What is the work that make the stories ? Our curated collection on “Literature, Writing and Anthropology” seeks to address this issue by creating a space in which fiction and anthropology converge, collide and collapse with each other. A collaboration between cultural anthropology and the American short fiction literary magazine, this collection features articles, interviews, short stories, and a lecture. In assembling these texts, we have been surprised by the affiliations that are formed through fiction, ethnography, and criticism. Although the structure of our website requires us to separate fiction from anthropology, there is no way to easily demarcate where fiction ends and anthropology begins.
Conventionally, we have relied on truth as the fundamental distinguishing factor between fiction and other genres. Fiction was intended to be invented, while the social sciences, journalism, and memoirs presented accounts of people, places, and ostensibly true events. Looking at the intersection of today’s literature, writing, and anthropology, this simple binary is clearly eroding. Although anthropologists have an ethical obligation to present an accurate account of the communities in which they work, the truth can be slippery. Is an ethnography true if one does not count the presence of the author within from her ? Are anthropologists simply forcing other people and their own lived experiences into molds of pre-existing tropes, making them (if not absolutely false) rather useless? Aren’t things like love, grief, shame, shame, and joy true? Does the truth matter if it is useless for the communities that are studied and represented?
All the work here, fictional and otherwise, refers to clarifying, exploiting, magnifying, or subverting various kinds of truths. Anthropology has become literary conventions to further clarify the author’s position and to foster multivocal authorship, superficial vulnerability, revealing silences in standard discourses, and exposing the seams in both anthropological and ethnographic practice . Likewise, fiction writers increasingly ask for non-fiction genres of writing, including science and social science, resulting in a destabilization and reworking of the truths conveyed in those genres. Lucy Corin’s “crazy” short story, included in this collection, employs a little bit of Arnold van Gennep, Victor Turner, and Michel Foucault to create a satirical, but heartfelt tale of adolescence in which girls and boys are paired with the so-called madmen in a rite of passage fiction . As this collection makes clear, fiction and truth begin to bleed into one another as the authors explore ways to expand truth and tell better stories.
A brief review history of the relationship between the literature and the anthropology can demonstrate the ways in which these questions began to gain strength . This history is much longer than is generally recognized, the ibecause ethnography is more often a written description of styles (Langness and Franco 1978). Although numerous works of ethnographic fiction were written by anthropologists in the 1920s and 1930s, the discipline (as a fledgling science) eventually began to discourage novelist writing; Two important works by Franz Boas’ students, Margaret Mead’s coming-of-age in Samoa and Ruth Benedict’s patrons of culture, were criticized on these grounds. Another of Boaz’s students, Zora Neale Hurston, is considered a forerunner of literary anthropology and became a celebrated novelist after the writer Alice Walker published her work; she is particularly known for the classic his eyes were looking at God . Since that early period, anthropology has undergone several literary turns, punctuated by Clifford Geertz’s (1973) exhortation to produce “a thick description.” Geertz’s work was followed by literary modes that were influenced by postmodern critiques, including reflexivity, experimental forms, and acknowledgments of placement and authorship that often resulted in the scholarship overlapping with memories (see Behar 2007 )
The culture of writing (Clifford and Marcus 1986) reviewed the relationships of anthropology with writing, especially in the production of ethnographic truths. This historical publication was followed, a decade later, by the feminist culture of the female response (Behar and Gordon 1996). The literary return heralded by these and other works encouraged anthropologists to take stock of how identity and power were involved in ethnographic composition. By amplifying the crisis of cultural representation brought to the fore by postcolonial literary theory and the politics of racial and sexual difference, these anthropologists attempted to redefine both the poetics and politics of ethnography. More recently, element emotional in the writing anthropological .
Featured Articles : Anthropology
The anthropologists featured in this curated collection range from those who were integral to the moment of the writing culture of the 1980s and 1990s to young scholars who are taking literary anthropology in new directions today. Vincent Crapanzano’s 1991 article, “The Postmodern Crisis: Discourse, Memory, Parody,” discusses the erosion in postmodern discourses of the third stabilizer: the invisible authority or the discourse to which interlocutors appeal. However, there is still memory of previous discursive forms, resulting in intercultural exchanges that are structured as parody. The death and memory of Ruth Behar: from Santa María del Monte to Miami Beach combines an ethnography of death in rural Spain with an autoethnography of the death of the author’s grandparents. This combination creates a self-reflective style of both writing and practicing ethnography that Behar would later elaborate on the vulnerable observer: anthropology that breaks your heart. Stuart McLean and S. Lochlann Jain draw our attention to the importance of different epistemic and ontic approaches that find their creative center in places like critical ecology and queer theory. McLean’s “stories and cosmogony: imagining creativity beyond” nature “and” culture, “argue that we can bridge gaps between ourselves and others – nature and culture – by taking seriously the constitutive powers of time and the natural world . Jain’s 2007 article “Cancer Butch” employs a mix of writing styles to discuss the pinkwashing of breast cancer campaigns and the strict narratives of femininity that they impose on women with breast cancer. Finally, Elizabeth Enslin, who is a writer of creative fiction and poetry, embodies how anthropological knowledge can be put to work outside of the Academy. Despite her embrace of creative writing in her own life, her 1994 article “Beyond Writing: Feminist Practice and the Limitations of Ethnography” serves as a warning that good writing is not enough to bridge the chasm. from the unequal privilege that commonly separates anthropologists from the communities in which they work. A writer of creative fiction and poetry, she embodies the way that anthropological knowledge can be put to work outside of the Academy. Despite her embrace of creative writing in her own life, her 1994 article “Beyond Writing: Feminist Practice and the Limitations of Ethnography” serves as a warning that good writing is not enough to bridge the chasm. from the unequal privilege that commonly separates anthropologists from the communities in which they work. A writer of creative fiction and poetry, she embodies the way that anthropological knowledge can be put to work outside of the Academy. Despite her embrace of creative writing in her own life, her 1994 article “Beyond Writing: Feminist Practice and the Limitations of Ethnography” serves as a warning that good writing is not enough to bridge the chasm. from the unequal privilege that commonly separates anthropologists from the communities in which they work.
Featured stories and interviews: fiction
This curated collection also features short stories and interviews by five fictional authors. Four of these stories were originally featured in our association of short fiction American literary magazines. These stories demonstrate the similarities between the worlds of literary anthropology and fiction: both genres are capable of revealing the desire, emotion, and vulnerability of their authors and subjects. Our selections also highlight ways in which the unique tools of fiction (such as the absurd, the exaggeration, the patterned structure, the manipulation of time, and the examination of impossible possibilities) can help us see ourselves more clearly. Some of the stories collected here include Canny’s games on anthropological concepts: as mentioned earlier, Lucy Corin’s “madmen” story depicts a fictional coming-of-age ritual in which teenagers are paired with so-called madmen, a vanity that resonates both Classical Anthropology and Foucauldian TROPOS of madness and civilization. Michael Martone’s “Four Calling Birds” is a playfully melancholic tale of a romance that is both a Commentary on Adultery and a demonstration that the narrative structure may contain its own undoing. Katilyn Greenidge’s short play “The Innocent” exposes an itinerary of desire going back to the discourse that encourages and disciplines it. L. Annette Binder’s “Sea of Tranquility” uses soft surrealism to discuss fatherhood and identity change in everyday life. Finally, the story of Nathan J. Fink “the great light”,