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writing self Junho 9, 2013

Posted by paulo jorge vieira in ethnography.


To consider these questions I was drawn to what many feminists and historically unauthorized writers have sought as a favored genre, namely, the essay. Some feminists have described the “essay” as a device that is a playful medium and an open-ended form that is difficult to define. With an explicitly present narrative “I” the essayist can deploy various modes such as carefully crafted arguments, thick description, critical reflection, nonfiction, and fiction, which are polemical in nature. Contemporary feminist ethnographic work experimenting with the genre of the essay by Kamala Visweswaran (1994), Kath Weston (1998), Mary John (1996), and Ruth Behar (1996) contribute to the organization, intellectual impulse, my location as a cultural critic/ethnographer, and epistemologies of this book. For instance, Mary John, who writes as “an anthropologist in reverse,” a potential immigrant, “an impossible mix of author and native informant” and a participant-observer of the worlds of U.S. feminism and theory, uses the genre of the essay to travel between India and the United States and the fields of trans/national feminism (109). In problemetizing the disciplinary boundaries of traditional ethnography, cultural criticism, and autobiography, Kamala Visweswaran as a “hyphenated-ethnographer,” experiments with ethnographic essays and first person narratives to move between cultural and national spaces as a historical subject. She says, “If one virtue of the ethnographic essay is that it resists closure, I intend each of the essays below to open out upon adjoining essays as a means of exploring the conjectures between some arguments and disjunctures among others” (12). The possibilities inherent in essay, “[A]n amorphous, open-ended, even rebellious genre that desegregates the boundaries between self and other,” and first-person narratives especially by the traditionally “ethnographized,” writes Ruth Behar, actively distinguishes between the tabooed practices of self-revelation of the “ethnographized” verses the usual all-powerful unmarked ethnographic “I.” As “virtual ethnographer” and one who is not “anti-empiricist” either Kath Weston seeks to undermine what she refers to as the theory/data split and weaves in theory and ethnography as a queer ethnographer “reposition[ing] sexuality at the heart of the social sciences.”

Made in India – Decolonizations, Queer Sexualities, Trans/national Projects” Suparna Bhaskaran (Palgrave,2004, pp.4-5)



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