Reading Ethnography

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  1. 1. Reading Ethnography John McCreery (jlm@wordworks.jp)Anthropology Writing Camp, NTHU 7/4/2017
  2. 2. John Roberts, Professor of Anthropology, Cornell University September 1966 The whole point of being a graduate student is to stop being a student.
  3. 3. Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab Teaching is what others do to me. Learning is what I do for myself.
  4. 4. John McCreery, NTHU, February 2017 I am not here to teach you (). I am hear to learn with you ().
  5. 5. This Presentation Not a nished argument A bricolage, an assemblage constructed of materials close to hand A provocation, an invitation to think about your research Reality >> Representation>>Whats it all about? Not only what you discover but how to write about it and who you are writing for
  6. 6. Three Important Books
  7. 7. Alike All by Chinese anthropologists based on eldwork in China What Malinowski wrote of Peasant Life in China can be said of all three. The book does not remain satised with the mere reconstruction of the static past. It grapples fully and deliberately with that most elusive and dicult phase of modern life : the transformation of traditional culture
  8. 8. Different Times, Places, Historical Moments Yangtze Delta, August-July 1936, collapse of global demand for Chinese silk, ROC government, impending start of Second Sino- Japanese War. A village in Fujian, near Xiamen, 1984-1985, 1996, the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, followed by post-Mao opening to capitalism. Once poor villagers become rich capitalists. The Nuosu, a branch of the Yi minority, in Western Sichuan, 2002-2009. Heroin and AIDS epidemics. Migration to and from cities. Growing individualization. Drugs, thievery, jail become a rite of passage. The community remains poor. The Nuosu remain stigmatized.
  9. 9. Fei Xiaotong Male, born in 1910, twenty-six at time of eldwork. Fluent in the local dialect, familiar with local customs. My sister, whose devotion to the rehabilitation of the livelihood of the villagers has actually inspired me to take up this investigation, had introduced me to the village and nanced my work. On excellent terms with village ocials. Access was not a problem.
  10. 10. Huang Shumin An established scholar with a tenured position at an American university, a visiting professor at Xiamen University. Spent half of each week in village. Grew up in Taiwan. Fluent in Mandarin and Hokkien. Frustrated and annoyed as eldwork began but established rapport thanks to a malicious attack on Party Secretary Yes fathers tomb. Quickly established good working relationships with Ye and other villagers.
  11. 11. Liu Shaohua Our most anthropological (stranger in a strange land) eldwork. A young woman raised in Taiwan works with a minority people in western China. Dissertation eldwork for PhD in in Sociomedical Sciences and Anthropology Not a native speaker of Nuosu. Credits fathers Hunanese for rapidly becoming uent in Sichuanese. Uses local assistants/ interpreters Experiences deep pain, suering, loss. Achieves rapport through personal involvement in extraordinary events.
  12. 12. Three Examples of Writing Culture Systematic and thorough descriptive analysis (Fei) Biography as ethnography. Use of life history to illuminate social change (Huang) A complex, multilayered combination of personal encounters, multiple life histories, and local and global trends (Liu)
  13. 13. Three Tables of Contents
  14. 14. Peasant Life in China I. IntroductionII. The FieldIII. The ChiaIV. Property and InheritanceV. Kinship ExtensionsVI. Household and VillageVII. LivelihoodVIII. Occupational DierentiationChapter III THE CHIA1.Chia as Expanded Family2. Continuity of Incense and Fire3. Population Control4. Parents and Children5. Education6. Marriage7.The Daughter-in-law in the Chia8. Cross-cousin Marriage and Siaosiv IX. Calendar of WorkX. AgricultureXI. Land TenureXII. The Silk IndustryXIII. Sheep Raising and Trade VenturesXIV. MarketingXV. FinanceXVI. Agrarian Problems in ChinaLists of Topics, All Nouns
  15. 15. The Spiral Road Introduction The Chinese Peasantry in Historical ContextAbout This BookThe Signicance of the Book1 Prologue Reections on My ComingLin Village: First ImpressionsGetting Acquainted2 Family History A Walk to the TombThe Importance of Geomancy3 The Liberation The Land ReformSchool Years4 Hunger, Hunger The Great Leap ForwardBecoming a Political Activist 5 Joining the Act The Four CleanupsThe Campaign 6 Return Home A Peasants StoryCultural RevolutionYes Marriage and Family7 Security Head Ye Settles a DisputeInternal Conicts in the VillageMore Village Crimes8 Prosperous Years The Strategy of ProsperityBack-Door Connections9 The Breakup Ritual CelebrationRitual Celebration: AnalysisFamily DivisionDismantling the Collective 10 Village Cadres Family Planning CampaignImplementing the PolicyYes AnalysisYe as MediatorYes Programs11 Village Change in the 1990s Village PopulationSocial Problems Associated with Increased PopulationVillage Security ForceTheft in the Village12 Wither Lin Village? Line Villages Recent ChangeYes Female CompanionVillage Party ElectionThe Revival of the Lin LineageCasting the BallotsYes Analysis of the Election and Arrangement for Wang Events, Frequent Use of Verbs, A Story Unfolds
  16. 16. Passage to Manhood Bringing Peripheries to the Center 1 The Meandering Road to Modernity 2 Manhood, Migration, and Heroin 3 Multivocal Drug Control 4 Contentious Individuality on the Rise 5 Failed State AIDS Intervention 6 AIDS and Its Global Stigmatization Titles of Linked Essays
  17. 17. Why do these books impress us? Aristotles Rhetoric suggests three possible reasons Argument (facts and logic) Rhetoric (metaphor, simile, other tropes) Character (the personality and reputation of the author) When we talk about reading ethnography, we ask how rhetoric and representation of character inuence our reception of argument.
  18. 18. Our First Guide
  19. 19. Four Key Elements In Tales of the Field, John van Maanen writes that discussions of ethnography must consider(1) the assumed relationship between culture and behavior (the observed); (2) the experiences of the eldworker (the observer); (3) the representational style selected to join the observer and observed (the tale); and (4) the role of the reader engaged in the active reconstruction of the tale (the audience).
  20. 20. Culture and Behavior In all of these books, culture is only one factor inuencing behavior Others include Local conditions External conditions (Plus, in Huang and Liu) Individual choices
  21. 21. Local Conditions Dense population, limited land, no possibility of adding new elds (Fei) Proximity to city that turns poor soil into valuable real estate (Huang) Mountainous, thinly populated, isolated terrain (Liu)
  22. 22. External Conditions Global silk market, Japanese imperialism (Fei) Maoist era policies, then opening to capitalism (Huang) Radical social transformations, hard times followed by growing wealth Maoist era policies, then opening to capitalism (Liu) Capsuling of local society, followed by drugs, AIDS, individualism, and continued poverty
  23. 23. Individual Choices Not a factor (Fei) Political and economic choices (Huang) Mixed motives, some traditional, some modern. Primarily PS Yes strategies and tactics Life choices aected by modernization (Liu) Mixed motives, some traditional, some modern Factors that motivate individual young men to migrate to cities, where they engage in theft and drug-dealing to pay for drugs.
  24. 24. Fieldworker Experiences Something new to consider Two cases of rapport achieved through unexpected events Vandalism of PS Yes fathers tomb (Huang) Anthropologist as witness, not personally aected Ghosts and bandits (Liu) Anthropologist as protagonist, personally deeply aected
  25. 25. Tale Types Realistic Tales Confessional Tales Impressionistic Tales
  26. 26. Realistic Tales Experiential Authority Typical Forms The Natives Point of View Interpretive Omnipotence A Curious Combination Eyewitness plus Expertise Things/Routines Taken for Granted
  27. 27. Experiential Authority (How is it written?) Absence of the author from most segments of the nished text Focus on argument (facts and logic)
  28. 28. Experiential Authority (Fei Xiaotong) This is a descriptive account of the system of consumption, production, distribution and exchange of wealth among Chinese peasants as observed in a village, Kaihsienkung, south of Lake Tai, in Eastern China.It aims at showing the relation of this economic system to a specic geographical setting and to the social structure of the community. The village under investigation, like most Chinese villages, is undergoing a tremendous process of Change. This account, therefore, will show the forces and problems in a changing village economy. From Peasant Life in China, Introduction (p.30)
  29. 29. Typical Forms Documentary style focused on minute, mundane details of everyday life. Thus, for example,The villagers as a group possess certain cultural peculiarities. One of my informants mentioned three outstanding items to me : (i) that the villagers tend to palatalize the words such as gon, jeu, etc., in speech, (2) their women do not work on the farm, and (3) their women always wear skirts even in the hot summer.From Peasant Life in China, The Field, p. 73
  30. 30. The Natives Point of View Indicated by use of quotation or local terminology For example,The importance of the posterity is conceived in religious and ethical terms. The local term for the continuity of descent is continuity of incense and re; this means a continuity of ancestor worship.From Peasant Life in China, The Chia (p.85)
  31. 31. Interpretive Omnipotence Are we justied i