The Politics of Ethnography: Translated Woman

Document Sample
The Politics of Ethnography: Translated Woman Powered By Docstoc
      Politics of Ethnography:
        Translated Woman
In this book I attempted something that was
taboo for anthropology. I not only presented
  Esperanza’s life story, but I explored my
  own interpretations and responses to her
   story, including the consequences that
thinking about her story had for my own life
       Two theoretical and
      methodological currents

• Advocacy in feminist literature (including

• Importance of anthropological confessions
  as a methodological shift in ethnography
          Testimonial as a type of
•   Docummentary
•   Channels of communication
•   Preserve women’s history
•   Accessibility
•   Demystify common assumptions
•   Taken a position
•   Roots in Latin American historical fiction
 Testimonial literature resonates
 with other types of advocacy in

• Ethnography as activism: Elizabeth Enslin
• Repatriation for empowering subjects
      Testimonials and ethno
• Marjorie Shasta’s “Nisa: The Life and
  Words of a 1Kung Woman” (1981)
• Vincent Crapanzano’s “Tuhami: Portrait of
  a Moroccan (1980).
• Mediations of relationships( ethnographer
  and other)
Blurring distinctions (subject and

 I have tried to make clear that what I
 am reading is a story, or set of stories,
 that have been told to me, so that I, in
       turn, can tell them again,
  transforming myself from a listener
         into a storyteller (13).
Emphasis on local episteme

  Esperanza certainly understood that
   the border between history, reality
 and fiction, is a fluid one (16). I had
 to edit and reshape what she told me,
   turning it into something else (16)
     Immediate versus timeless
• Women ethnographers have often found
  themselves positioned in the daughter role relation
  to the people with whom they work. In giving me
  the role of comadre, Esperanza made me "fictive
  kin”, but in a way both highlighted and formalized
  the contradictions of the racial and class
  differences between us (7)
 Methodological influences from
• Anthropological confessions: necessity to
  show oneself as ethnographer
• A move away from ethnographic realism
• Malinowski’s diaries: ethnographer not a
  detached recorder of culture
        Contrasting with realist
•   Highly personalized styles
•   Stories of fieldwork rapport
•   Active construction of the ethnography
•   A world presented in which the
    ethnographer plays a part
 I was also forced to realize the extent
 to which the ethnographic relation is
 bases on power, for indeed, I had felt
uncomfortable when an ‘informant’ –
 particularly another, less-privileged,
woman—was assertive and aggressive,
     rather than complicitous and
cooperative as informants “should’ be
             Remain realist
• Done to convince the audience of
• Mentions personal biases, character flows,
• Shows him/herself struggling to piece
  together the story
  Clifford (1983) Two rhetorical
     strategies of confessions
• One: to cast oneself as student as an
  apprentice of culture; comes to learn a
  culture like a child learns a culture
• Two: to cast oneself as a translator or
  interpreter of indigenous texts available to
  the ethnographer only in the field
   A growing discomfort about close
links between the fieldworker and the
        inquisitor a extractors of
   confessions...This discomfort was
  highlighted for me in Mexico by the
  intense awareness of race and class
 differences in the countryside and by
the way people tended to position mw
  in the role of a rich gringa from the
             United states (3)
        Discussion Questions
• Why does Behar think Esperanza needs the
  anthropologists to mediate her story?
• Whose stories are they?
• Can testimonial an ethnic autobiographies
  refashion our practice of ethnography as a
  mode of cultural critique?

Shared By: