Anton Chekhov is revered as a boldly innovative playwright and short story writer—but he wrote more than just plays and stories. In Alive in the Writing—an intriguing hybrid of writing guide, biography, and literary analysis—anthropologist and novelist Kirin Narayan introduces readers to some other sides of Chekhov: his pithy, witty observations on the writing process, his life as a writer through accounts by his friends, family, and lovers, and his venture into nonfiction through his book Sakhalin Island. By closely attending to the people who lived under the appalling conditions of the Russian penal colony on Sakhalin, Chekhov showed how empirical details combined with a literary flair can bring readers face to face with distant, different lives, enlarging a sense of human responsibility.
Highlighting this balance of the empirical and the literary, Narayan calls on Chekhov to bring new energy to the writing of ethnography and creative nonfiction alike. Weaving together selections from writing by and about him with examples from other talented ethnographers and memoirists, she offers practical exercises and advice on topics such as story, theory, place, person, voice, and self. A new and lively exploration of ethnography, Alive in the Writing shows how the genre’s attentive, sustained connection with the lives of others can become a powerful tool for any writer.
The term culture in its anthropological sense did not enter the American lexicon with force until after 1910—more than a century after Herder began to use it in Germany and another thirty years after E. B. Tylor and Franz Boas made it the object of anthropological attention. Before Cultures explores this delay in the development of the culture concept and its relation to the description of difference in late nineteenth-century America.
In this work, Brad Evans weaves together the histories of American literature and anthropology. His study brings alive not only the regionalist and ethnographic fiction of the time but also revives a range of neglected materials, including the Zuni sketchbooks of anthropologist Frank Hamilton Cushing; popular magazines such as Century Illustrated Monthly, which published Cushing's articles alongside Henry James's; the debate between Joel Chandler Harris, author/collector of the Uncle Remus folktales, and John Wesley Powell, perhaps the most important American anthropologist of the time; and Du Bois's polemics against the culture concept as it was being developed in the early twentieth century.
Written with clarity and grace, Before Cultures will be of value to students of American literature, history, and anthropology alike.
Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Chester Himes were all pressured by critics and publishers to enlighten mainstream (white) audiences about race and African American culture. Focusing on fiction and non-fiction they produced between the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement, Eve Dunbar’s important book, Black Regions of the Imagination, examines how these African American writers—who lived and traveled outside the United States—both document and re-imagine their “homegrown” racial experiences within a worldly framework.
From Hurston’s participant-observational accounts and Wright’s travel writing to Baldwin’s Another Country and Himes’ detective fiction, these writers helped develop the concept of a “region” of blackness that resists boundaries of genre and geography. Each writer represents—and signifies—blackness in new ways and within the larger context of the world. As they negotiated issues of “belonging,” these writers were more critical of social segregation in America as well as increasingly resistant to their expected roles as cultural “translators.”
Crumpled Paper Boat is a book of experimental ventures in ethnographic writing, an exploration of the possibilities of a literary anthropology. These original essays from notable writers in the field blur the boundaries between ethnography and genres such as poetry, fiction, memoir, and cinema. They address topics as diverse as ritual expression in Cuba and madness in a Moroccan city, the HIV epidemic in South Africa and roadkill in suburban America. Essays alternate with methodological reflections on fundamental problems of writerly heritage, craft, and responsibility in anthropology. Crumpled Paper Boat engages writing as a creative process of encounter, a way of making and unmaking worlds, and a material practice no less participatory and dynamic than fieldwork itself. These talented writers show how inventive, appealing, and intellectually adventurous prose can allow us to enter more profoundly into the lives and worlds of others, breaking with conventional notions of representation and subjectivity. They argue that such experimentation is essential to anthropology’s role in the contemporary world, and one of our most powerful means of engaging it.
Contributors. Daniella Gandolfo, Angela Garcia, Tobias Hecht, Michael Jackson, Adrie Kusserow, Stuart McLean, Todd Ramón Ochoa, Anand Pandian, Stefania Pandolfo, Lisa Stevenson, Kathleen Stewart
Examines the prehistory of the American struggle to address cultural difference.
"Culture" is a term we commonly use to explain the differences in our ways of living. In this book Michael A. Elliott returns to the moment this usage was first articulated, tracing the concept of culture to the writings-folktales, dialect literature, local color sketches, and ethnographies-that provided its intellectual underpinnings in turn-of-the-century America.
The Culture Concept explains how this now-familiar definition of "culture" emerged during the late nineteenth century through the intersection of two separate endeavors that shared a commitment to recording group-based difference-American literary realism and scientific ethnography. Elliott looks at early works of cultural studies as diverse as the conjure tales of Charles Chesnutt, the Ghost Dance ethnography of James Mooney, and the prose narrative of the Omaha anthropologist-turned-author Francis La Flesche. His reading of these works-which struggle to find appropriate theoretical and textual tools for articulating a less chauvinistic understanding of human difference-is at once a recovery of a lost connection between American literary realism and ethnography and a productive inquiry into the usefulness of the culture concept as a critical tool in our time and times to come.
Michael A. Elliott is assistant professor of English at Emory University.
This deeply moving collection of poetry by Renato Rosaldo focuses on the shock of his wife Michelle (Shelly) Rosaldo's sudden death on October 11, 1981. Just the day before, Shelly and her family had arrived in the northern Philippine village of Mungayang, where she and her husband Renato, both accomplished anthropologists, planned to conduct fieldwork. On October 11, Shelly died after losing her footing and falling some sixty feet from a cliff into a swollen river. Renato Rosaldo explored the relationship between bereavement and rage in his canonical essay, "Grief and a Headhunter's Rage," which first appeared in 1984 and is reprinted here. In the poems at the heart of this book, he returns to the trauma of Shelly's death through the medium of free verse, maintaining a tight focus on the events of October 11, 1981. He explores not only his own experience of Shelly's death but also the imagined perspectives of many others whose lives intersected with that tragic event and its immediate aftermath, from Shelly herself to the cliff from which she fell, from the two young boys who lost their mother to the strangers who carried and cared for them, from a tricycle taxi driver, to a soldier, to priests and nuns. Photographs taken years earlier, when Renato and Shelly were conducting research across the river valley from Mungayang, add a stark beauty. In a new essay, "Notes on Poetry and Ethnography," Rosaldo explains how and why he came to write the harrowing yet beautiful poems in The Day of Shelly's Death. More than anything else though, the essay is a manifesto in support of what he calls antropoesía, verse with an ethnographic sensibility. The essay clarifies how this book of rare humanity and insight challenges the limits of ethnography as it is usually practiced.
In Experiments with Empire Justin Izzo examines how twentieth-century writers, artists, and anthropologists from France, West Africa, and the Caribbean experimented with ethnography and fiction in order to explore new ways of knowing the colonial and postcolonial world. Focusing on novels, films, and ethnographies that combine fictive elements and anthropological methods and modes of thought, Izzo shows how empire gives ethnographic fictions the raw materials for thinking beyond empire's political and epistemological boundaries. In works by French surrealist writer Michel Leiris and filmmaker Jean Rouch, Malian writer Amadou Hampâté Bâ, Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau, and others, anthropology no longer functions on behalf of imperialism as a way to understand and administer colonized peoples; its relationship with imperialism gives writers and artists the opportunity for textual experimentation and political provocation. It also, Izzo contends, helps readers to better make sense of the complicated legacy of imperialism and to imagine new democratic futures.