on these frameworks to offer innovative and accessible readings that explain ethnographic cinema’s destabilizing energies.
As Groo describes, ethnographic works are mostly untitled, unauthored, seemingly infinite in number, and largely unrestored even in their digital afterlives. Her examination of ethnographic cinema provides necessary new thought for both film scholars and those who are thrilled by cinema’s boundless possibilities. In so doing, she boldly reexamines what early ethnographic cinema is and how these films produce meaning, challenging the foundations of film history and prevailing approaches to the archive.
Surgeons employ craft, cunning, and technology to open, observe, and repair patient bodies. In Bodies in Formation, anthropologist Rachel Prentice enters surgical suites increasingly packed with new medical technologies to explore how surgeons are made in the early twenty-first century. Prentice argues that medical students and residents learn through practice, coming to embody unique ways of perceiving, acting, and being. Drawing on ethnographic observation in anatomy laboratories, operating rooms, and technology design groups, she shows how trainees become physicians through interactions with colleagues and patients, technologies and pathologies, bodies and persons. Bodies in Formation foregrounds the technical, ethical, and affective formation of physicians, demonstrating how, even within a world of North American biomedicine increasingly dominated by technologies for remote interventions and computerized teaching, good care remains the art of human healing.
Caribbean Journeys is an ethnographic analysis of the cultural meaning of migration and home in three families of West Indian background that are now dispersed throughout the Caribbean, North America, and Great Britain. Moving migration studies beyond its current focus on sending and receiving societies, Karen Fog Olwig makes migratory family networks the locus of her analysis. For the people whose lives she traces, being “Caribbean” is not necessarily rooted in ongoing visits to their countries of origin, or in ethnic communities in the receiving countries, but rather in family narratives and the maintenance of family networks across vast geographical expanses.
The migratory journeys of the families in this study began more than sixty years ago, when individuals in the three families left home in a British colonial town in Jamaica, a French Creole rural community in Dominica, and an African-Caribbean village of small farmers on Nevis. Olwig follows the three family networks forward in time, interviewing family members living under highly varied social and economic circumstances in locations ranging from California to Barbados, Nova Scotia to Florida, and New Jersey to England. Through her conversations with several generations of these far-flung families, she gives insight into each family’s educational, occupational, and socioeconomic trajectories. Olwig contends that terms such as “Caribbean diaspora” wrongly assume a culturally homogeneous homeland. As she demonstrates in Caribbean Journeys, anthropologists who want a nuanced understanding of how migrants and their descendants perceive their origins and identities must focus on interpersonal relations and intimate spheres as well as on collectivities and public expressions of belonging.
The Chuj of northwestern Guatemala are among the least studied groups of the Mayan family, and their relative isolation has preserved a strong indigenous tradition of storytelling. In Chuj (Mayan) Narratives, Nicholas Hopkins analyzes six narratives that illustrate the breadth of the Chuj storytelling tradition, from ancient mythology to current events and from intimate tales of local affairs to borrowed stories, such as an adaptation of Oedipus Rex.
The book illustrates the broad range of stories people tell each other, from mythological and legendary topics to procedural discussions and stories borrowed from European and African societies. Hopkins provides context for the narratives by introducing the reader to Chuj culture and history, conveying important events as described by indigenous participants. These events include customs and practices related to salt production as well as the beginnings of the disastrous civil war of the last century, which resulted in the destruction of several villages from which the narratives in this study originated. Hopkins also provides an analytical framework for the strategies of the storytellers and presents the narratives with Chuj text and English translation side-by-side.
Chuj (Mayan) Narratives analyzes the strategies of storytelling in an innovative framework applicable to other corpora and includes sufficient grammatical information to function as an introduction to the Chuj language. The stories illustrate the persistence of Classic Maya themes in contemporary folk literature, making the book significant to Mesoamericanists and Mayanists and an essential resource for students and scholars of Maya linguistics and literary traditions, storytelling, and folklore.
The most prolific ethnographic filmmaker in the world, a pioneer of cinéma vérité and one of the earliest ethnographers of African societies, Jean Rouch (1917-) remains a controversial and often misunderstood figure in histories of anthropology and film. By examining Rouch's neglected ethnographic writings, Paul Stoller seeks to clarify the filmmaker's true place in anthropology.
A brief account of Rouch's background, revealing the ethnographic foundations and intellectual assumptions underlying his fieldwork among the Songhay of Niger in the 1940s and 1950s, sets the stage for his emergence as a cinematic griot, a peripatetic bard who "recites" the story of a people through provocative imagery. Against this backdrop, Stoller considers Rouch's writings on Songhay history, myth, magic and possession, migration, and social change. By analyzing in depth some of Rouch's most important films and assessing Rouch's ethnography in terms of his own expertise in Songhay culture, Stoller demonstrates the inner connection between these two modes of representation.
Stoller, who has done more fieldwork among the Songhay than anyone other than Rouch himself, here gives the first full account of Rouch the griot, whose own story scintillates with important implications for anthropology, ethnography, African studies, and film.
Development agencies and researchers are preoccupied with policy; with exerting influence over policy, linking research to policy and with implementing policy around the world.
But what if development practice is not driven by policy? Suppose that the things that make for 'good policy' - policy that legitimises and mobilises political support - in reality make it impossible to implement?
By focusing in detail on the unfolding activities of a development project in western India over more than ten years, as it falls under different policy regimes, this book takes a close look at the relationship between policy and practice in development.
David Mosse shows how the actions of development workers are shaped by the exigencies of organisations and the need to maintain relationships rather than by policy; but also that development actors work hardest of all to maintain coherent representations of their actions as instances of authorised policy. Raising unfamiliar questions, Mosse provides a rare self-critical reflection on practice, while refusing to endorse current post-modern dismissal of development.
Studies of human development have taken an ethnographic turn in the 1990s. In this volume, leading anthropologists, psychologists, and sociologists discuss how qualitative methodologies have strengthened our understanding of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development, and of the difficulties of growing up in contemporary society.
Part 1, informed by a post-positivist philosophy of science, argues for the validity of ethnographic knowledge. Part 2 examines a range of qualitative methods, from participant observation to the hermeneutic elaboration of texts. In Part 3, ethnographic methods are applied to issues of human development across the life span and to social problems including poverty, racial and ethnic marginality, and crime.
Restoring ethnographic methods to a central place in social inquiry, these twenty-two lively essays will interest everyone concerned with the epistemological problems of context, meaning, and subjectivity in the behavioral sciences.
The Internet allows ethnographers to deposit the textual materials on which they base their writing in virtual archives. Electronically archived fieldwork documents can be accessed at any time by the writer, his or her readers, and the people studied. Johannes Fabian, a leading theorist of anthropological practice, argues that virtual archives have the potential to shift the emphasis in ethnographic writing from the monograph to commentary. In this insightful study, he returns to the recording of a conversation he had with a ritual healer in the Congolese town of Lubumbashi more than three decades ago. Fabian’s transcript and translation of the exchange have been deposited on a website (Language and Popular Culture in Africa), and in Ethnography as Commentary he provides a model of writing in the presence of a virtual archive.
In his commentary, Fabian reconstructs his meeting with the healer Kahenga Mukonkwa Michel, in which the two discussed the ritual that Kahenga performed to protect Fabian’s home from burglary. Fabian reflects on the expectations and terminology that shape his description of Kahenga’s ritual and meditates on how ethnographic texts are made, considering the settings, the participants, the technologies, and the linguistic medium that influence the transcription and translation of a recording and thus fashion ethnographic knowledge. Turning more directly to Kahenga—as a practitioner, a person, and an ethnographic subject—and to the questions posed to him, Fabian reconsiders questions of ethnic identity, politics, and religion. While Fabian hopes that emerging anthropologists will share their fieldwork through virtual archives, he does not suggest that traditional ethnography will disappear. It will become part of a broader project facilitated by new media.
Ethnography in Unstable Places is a collection of ethnographic accounts of everyday situations in places undergoing dramatic political transformation. Offering vivid case studies that range from the Middle East and Africa to Europe, Russia, and Southeast Asia, the contributing anthropologists narrate particular circumstances of social and political transformation—in contexts of colonialism, war and its aftermath, social movements, and post–Cold War climates—from the standpoints of ordinary people caught up in and having to cope with the collapse or reconfiguration of the states in which they live. Using grounded ethnographic detail to explore the challenges to the anthropological imagination that are posed by modern uncertainties, the contributors confront the ambiguities and paradoxes that exist across the spectrum of human cultures and geographies. The collection is framed by introductory and concluding chapters that highlight different dimensions of the book’s interrelated themes—agency and ethnographic reflexivity, identity and ethics, and the inseparability of political economy and interpretivism. Ethnography in Unstable Places will interest students and specialists in social anthropology, sociology, political science, international relations, and cultural studies.
Contributors. Eve Darian-Smith, Howard J. De Nike, Elizabeth Faier, James M. Freeman, Robert T. Gordon, Carol J. Greenhouse, Nguyen Dinh Huu, Carroll McC. Lewin, Elizabeth Mertz, Philip C. Parnell, Nancy Ries, Judy Rosenthal, Kay B. Warren, Stacia E. Zabusky
Experimenting with Ethnography collects twenty-one essays that open new paths for doing ethnographic analysis. The contributors—who come from a variety of intellectual and methodological traditions—enliven analysis by refusing to take it as an abstract, disembodied exercise. Rather, they frame it as a concrete mode of action and a creative practice. Encompassing topics ranging from language and the body to technology and modes of collaboration, the essays invite readers to focus on the imaginative work that needs to be performed prior to completing an argument. Whether exchanging objects, showing how to use drawn images as a way to analyze data, or working with smartphones, sound recordings, and social media as analytic devices, the contributors explore the deliberate processes for pursuing experimental thinking through ethnography. Practical and broad in theoretical scope, Experimenting with Ethnography is an indispensable companion for all ethnographers.
Contributors. Patricia Alvarez Astacio, Andrea Ballestero, Ivan da Costa Marques, Steffen Dalsgaard, Endre Dányi, Marisol de la Cadena, Marianne de Laet, Carolina Domínguez Guzmán, Rachel Douglas-Jones, Clément Dréano, Joseph Dumit, Melanie Ford Lemus, Elaine Gan, Oliver Human, Alberto Corsín Jiménez, Graham M. Jones, Trine Mygind Korsby, Justine Laurent, James Maguire, George E. Marcus, Annemarie Mol, Sarah Pink, Els Roding, Markus Rudolfi, Ulrike Scholtes, Anthony Stavrianakis, Lucy Suchman, Katie Ulrich, Helen Verran, Else Vogel, Antonia Walford, Karen Waltorp, Laura Watts, Brit Ross Winthereik
A survey of the innovative scholarship emerging at the intersections of rhetoric, and fieldwork
A variety of research areas within rhetorical studies—including everyday and public rhetorics, space and place-based work, material and ecological approaches, environmental communication, technical communication, and critical and participatory action research, among others—have increasingly called for ethnographic fieldwork that grounds the study of rhetoric within the contexts of its use and circulation. Employing field methods more commonly used by ethnographers allows researchers to capture rhetoric in action and to observe the dynamic circumstances that shape persuasion in ordinary life.
Field Rhetoric: Ethnography, Ecology, and Engagement in the Places of Persuasion gathers new essays that describe and theorize this burgeoning transdisciplinary mode of field-based scholarship. Contributors document and support this ethnographic turn in rhetorical studies through sustained examination of the diverse trends, methods, tools, theories, practices, and possibilities for engaging in rhetorical field research.
This fascinating volume offers an introduction to these inquiries and serves as both a practical resource and theoretical foundation for scholars, teachers, and students interested in the intersection of rhetoric and field studies. Editors Candice Rai and Caroline Gottschalk Druschke have assembled scholars working in diverse field sites to map and initiate key debates on the practices, limitations, and value of rhetorical field methods and research. Working synthetically at the junction of rhetorical theory and field practices, the contributors to this collection build from myriad field-based cases to examine diverse theoretical and methodological considerations. The volume also serves as a useful reference for interdisciplinary qualitative researchers interested in doing research from a rhetorical or discursive perspective in various disciplines and fields, such as English, composition, communication, natural resources, geography, sociology, urban planning, anthropology, and more.
With three roads and a population of just over 500 people, Shishmaref, Alaska seems like an unlikely center of the climate change debate. But the island, home to Iñupiaq Eskimos who still live off subsistence harvesting, is falling into the sea, and climate change is, at least in part, to blame. While countries sputter and stall over taking environmental action, Shishmaref is out of time.
Publications from the New York Times to Esquire have covered this disappearing village, yet few have taken the time to truly show the community and the two millennia of traditions at risk. In Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground, Elizabeth Marino brings Shishmaref into sharp focus as a place where people in a close-knit, determined community are confronting the realities of our changing planet every day. She shows how physical dangers challenge lives, while the stress and uncertainty challenge culture and identity. Marino also draws on Shishmaref’s experiences to show how disasters and the outcomes of climate change often fall heaviest on those already burdened with other social risks and often to communities who have contributed least to the problem. Stirring and sobering, Fierce Climate, Sacred Ground proves that the consequences of unchecked climate change are anything but theoretical.
Imagining Transgender is an ethnography of the emergence and institutionalization of transgender as a category of collective identity and political activism. Embraced by activists in the early 1990s to advocate for gender-variant people, the category quickly gained momentum in public health, social service, scholarly, and legislative contexts. Working as a safer-sex activist in Manhattan during the late 1990s, David Valentine conducted ethnographic research among mostly male-to-female transgender-identified people at drag balls, support groups, cross-dresser organizations, clinics, bars, and clubs. However, he found that many of those labeled “transgender” by activists did not know the term or resisted its use. Instead, they self-identified as “gay,” a category of sexual rather than gendered identity and one rejected in turn by the activists who claimed these subjects as transgender. Valentine analyzes the reasons for and potential consequences of this difference, and how social theory is implicated in it.
Valentine argues that “transgender” has been adopted so rapidly in the contemporary United States because it clarifies a model of gender and sexuality that has been gaining traction within feminism, psychiatry, and mainstream gay and lesbian politics since the 1970s: a paradigm in which gender and sexuality are distinct arenas of human experience. This distinction and the identity categories based on it erase the experiences of some gender-variant people—particularly poor persons of color—who conceive of gender and sexuality in other terms. While recognizing the important advances transgender has facilitated, Valentine argues that a broad vision of social justice must include, simultaneously, an attentiveness to the politics of language and a recognition of how social theoretical models and broader political economies are embedded in the day-to-day politics of identity.
Insurgent Encounters illuminates the dynamics of contemporary transnational social movements, including those advocating for women and indigenous groups, environmental justice, and alternative—cooperative rather than exploitative—forms of globalization. The contributors are politically engaged scholars working within the social movements they analyze. Their essays are both models of and arguments for activist ethnography. They demonstrate that such a methodology has the potential to reveal empirical issues and generate theoretical insights beyond the reach of traditional social-movement research methods. Activist ethnographers not only produce new understandings of contemporary forms of collective action, but also seek to contribute to struggles for social change. The editors suggest networks and spaces of encounter as the most useful conceptual rubrics for understanding shape-shifting social movements using digital and online technologies to produce innovative forms of political organization across local, regional, national, and transnational scales. A major rethinking of the practice and purpose of ethnography, Insurgent Encounters challenges dominant understandings of social transformation, political possibility, knowledge production, and the relation between intellectual labor and sociopolitical activism. Contributors. Giuseppe Caruso, Maribel Casas-Cortés, Janet Conway, Stéphane Couture, Vinci Daro, Manisha Desai, Sylvia Escárcega, David Hess, Jeffrey S. Juris, Alex Khasnabish, Lorenzo Mosca, Michal Osterweil, Geoffrey Pleyers, Dana E. Powell, Paul Routledge, M. K. Sterpka, Tish Stringer
On April 24, 2013, Luci Tapahonso became the first poet laureate of the Navajo Nation, possibly the first Native American community to create such a post. The establishment of this position testifies to the importance of Navajo poets and poetry to the Navajo Nation. It also indicates the Navajo equivalence to the poetic traditions connected with the U.S. poet laureate and the poet laureate of the United Kingdom, author Anthony K. Webster asserts, as well as its separateness from those traditions.
Intimate Grammars takes an ethnographic and ethnopoetic approach to language and culture in contemporary time, in which poetry and poets are increasingly important and visible in the Navajo Nation. Webster uses interviews and linguistic analysis to understand the kinds of social work that Navajo poets engage in through their poetry.
Based on more than a decade of ethnographic and linguistic research, Webster’s book explores a variety of topics: the emotional value assigned to various languages spoken on the Navajo Nation through poetry (Navajo English, Navlish, Navajo, and English), why Navajo poets write about the “ugliness” of the Navajo Nation, and the way contemporary Navajo poetry connects young Navajos to the Navajo language. Webster also discusses how contemporary Navajo poetry challenges the creeping standardization of written Navajo and how boarding school experiences influence how Navajo poets write poetry and how Navajo readers appreciate contemporary Navajo poetry.
Through the work of poets such as Luci Tapahonso, Laura Tohe, Rex Lee Jim, Gloria Emerson, Blackhorse Mitchell, Esther Belin, Sherwin Bitsui, and many others, Webster provides new ways of thinking about contemporary Navajo poets and poetry. Intimate Grammars offers an exciting new ethnography of speaking, ethnopoetics, and discourse-centered examinations of language and culture.
In contrast to western notions of the soul as the essence or most native part of a human being, the Tzeltal-speaking Indians of Chiapas, Mexico, regard the soul first and foremost as an Other. Made up of beings that personify the antithesis of their native selves—animals such as hummingbirds or jaguars, atmospheric phenomena like lightning bolts or rainbows, or spirits of European appearance such as Catholic priests or evangelical musicians—Tzeltal souls represent the maximum expression of that which is alien. And because their souls enfold that which is outside and Other, the Tzeltal contain within themselves the history of their relationship with Europeans from the beginning of the Spanish conquest to the present time. Thus, to understand the Indian self opens a window into the Tzeltal conception of culture and community, their notions of identity and alterity, and their interpretation of interethnic relations and types of historical memory. In this pathfinding ethnography, which was originally published in Spanish in 1996 as Ch’ulel: una etnografía de las almas tzeltales and is now extensively rewritten and amplified in English, Pedro Pitarch offers a new understanding of indigenous concepts of the soul, personhood, and historical memory in highland Chiapas. Exploring numerous aspects of indigenous culture and history—medicine and shamanism, geography and cosmology, and politics and kinship among them—he engages in a radical rethinking of classic issues in Mesoamerican anthropology, such as ethnicity and alterity, community and tradition, and change and permanence.
When Japan opened its doors to the West in the 1860s, delicately hand-tinted photographic prints of Japanese people and landscapes were among its earliest and most popular exports. David Odo studies the collection of Japanese photographs at Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the ways they were produced, acquired, and circulated in the nineteenth century.
Now known internationally through the recordings of King Sunny Ade and others, juju music originated more than fifty years ago among the Yoruba of Nigeria. This history and ethnography of juju is the first detailed account of the evolution and social significance of a West African popular music. Enhanced with maps, color photographs of musicians and dance parties, musical transcriptions, interviews with musicians, and a glossary of Yoruba terms, Juju is an invaluable contribution to scholarship and a boon to fans who want to discover the roots of this vibrant music.
A photograph of two men, cowboy-hatted and -booted and discreetly holding hands, is the departure point in a groundbreaking study on masculinity and homosexuality in Mexico. Just Between Us, an ethnography of intimacy and affection between men, explores the concept of masculine identity and homoeroticism, expressing the difficulties men face in maintaining their masculinity while expressing intimacy and affection.
Using fieldwork from rural Sonora, Mexico, Guillermo Núñez Noriega posits that men accept this intimacy outside gender categories and stereotypes, despite the traditional patriarchal society. This work contests homophobia and the heterosexual ideal of men and attempts to break down the barriers between genders.
The photograph Núñez Noriega uses to explore the shifting attitudes and perceptions of sexuality and gender provokes more questions than answers. Recognizing the societal regulations at play, the author demonstrates the existence in contemporary Mexico of an invisible regime of power that constructs and regulates the field of possibilities for men’s social actions, especially acts of friendship, affection, and eroticism with other men. The work investigates “modes of speaking” about being a man, on being gay, on the implicit meanings of the words homosexual, masculine, trade, fairy, and others—words that construct possibilities for intimacy, particularly affective and erotic intimacy among men.
Multiple variants of homoeroticism fall outside the dominant model, Núñez Noriega argues, a finding that offers many lessons on men and masculine identities. This book challenges patriarchal definitions of sex, gender, and identity; it promotes the unlearning of dominant conventions of masculinity to allow new ways of being.
Financial collapses—whether of the junk bond market, the Internet bubble, or the highly leveraged housing market—are often explained as the inevitable result of market cycles: What goes up must come down. In Liquidated, Karen Ho punctures the aura of the abstract, all-powerful market to show how financial markets, and particularly booms and busts, are constructed. Through an in-depth investigation into the everyday experiences and ideologies of Wall Street investment bankers, Ho describes how a financially dominant but highly unstable market system is understood, justified, and produced through the restructuring of corporations and the larger economy.
Ho, who worked at an investment bank herself, argues that bankers’ approaches to financial markets and corporate America are inseparable from the structures and strategies of their workplaces. Her ethnographic analysis of those workplaces is filled with the voices of stressed first-year associates, overworked and alienated analysts, undergraduates eager to be hired, and seasoned managing directors. Recruited from elite universities as “the best and the brightest,” investment bankers are socialized into a world of high risk and high reward. They are paid handsomely, with the understanding that they may be let go at any time. Their workplace culture and networks of privilege create the perception that job insecurity builds character, and employee liquidity results in smart, efficient business. Based on this culture of liquidity and compensation practices tied to profligate deal-making, Wall Street investment bankers reshape corporate America in their own image. Their mission is the creation of shareholder value, but Ho demonstrates that their practices and assumptions often produce crises instead. By connecting the values and actions of investment bankers to the construction of markets and the restructuring of U.S. corporations, Liquidated reveals the particular culture of Wall Street often obscured by triumphalist readings of capitalist globalization.
"The Mafia? What is the Mafia? Something you eat? Something you drink? I don't know the Mafia. I've never seen it." Mafiosi have often reacted this way to questions from journalists and law enforcement. Social scientists who study the Mafia usually try to pin down what it "really is," thus fusing their work with their object. In Mafiacraft, Deborah Puccio-Den undertakes a new form of ethnographic inquiry that focuses not on answering "What is the Mafia?" but on the ontological, moral, and political effects of posing the question itself. Her starting point is that Mafia is not a readily nameable social fact but a problem of thought produced by the absence of words. Puccio-Den approaches covert activities using a model of "Mafiacraft," which inverts the logic of witchcraft. If witchcraft revolves on the lethal power of speech, Mafiacraft depends on the deadly strength of silence. How do we write an ethnography of phenomena that cannot be named? Puccio-Den approaches this task with a fascinating anthropology of silence, breaking new ground for the study of the world’s most famous criminal organization.
Marginal People in Deviant Places revisits twentieth-century ethnographic studies of deviance, arguing that ethnographies that focus on marginal subcultures—ranging from Los Angeles hoboes to men who have sex with other men in St. Louis bathrooms, to taxi dancers in Chicago, to elderly Jews in Venice, California—produce new ways of thinking about social difference more broadly in the United States. Irvine demonstrates how the social scientists who told the stories of these marginalized groups offered an early challenge to then-dominant narratives of scientific racism and then offers a social history of certain American outsiders and a prehistory of the academic fields of ethnic studies and sexuality studies. Through the stories Irvine recounts in this book, she identifies an American paradox represented in a simultaneous desire for and rejection of outsiders and describes the rise of an outsider capitalism that integrates difference into American society by marketing it.
Place plays a crucial role in this work as Irvine examines its role in shaping ethnographies about outsiders and therefore understandings of social difference. Irvine has visited the sites of each of the ethnographies about which she writes, collecting photos, videos, and archival materials that will help readers understand the importance of place in the generation of particular ethnographic stories. The open-access online edition of this book is richly illustrated to help convey the deep sense of emplacement of the ethnographies discussed in this book and includes a series of interviews with sociologists about how they conduct their work and understand their forebears.
More Than Bread examines life in the dining room of the Tabernacle Soup Kitchen, located in Middle City in a New England state. What happens when one hundred guests, which include single mothers, drug addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, and the chronically unemployed, representing diverse age groups and ethnicities, come together in the dining room for several hours each day? Irene Glasser challenges the popular assumption that soup kitchens function primarily to provide food for the hungry by refocusing our attention on the social aspects of the dining room. The soup kitchen offers a model of a de-professionalized, nonclinical, nurturing setting that is in contrast to the traditional human services agency.
In Multisituated Kaushik Sunder Rajan evaluates the promises and potentials of multisited ethnography with regard to contemporary debates around decolonizing anthropology and the university. He observes that at the current moment, anthropology is increasingly peopled by diasporic students and researchers, all of whom are accountable to multiple communities beyond the discipline. In this light, Sunder Rajan draws on his pedagogical experience and dialogues to reconceptualize ethnography as a multisituated practice of knowledge production, ethical interlocution, and political intervention. Such a multisituated ethnography responds to contemporary anthropology’s myriad commitments as it privileges attention to questions of scale, comparison, and the politics of ethnographic encounters. Foregrounding the conditions of possibility and difficulty for those doing and teaching ethnography in the twenty-first-century, Sunder Rajan gestures toward an ethos and praxis of ethnography that would open new forms of engagement and research.
In Neoliberal Frontiers, Brenda Chalfin presents an ethnographic examination of the day-to-day practices of the officials of Ghana’s Customs Service, exploring the impact of neoliberal restructuring and integration into the global economy on Ghanaian sovereignty. From the revealing vantage point of the Customs office, Chalfin discovers a fascinating inversion of our assumptions about neoliberal transformation: bureaucrats and local functionaries, government offices, checkpoints, and registries are typically held to be the targets of reform, but Chalfin finds that these figures and sites of authority act as the engine for changes in state sovereignty. Ghana has served as a model of reform for the neoliberal establishment, making it an ideal site for Chalfin to explore why the restructuring of a state on the global periphery portends shifts that occur in all corners of the world. At once a foray into international political economy, politics, and political anthropology, Neoliberal Frontiers is an innovative interdisciplinary leap forward for ethnographic writing, as well as an eloquent addition to the literature on postcolonial Africa.
Though some dismiss opera as old-fashioned, it shows no sign of disappearing from the world’s stage. So why do audiences continue to flock to it? Given its association with wealth, one might imagine that opera tickets function as a status symbol. But while a desire to hobnob with the upper crust might motivate the occasional operagoer, for hardcore fans the real answer, according to The Opera Fanatic, is passion—they do it for love.
Opera lovers are an intense lot, Claudio E. Benzecry discovers in his look at the fanatics who haunt the legendary Colón Opera House in Buenos Aires, a key site for opera’s globalization. Listening to the fans and their stories, Benzecry hears of two-hundred-mile trips for performances and nightlong camp-outs for tickets, while others testify to a particular opera’s power to move them—whether to song or to tears—no matter how many times they have seen it before. Drawing on his insightful analysis of these acts of love, Benzecry proposes new ways of thinking about people’s relationship to art and shows how, far from merely enhancing aspects of everyday life, art allows us to transcend it.
Palestine and Jewish History was first published in 1996. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
This provocative and personal series of meditations on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict argues that it represents a struggle not as much about land and history as about space, time, and memory. Juxtaposing entries from Jonathan Boyarin's field diary with critical and theoretical articulations, Palestine and Jewish History shows not only the unfinished nature of anthropological endeavor, but also the author's personal stake in the ethical predicament of being a Jew at this point in history.
Boyarin comes to Israel as a specialist in modern Jewish studies, an individual who has kin, friends, and colleagues there, a scholar with a long history of peace activism. He interweaves fascinating descriptions of ordinary life-parties, walks, classes, visits to homes-with a selection of his related writings on cultural studies and anthropology. Some sections are polemical; others are witty analyses of bumper stickers, slogans, the ambiguities in conversations. Boyarin foregrounds the messiness and lack of closure inherent in this process, presenting "raw materials" (field notes) in some sections of the book that reappear in other sections as various kinds of "finished" products (conference papers, published articles).
In the process, we learn a good deal about the Middle East and its debates and connections to other places. Boyarin addresses two fundamental issues: the difficulty of linking different sorts of memories and memorializations, and the importance of moving beyond objectivity and multiculturalism into a situated, engaged, and nontotalizing framework for fieldwork and ethnography.
Palestine and Jewish History enacts rather than reports on Boyarin's process of error, pain, impatience, uncertainty, discovery, embarrassment, self-criticism, intellectual struggle, and dawning awareness, challenging and engaging us in the process of discovery. Ultimately, it gives the lie, as the Palestinian presence does in Israel, to any concept of a "finishedness" that successfully conceals its unruly and painful multiple processes.
Jonathan Boyarin is the Leonard and Tobee Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Thought in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Storm from Paradise, co-author of Powers of Diaspora, and the co-editor of Remapping Memory and Jews and Other Differences, all available from Minnesota.
In this book, written between 1979 and 2020, Gilbert Lewis distills a lifetime of insights he garnered as a medical anthropologist. He asks: How do different cultures' beliefs about illness influence patients' abilities to heal? Despite the advances of Western medicine, what can it learn from non-Western societies that consider sickness and curing to be as much a matter of social relationships as biological states? What problems arise when one set of therapeutic practices displaces another?
Lewis compares Indigenous medical beliefs in New Guinea in 1968, when villagers were largely self-reliant, and in 1983, after they became dependent on Western medicine. He then widens his comparative scope by turning to West Africa and discussing a therapeutic community run by a prophet who heals the ill through confession and long-term residential care.
Pandora's Box began life with the prestigious Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures that Gilbert Lewis delivered in 1979 at the University of Rochester. He expanded them with materials gathered over the next forty years, completing the manuscript a few weeks before his death. Engagingly written, this book will inspire anthropologists, medical professionals, students, and curious readers to look with new eyes at current crises in world health.
In Qing Colonial Enterprise, Laura Hostetler shows how Qing China (1636-1911) used cartography and ethnography to pursue its imperial ambitions. She argues that far from being on the periphery of developments in the early modern period, Qing China both participated in and helped shape the new emphasis on empirical scientific knowledge that was simultaneously transforming Europe—and its colonial empires—at the time.
Although mapping in China is almost as old as Chinese civilization itself, the Qing insistence on accurate, to-scale maps of their territory was a new response to the difficulties of administering a vast and growing empire. Likewise, direct observation became increasingly important to Qing ethnographic writings, such as the illustrated manuscripts known as "Miao albums" (from which twenty color paintings are reproduced in this book). These were intended to educate Qing officials about various non-Han peoples so that they could govern these groups more effectively.Hostetler's groundbreaking account will interest anyone studying the history of the early modern period and colonialism.
Sonia Ryang casts new light on the study of North Korean culture and society by reading literary texts as sources of ethnographic data. Ryang focuses critical attention on three central themes—love, war, and self—that reflect the nearly complete overlap of the personal, social, and political realms in North Korean society.
Argentina, once heralded as the future of capitalist progress, has a long history of economic volatility. In 2001–2002, a financial crisis led to its worst economic collapse, precipitating a dramatic currency devaluation, the largest sovereign default in world history, and the flight of foreign capital. Protests and street blockades punctuated a moment of profound political uncertainty, epitomized by the rapid succession of five presidents in four months. Since then, Argentina has fought economic fires on every front, from inflation to the cost of utilities and depressed industrial output. When things clearly aren't working, when the constant churning of booms and busts makes life almost unlivable, how does our deeply compromised order come to seem so inescapable? How does critique come to seem so blunt, even as crisis after crisis appears on the horizon? What are the lived effects of that sense of inescapability?
Anthropologist Sarah Muir offers a cogent meditation on the limits of critique at this historical moment, drawing on deep experience in Argentina but reflecting on a truly global condition. If we feel things are being upended in a manner that is ongoing, tumultuous, and harmful, what would we need to do—and what would we need to give up—to usher in a revitalized critique for today's world? Routine Crisis is an original provocation and a challenge to think beyond the limits of exhaustion and reimagine a form of criticism for the twenty-first century.
In Rules versus Relationships, John M. Conley and William M. O'Barr examine the experiences of litigants seeking redress of everyday difficulties through the small claims courts of the American legal system. The authors find two major and contrasting ways in which litigants formulate and express their problems in terms of specific rule violations and seek concrete legal remedies that would mend soured relationships and respond to their personal and social needs.
In Screening Culture, Viewing Politics Purnima Mankekar presents a cutting-edge ethnography of television-viewing in India. With a focus on the responses of upwardly-mobile, yet lower-to-middle class urban women to state-sponsored entertainment serials, Mankekar demonstrates how television in India has profoundly shaped women’s place in the family, community, and nation, and the crucial role it has played in the realignment of class, caste, consumption, religion, and politics. Mankekar examines both “entertainment” narratives and advertisements designed to convey particular ideas about the nation. Organizing her study around the recurring themes in these shows—Indian womanhood, family, community, constructions of historical memory, development, integration, and sometimes violence—Mankekar dissects both the messages televised and her New Delhi subjects’ perceptions of and reactions to these messages. In the process, her ethnographic analysis reveals the texture of these women’s daily lives, social relationships, and everyday practices. Throughout her study, Mankekar remains attentive to the tumultuous historical and political context in the midst of which these programs’ integrationalist messages are transmitted, to the cultural diversity of the viewership, and to her own role as ethnographer. In an enlightening epilogue she describes the effect of satellite television and transnational programming to India in the 1990s. Through its ethnographic and theoretical richness, Screening Culture, Viewing Politics forces a reexamination of the relationship between mass media, social life, and identity and nation formation in non-Western contexts. As such, it represents a major contribution to a number of fields, including media and communication studies, feminist studies, anthropology, South Asian studies, and cultural studies.
The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem are often dismissed as a fringe cult for their beliefs that African Americans are descendants of the ancient Israelites and that veganism leads to immortality. But John L. Jackson questions what "fringe" means in a world where cultural practices of every stripe circulate freely on the Internet. In this poignant and sophisticated examination of the limits of ethnography, the reader is invited into the visionary, sometimes vexing world of the AHIJ. Jackson challenges what Clifford Geertz called the "thick description" of anthropological research through a multidisciplinary investigation of how the AHIJ use media and technology to define their public image in the twenty-first century.
Moving beyond the "modest witness" of nineteenth-century scientific discourse or the "thick descriptions" of twentieth-century anthropology, Jackson insists that Geertzian thickness is impossible, especially in a world where the anthropologist's subjects craft their own self-ethnographies and critically consume the ethnographer's offerings. Taking as its topic a group situated along the fault lines of several diasporas--African, American, Jewish--Thin Description provides an account of how race, religion, and ethnographic representation must be understood anew in the twenty-first century, lest we reenact old mistakes in the study of black humanity.
To most people, translation means making the words of one language understandable in another; but translation in a broader sense-seeing strangeness and incorporating it into one's understanding-is perhaps the earliest task of the human brain. This book illustrates the translation process in less-common contexts: cultural, religious, even the translation of pain. Its original contributions seek to trace human understanding of the self, of the other, and of the stranger by discovering how we bridge gaps within or between semiotic systems.
Translation and Ethnography focuses on issues that arise when we attempt to make significant thematic or symbolic elements of one culture meaningful in terms of another. Its chapters cover a wide range of topics, all stressing the interpretive practices that enable the approximation of meaning: the role of differential power, of language and so-called world view, and of translation itself as a metaphor of many contemporary cross-cultural processes.
The topics covered here represent a global sample of translation, ranging from Papua New Guinea to South America to Europe. Some of the issues addressed include postcolonial translation/transculturation from the perspective of colonized languages, as in the Mexican Zapatista movement; mis-translations of Amerindian conceptions and practices in the Amazon, illustrating the subversive potential of anthropology as a science of translation; Ethiopian oracles translating divine messages for the interpretation of believers; and dreams and clowns as translation media among the Gamk of Sudan.
Anthropologists have long been accustomed to handling translation chains; in this book they open their diaries and show the steps they take toward knowledge. Translation and Ethnography raises issues that will shake up the most obdurate, objectivist translators and stimulate scholars in sociolinguistics, communication, ethnography, and other fields who face the challenges of conveying meaning across human boundaries.
In A Universal Theory of Pottery Production, award-winning archaeologist Richard A. Krause presents an ethnographic account of pottery production based on archaeological evidence.
Krause posits that the careful study of an archaeological site’s ceramics can be used to formulate a step-and-stage theory of pottery production for the area. Krause’s work suggests that by comparing the results of inquiries conducted at different sites and for different times, archaeologists may be able to create a general ethnographic theory of pottery production.
Krause demonstrates this process through a comprehensive analysis of potsherds from the highly stratified Puerto Rican site of Paso del Indio. He first provides a comprehensive explanation of the archaeological concepts of attribute, mode, feature, association, site, analysis, and classification. Using these seven concepts, he categorizes the production and decorative techniques in the Paso del Indio site. Krause then applies the concept of “focal form vessels” to the site’s largest fragments to test his step-and-stage theory of production against the evidence they provide. Finally, he assigns the ceramics at Paso del Indio to previously discussed potting traditions.
Unlike other books on the subject that use statistical methods to frame basic archaeological concepts, Krause approaches these topics from the perspective of epistemology and the explicatory practices of empirical science. In A Universal Theory of Pottery Production Krause offers much of interest to North American, Caribbean, and South American archaeologists interested in the manufacture, decoration, and classification of prehistoric pottery, as well as for archaeologists interested in archaeological theory.
For many communities around the world, the revitalization or at least the preservation of an indigenous language is a pressing concern. Understanding the issue involves far more than compiling simple usage statistics or documenting the grammar of a tongue—it requires examining the social practices and philosophies that affect indigenous language survival.
In presenting the case of Kaska, an endangered language in an Athabascan community in the Yukon, Barbra A. Meek asserts that language revitalization requires more than just linguistic rehabilitation; it demands a social transformation. The process must mend rips and tears in the social fabric of the language community that result from an enduring colonial history focused on termination. These “disjunctures” include government policies conflicting with community goals, widely varying teaching methods and generational viewpoints, and even clashing ideologies within the language community.
This book provides a detailed investigation of language revitalization based on more than two years of active participation in local language renewal efforts. Each chapter focuses on a different dimension, such as spelling and expertise, conversation and social status, family practices, and bureaucratic involvement in local language choices. Each situation illustrates the balance between the desire for linguistic continuity and the reality of disruption.
We Are Our Language reveals the subtle ways in which different conceptions and practices—historical, material, and interactional—can variably affect the state of an indigenous language, and it offers a critical step toward redefining success and achieving revitalization.
Michael Lucey offers a linguistic anthropological analysis of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.
What happens when we talk? This deceptively simple question is central to Marcel Proust’s monumental novel In Search of Lost Time. Both Proust’s narrator and the novel that houses him devote considerable energy to investigating not just what people are saying or doing when they talk, but also what happens socio-culturally through their use of language. Proust, in other words, is interested in what linguistic anthropologists call language-in-use.
Michael Lucey elucidates Proust’s approach to language-in-use in a number of ways: principally in relation to linguistic anthropology, but also in relation to speech act theory, and to Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology. The book also includes an interlude after each of its chapters that contextualizes Proust’s social-scientific practice of novel writing in relation to that of a number of other novelists, earlier and later, and from several different traditions, including Honoré de Balzac, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Nathalie Sarraute, and Rachel Cusk. Lucey is thus able to show how, in the hands of quite different novelists, various aspects of the novel form become instruments of linguistic anthropological analysis. The result introduces a different way of understanding language to literary and cultural critics and explores the consequences of this new understanding for the practice of literary criticism more generally.
In hospital rooms across the country, doctors, nurses, patients, and their families grapple with questions of life and death. Recently, they have been joined at the bedside by a new group of professional experts, bioethicists, whose presence raises a host of urgent questions. How has bioethics evolved into a legitimate specialty? When is such expertise necessary? How do bioethicists make their decisions? And whose interests do they serve?
Renowned sociologist Charles L. Bosk has been observing medical care for thirty-five years. In What Would You Do? he brings his extensive experience to bear on these questions while reflecting on the ethical dilemmas that his own ethnographic research among surgeons and genetic counselors has provoked. Bosk considers whether the consent given to ethnographers by their subjects can ever be fully voluntary and informed. He questions whether promises of confidentiality and anonymity can or should be made. And he wonders if social scientists overestimate the benefits of their work while downplaying the risks.
Vital for practitioners of both the newly prominent field of bioethics and the long-established craft of ethnography, What Would You Do? will also engross anyone concerned with how our society addresses difficult health care issues.
Working Backstage illuminates the work of New York City’s theater technicians, shining a light on the essential contributions of unionized stagehands, carpenters, electricians, sound engineers, properties artisans, wardrobe crews, makeup artists, and child guardians. Too-often dismissed or misunderstood as mere functionaries, these technicians are deeply engaged in creative problem-solving and perform collaborative, intricate choreographed work that parallels the performances of actors, singers, and dancers onstage. Although their contributions have fueled the Broadway machine, their contributions have been left out of most theater histories.
Theater historian Christin Essin offers clear and evocative descriptions of this invaluable labor, based on her archival research and interviews with more than 100 backstage technicians, members of the New York locals of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. A former theater technician herself, Essin provides readers with an insider’s view of the Broadway stage, from the suspended lighting bridge of electricians operating followspots for A Chorus Line; the automation deck where carpenters move the massive scenic towers for Newsies; the makeup process in the dressing room for The Lion King; the offstage wings of Matilda the Musical, where guardians guide child actors to entrances and exits. Working Backstage makes an significant contribution to theater studies and also to labor studies, exploring the politics of the unions that serve backstage professionals, protecting their rights and insuring safe working conditions. Illuminating the history of this typically hidden workforce, the book provides uncommon insights into the business of Broadway and its backstage working relationships among cast and crew members.