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From Participant Observation to the Observation of Participation: The Emergence of Narrative Ethnography Author(s): Barbara TedlockUniversity of New Mexico Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630581 Accessed: 10 -08-2015 20:42 UTC Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/ info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. University of New Mexico is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Anthropological Research. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 146.155.94.33 on Mon, 10 Aug 2015 20:42:23 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions " id="pdf-obj-0-2" src="pdf-obj-0-2.jpg">

From Participant Observation to the Observation of Participation: The Emergence of Narrative Ethnography Author(s): Barbara Tedlock Source: Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 69-94 Published by: University of New Mexico Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630581 Accessed: 10-08-2015 20:42 UTC

From Participant Observation to the Observation of Participation: The Emergence of Narrative Ethnography Author(s): Barbara TedlockUniversity of New Mexico Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630581 Accessed: 10 -08-2015 20:42 UTC Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/ info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. University of New Mexico is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Anthropological Research. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 146.155.94.33 on Mon, 10 Aug 2015 20:42:23 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions " id="pdf-obj-0-16" src="pdf-obj-0-16.jpg">
From Participant Observation to the Observation of Participation: The Emergence of Narrative Ethnography Author(s): Barbara TedlockUniversity of New Mexico Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630581 Accessed: 10 -08-2015 20:42 UTC Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/ info/about/policies/terms.jsp JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. University of New Mexico is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal of Anthropological Research. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 146.155.94.33 on Mon, 10 Aug 2015 20:42:23 UTC All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions " id="pdf-obj-0-18" src="pdf-obj-0-18.jpg">

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JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

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FROMPARTICIPANT

OBSERVATION

TO THE

OBSERVATIONOF PARTICIPATION:

THE

EMERGENCEOF NARRATIVE

ETHNOGRAPHY1

BarbaraTedlock

Department

of Anthropology,

State University

of NewYork at Buffalo,

Buffalo, NY14261

Beginning in the 1970s therehas beena shift in cultural anthropological

methodology

from particiant

observationtoward the

observation of particiation. During participant

observation ethnographers attempt to be both emotionallyengaged participants and coolly

dispassionate observers of the lives of others.In theobservation

of participation, ethnog-

raphers both experience

and observetheir own and others' coparticipation

withinthe eth-

nographic

encounter.

The shiftfrom theone methodology

tothe other entails a representational

transformation

in which,instead of a choicebetween writing an ethnographic

memoir

centering on the Self or a standard monographcentering on the Other,both the Self and

Otherare presentedtogether withina single narrative ethnography,

focused on thecharacter

and processof the ethnographicdialogue.

THE MYTHICHISTORY

OF anthropology is populatedby four archetypes: the

amateur observer, the armchair anthropologist,

the professionalethnographer,

and the "gone native"fieldworker. Eighteenth- and earlynineteenth-century

amateuraccounts-written by explorers,travelers, medical doctors, colonial

officers,missionaries, andthe idle rich-provided the materialsfor the armchair

ruminationsof late nineteenth-centuryanthropologists. It was not untilafter

the First WorldWar that academically trained ethnographers, in anynumbers,

began undertaking intensivefieldwork and constructingethnographic infor-

mation.2 It was in this shattered, nihilisticworld-which gave birthto the Jazz

Age with its bobbedhair and bathtub gin-that intellectualvalue was placed

on traveling to distant places in orderto study andreconstitute a humaneorder

out of devastationand disorder.

In the Frenchtradition, the emphasis was on team research,using a doc-

umentaryapproach.3 The Britishand the Americantraditions emphasized in-

dividual research, using an experientialapproach that was labelledwith the

oxymoron"participant

observation."4

There is no doubtbut thatthis peculiar

methodological stance causes stress, for as Benjamin Paul (1953:441) has

noted, "Participationimplies emotional involvement; observation requires de-

tachment.It is a strainto try to sympathize withothers and at the same time

strivefor scientific objectivity."

This simultaneouslyempathetic, yet distancing,

methodology, whichis widely believed by ethnographers to produce datathat

somehowreflect the native'sown point of view, in time becamethe principal

mode of productionfor anthropological knowledge.5

Ever since Malinowski (1922[1961]:25) suggested that an ethnographer's

goal should be "to grasp the native's point of

view, his relationto life, to realize

69

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  • 70 JOURNAL OFANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH

his visionof his world," there has been an expectation that participant obser-

vationwould lead to "human understanding"through a fieldworker'slearning

to think,see, feel, andsometimes even behaveas a native.Since we can only

enter into another person's world throughcommunication,

we dependupon

ethnographicdialogue to createa worldof shared intersubjectivity

andto reach

an understanding

of the differencesbetween two worlds.6 In orderto accom-

plish thisform of human understanding,

it is necessary to undertakean engaged

period of fieldwork.It is this experience that has become the professional

ethnographer'snecessary initiation-variously referredto as a pubertyrite,

ritual ordeal, or ritede passage.7

Ethnographers who havelearned not only the language butalso appropriate

behavior (including nonverbalcommunication

codes) have been transformed,

sometimes quiteradically, by theirfieldwork experience. In his ethnography,

Poker Faces, David Hayano(1982:149) reveals that he becameso immersed

in the subcultureof California pokerplayers that "withinseveral years I had

virtually become one of the people I wantedto study!" LizaCrihfield Dalby

not only took on the social role of a geisha (a charming erotic entertainer)

during her fieldworkin Japan, but she also claimsto have becomeone in both

body and spirit.8 Herassertion that she learnedto thinkand behave as a geisha

suggests the "gone native" archetype of the anthropological

imagination.

How-

ever, since she also published an ethnographic memoirabout her fieldwork

experience, Geisha (1983), she might more accurately be describedas having

"gone native" culturally, but not socially,or, better yet, as having become

bicultural.In other words, while Dalby becamea geisha in Japan to an im-

pressive degree, she didnot totally abandonher ethnographic role and status

backin the UnitedStates.

The numberof fieldworkerswho have given up anthropologyaltogether in

orderto join the flowof life elsewhereis very small. Perhaps the most famous

case of a "gone native"fieldworker is thatof Germanscholar Curt Unkel, who

went to Brazil early in this century to study the Indiansof the Amazon region

andnever returned. Although he was adopted intoa tribal group andtook the

Guaraniname Nimuendajti, he maintaineda house in the city of Beldm. He

also wrote a series of ethnographicmanuscripts andasked the Americanan-

thropologist RobertLowie for help bothin publishing his workand in obtaining

a research grant to continuehis fieldstudies. Another candidate for the "gone

native"award is FrankHamilton Cushing.During his four years of fieldwork

at Zuni Pueblo, he was initiatedas a war priest, buthe nonethelesscontinued

to do fieldworkand published a numberof ethnographicworks-including an

early narrativeaccount of the fieldwork experience(Cushing 1882-83). Even-

tually, he marrieda whitewoman and left Zunito settle on the East Coast.A

thirdcandidate is VerrierElwin, an Englishmanwho went to India,married

intoa tribe,became an Indian citizen (even a close confidantof MahatmaGandhi

andJawaharlal

Nehru), and was recognizedas a pioneerIndian anthropologist.

He publisheda series of extraordinarilydetailed ethnographies much admired

in both Indiaand England.

For these individuals,fieldwork was not a rite of passage, or route to an

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EMERGENCEOF NARRATIVEETHNOGRAPHY

71

academicunion card, but ratherthe lived-reality of the field experience was

the center of their intellectualand emotionalmissions as

human beings.9 As

it meant

Elwin expressedit, "Forme anthropology didnot mean'field-work':

my whole life. My methodwas to settle down among the people, live with

them, sharetheir life as faras an outsidercould and generally do severalbooks

together.

...

This meantthat I did not dependmerely on askingquestions,

but knowledge of the peoplegradually sankin untilit was part of me" (Elwin

1964:142).

What seems to lie behindthe belief that "going native" poses a serious

danger to the fieldworkeris the logical constructionof the relationship between

objectivity and subjectivity, between scientistand native, between Self and

Other, as an unbridgeableopposition. The implication is that a subject'sway

of knowing is incompatible with the scientist's way of knowing and that the

domainof objectivity is the sole property of the outsider.Several fieldworkers

have rejected this sharpanalytical distinctionbetween Self and Other. Bennetta

Jules-Rosette, who joined anAfrican church in the process of studyingit, wrote

that "through continued observation, I began to develop a repertoire of knowl-

edge and expectations, or a common culture, thatwas sharedwith participants

and created in interactionwith them"(Jules-Rosette 1975:21). In his intro-

ductionto Jules-Rosette'sbook, VictorTurner observed that "toeach level of

socialitycorresponds its own knowledge, andif one wishes to grasp a group's

deepest knowledge one must communewith its members,speak its Essential

We-talk"(in Jules-Rosette 1975:8). In phenomenological

terminology, this com-

municative interaction, or "we-talk,"belongs neitherto the realmof objectivity

nor to that of subjectivity, but ratherto "human intersubjectivity."

It is this

realm that distinguishes the humansciences from the naturalsciences as a

fieldof investigation.10

There was a time when assuming a participatorystance, such as taking on

an apprenticeshiprole, was criticizeddue to the beliefthat it might somehow

interferewith the objectivity of the description(Coy 1989:108).The encul-

turationthat accompaniesany intensivefieldwork experiencemight also be

critiqued for the same reason, but this has not always been the case. Solon

Kimball portrayed his own involvementin the Irishworld as so intense that,

without any formalinstruction in spectralsightings, he saw a well-knownlocal

apparition.Describing his experience, he suggested that "thetime may have

arrivedwhen we are ready to undertake systematic observationsof the pro-

cesses of inductionand involvementin anotherculture" (Kimball1972:192).

The time has indeedcome. There are now severaldetailed ethnographic re-

ports of intensive enculturation,including successfulformal and informal ap-

prenticeships(Chernoff 1980; Cooper1980; B. Tedlock 1982;Johnson 1984;

Coy 1989).

Nevertheless,the publicrevelation of participatorydetails of the fieldwork

experienceis

still consideredembarrassingly

unprofessional

by some ethnog-

raphers.It is as thoughfieldwork were supposedto give us two totallyinde-

pendentthings: reportable significant knowledge and unreportablemysticism

and high adventure.If we were to be so foolishas to make the mistakeof

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  • 72 JOURNALOF ANTHROPOLOGICAL

RESEARCH

combining these elements, it wouldsomehow seriously discreditour entire

endeavor.Paul Rabinow (1977:10) nicely summarizedthis contradiction:"As

graduate studentswe are told that 'anthropologyequals experience'; you are

not an anthropologist

until you have the experience of doing it. But whenone

returnsfrom the field the oppositeimmediately applies: anthropology is not

the experiences whichmade you an initiate, but only the objective data you

have brought back."

In the past, the most common way out of this doublebind was either to

publish the fieldwork experience as a novel or else to suppress the actual

events that took place during the research, together with all reference to

specificindividuals, including the ethnographer andthe ethnographicsubjects.

When the novelistic path was taken, some ethnographers were carefulto

distancethemselves from the work by using a pseudonym.Margaret Field

published her memoirof doingethnography among the Ga of West Africa,

Stormy Dawn (1947), underthe nameMark Freshfield. Laura Bohannan nov-

elized her experiences as a neophyteethnographer in WestAfrica under the

nameElenore Smith Bowen. Her bookReturn to Laughter(1954) was a highly

acclaimed,commercially

successful publishingventure, withmore than 350, 000

copies printed as of this writing.Philip Drucker published his Mexicaneth-

nographicnovel, Tropical Frontier (1969), underthe namePaul Record. This

use of pseudonyms enabledthese ethnographers to publish their field expe-

riencesand keep this activitytotally separate, even secret, fromtheir profes-

sion.This distancing

move indicates, I believe, thatindividuals

felt that publishing

a personal fieldworkaccount would somehow damage their reputations or

credibility as professionalethnographers." Later in life perhaps, as Laura

Bohannan did, they couldreveal their pseudonyms to the profession andtake

creditfor their literaryoutput.

The second and more common way of dealing with field experiences was

simply not to mention them, but insteadto abstractthe meaningful datafrom

the objects of study and to removeall traces of the observer.The result of

this strategy is that, as StephenTyler (1987:92) recently noted, "ethnography

is a genre that discreditsor discouragesnarrative, subjectivity, confessional,

personalanecdote, or accountsof the ethnographers'

or anyone else's expe-

rience."This suppression of firsthand experience in ethnographicmonographs

has been described by GeorgeDevereux, in From Anxiety to Methodin the

BehavioralSciences (1967:97), as a professional defensemechanism producing

"scientific(?) 'results'which smell of the morgue andare almostirrelevant in

terms of livingreality. "12

Because ethnography is botha product anda process, our lives as ethnog-

raphers are embeddedwithin field experience in such a way that all of our

interactions involve choices, and thus, "there is a moral dimension-made

explicit or not-in all anthropologicalwriting" (Herdt 1988:185). What we see

or fail to see, reporting a particularmisunderstanding or embarrassment, or

ignoringit, all involve choices. We also make a choice when we edit ourselves

out of our finalwritten ethnographicproduct. This is so no matter how narrow

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EMERGENCEOF NARRATIVE

ETHNOGRAPHY

73

the focus or scientificity of our

research design. That a personal accountof

fieldworkis always an option, regardless of our chosen

topic or research

methodology, is demonstratedin DennisWerner's (1984) beautifully crafted

Amazoniannarrative ethnography. In this workhe combinesa livelypersonal

accountof his lifein the field, a rich portrait of Mekranoti culture, anda precise

description of

the various quantitativeapproaches he used during his research.

Roger Sanjek(1990:254) classified Werner's text as among the "mostethno-

graphically

richof the personal accounts...

written by one who admits, 'While

  • I was stillin graduateschool, a fellowstudent once complained that every time

  • I openedmy mouthnumbers came out.'" GilbertHerdt (1988:186) points out

that in ethnographies that are totally removedfrom a discussionof fieldwork,

"the author'sfield tactics and experience can remain invisible,"leaving only

"impersonalized-no--depersonalized

accounts."

An early exception to the impersonalstyle

in anthropological

writing was

Spider Woman:A Storyof Navajo Weaversand

Chanters,published by Gladys

Reichardin 1934. In this engagingrendering of her fieldwork experience,

Reichardnarrates-in

the first person, active voice, present tense-four sep-

aratefield trips to Arizona.Her re-creationof her experiences and feelings is

full of precise descriptions of the detailsof everydaylife, including her own

unspokenthoughts andreactions to events she sharedwith her Navajofamily.

In a painfulvignette, we see her struggling to remainwithin the boundsof the

Navajo worldwhen her adoptivegrandmother undergoes a gruellingeight-day

traditional curingceremony, though she has what Reichardbelieves to be

pneumonia."My sympathy has run the gamut fromthe weakest sort of pity

to bitternessat not finding the doctor," she writes, "from grim fatalismat being

compelled to fetch the Chanterto the most abjectfutility at watching Maria

Antonia shampooing her hairin that wind. It now flares into feverish anger

whichdies downin despair as I see her rest once more disturbed, when she

is forced by the tenets of the cureto sit up whilethe Chanterblows medicine-

pine

leaves floating on water---onher side where the pain tormentsher"

(Reichard1934:252-53). The overall plot line of this accountfollows that of a

novel of education;thus, in the last chapter, entitled "Degree in Weaving,"

Reichard portrays herselfas a studentwho ironically ends up teaching her own

instructorthe diamondtwill technique.

The French ethnographer

MichelLeiris published hisAfrican diary,L'Afrique

fant6me, in the same yearSpider Woman appeared. In additionto documenting

the

two-yearDakar-Djibouti

expedition to the Dogon of Sanga and the Ethi-

opians of Gondar,together withthe activitiesof variousAfrican subjects,Leiris

revealed the strained relationships between the European membersof the

researchteam and the unethical museum-collectingprocedures of the expe-

dition.These revelationswere to be the causeof his eventual permanent break

with his colleague Marcel Griaule. He also disclosed the invasion of his own

dream life by images arising directly from his fieldwork: "Suddenly,the smell

of the herbs I've had scattered around my room enters my nostrils. Half

dreaming. I have the sensation of a kindof swirling(as if reddeningand turning

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  • 74 JOURNAL OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH

my head I were doing the gourri dancecharacteristic of trance)and I let out

a scream.This time I'm reallypossessed" (Leiris 1934:358; English translation

by Clifford 1986:44). 13

Inhis introduction

to TheNuer (1940), the British anthropologist

E.E. Evans-

Pritchardincluded a seven-pagefirst-person confessionalaccount of the terrible

living conditionsand informant difficulties he experiencedduring fieldworkin

the Sudan.In sharpcontrast, the remainderof the book, writtenin an omnis-

cient third-person authoritative voice, describes highlyabstract, nonempirical

entities, such as lineage and age-set systems, and the idealizedactions of

commondenominator people: the Nuer do this, the Nuer do that. During this

same decade, OliverLa Farge, the American anthropologist

andPulitzer Prize-

winningnovelist, published a complex narrative ethnography, SantaEulalia:

The Religionof a CuchumatdnIndian Town (1947). In it, individualsare por-

trayed and actualevents are describedin detail. Liberallysprinkled with en-

gagingfirst-person narrative vignettes, the text climaxeswith a narrativeof

stolen idols andthe placement of

a deathcurse upon La Farge andhis party.

Although Evans-Pritchardand La Farge both place themselveswithin the eth-

nographicframe, their purposes and the resulting texts couldnot be more

different.Evans-Pritchard's

self-portrait serves to distancehim from the Nuer,

giving the appearance of objectivity; La Farge'sself-portrait places him far

enough withinthe Mayan worldto revealhis subjectivity.

La Farge's humanisticstance toward the portrayal of the fieldworkencounter

can also be foundin two of Alice Marriott's books, The Valley Below (1949)

and GreenerFields (1952). In the first of these ethnographicmemoirs, which

centers on a sojourn in northernNew Mexico,Marriott (1949:239)explains

her writingproblem: "I startedwith the idea of an orderlydescription of a

society thatwas blendedof threeelements: Indian,Spanish, and Anglo. I found

thatI couldn'tdescribe the society without telling howwe [herartist companion

Marthaand herself] cameto be part of it. I couldn't analyze the people without

describingthem, andthe description took the formof telling of the impact of

theircharacters on ours."In her second memoir, Greener Fields, the chapters

alternatebetween a highly accessibleaccount of the history of anthropology

and anecdotal narratives,ranging from the hilariousto the poignant, of her

manyyears of fieldworkand close friendships with Plainsand Southwestern

Indians.

In spite of its appeal,first-person, experiential writing by ethnographers

dealing with actual people andevents was rare during the 1930s, 1940s, and

early 1950s. Indeed, the Arctic explorer-ethnographer

Jean Malaurie decided

thatthe onlyway to change the situationwas to promote thisform of expression

activelyamong his friendsand colleagues(Balandier 1987:1). In 1955 he ini-

tiated a documentaryliterary series, TerreHumaine, with the Paris publisher

Plon. The series was specificallydedicated to the publicationof well-written,

firsthand

documentary testimony combining "scientific objectivity with a di-

alectic of personal relationships"(Malaurie 1987:10). Over

of the fifty volumes published to date have been

sold.

five millioncopies

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EMERGENCEOF NARRATIVE

ETHNOGRAPHY

75

To start the literaryseries, Malaurie encouraged ClaudeL&vi-Strauss

and

Georges Balandierto write up theirfield experiences. Tristes Tropiques(Ikvi-

Strauss 1955, 1961) and Afriqueambigui (Balandier 1957, 1966) resulted.

Together withhis ownLes derniersrois de Thuld (Malaurie1956, 1982), these

were the firstfieldwork accounts he published. Eachof the threevolumes was

successful,reaching a wide, appreciative audience. By now, Malaurie'sbook

has been translatedinto sixteen languages. But the most renowned volume,

and one that becamean immediatebest-seller in France, was IAvi-Strauss's

Tristes Tropiques, with its odd juxtaposition of a traveler's tale, personal feel-

ings, ethnographicobservation, andabstract models. Althoughpopular today,

it was virtuallyignored whenit wasfirst translated into English in 1961. Perhaps

the English-speaking academicworld was not yet comfortablewith a first-

person narrativeaccount of fieldwork, or perhaps we were simply not ready

for what Susan Sontag(1966) called "the anthropologist

as hero."

At almostthe same time Tristes Tropiques came out, Georges Condominas

(1957) published his Vietnamesefield notebookswith Mercurede France,

underthe

title of Nous avons mangelaforet de la Pierre-Genie G6o. His writing

takes the formof a diary,listing and commenting at length on the events he

witnessedin the village of Sar Lukfrom November 1948 to December1949.

In his introductionhe comments, "I shallno doubtbe reproached for alluding

to my own presence at events I describe.But my purpose is not to paint an

exotic canvasor to constructsome sort of prehistoricethnography. Rather, it

is to render reality as it was livedwhile being observed"(Condominas

1977: xix).

Insteadof beingreproached, the bookwas rapidly translatedinto Italian, Ger-

man, andRussian. However, Condominas's

attempt to get the booktranslated

and published in English is a bizarretale of international

copyrightinfringement.

After years of unsuccessful publicationattempts, he ranacross a 1962 pirated

Englishedition produced by the United States Department of Commerce,

which, as he notes, "actedon political and military reasonsrather than out of

anydeep scientific concern, anddid so without consulting either me, the author,

or the original French publisher"(Condominas 1977:xi). This pirated edition

of a field diary that sympatheticallyportrayed the indigenouspeoples of Vietnam

was availableneither to the anthropological

profession norto the generalpublic

during the period of the war in Vietnam.

Fromthe 1960s to the presentday, the relationship of fieldworkersto the

peoplethey study, to the political authoritiesand other powerfulfigures of the

host community, andto themselvesas observers,participants, and interpreters

has been explored in depth in a series of edited volumesand in individual

fieldwork accounts.14 Whenthe Society for AppliedAnthropology published

GeraldBerreman's Behind Many Masks: Ethnography and Impression Man-

agement in a HimalayanVillage (1962), RobertSmith commented, in his fore-

word,that it was the "onlyattempt known to me to presentwithin an analytical

framework the subtleties of what the author calls 'the human experience' of

field work"(in Berreman 1962:3). Using Erving Goffman's(1959) interactionist

approach to "impression management," which involves a description of the

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  • 76 JOURNALOF ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH

performancesstaged for the observer (including the behaviorthat goes into

producingthem, as well as the backstage situationwhich conceals them),

Berreman analyzed the specificpatterns of socialinteraction he found during

his ethnographic fieldworkin a highly stratifiedNorth Indian village.Although

only one other ethnographer(so far as I know)has utilizedthe socialinter-

actionistmethod so explicitly(Gregor 1977), Berreman's monograph has been

cited as an inspirational

work by a numberof ethnographers who have sub-

sequently written personal accountsof theirfieldwork interactions and expe-

riences.

Earlierintimate accounts of fieldwork-suchas Reichard's Spider Woman

(1934), La Farge's SantaEulalia (1947), andMarriott's Greener Fields (1952)-

had combined ethnographic informationwith accountsof the way this infor-

mationwas gathered.During the 1960s and 1970s, however, it becamemore

commonfor such accountsto be kept separate fromstandard ethnographies.

This segmentation, as in the earliercase of ethnographicnovels, reveals a

dualistic approach:public versus private,objective versus subjective realms

of experience."iColin Turnbull, for example,published an accessiblefirst-

person accountof his fieldwork among the Congopygmies, TheForest People

(1961),and then five years laterreleased a coollydistanced, moreauthoritative

monograph on the same topic,Wayward Servants:The Two Worlds of theAfrican

Pygmies(1965). JohnBeattie reversed this process, first publishing an "ob-

jective"ethnographic monograph based on his doctoral thesis, Bunyoro: An

AfricanKingdom (1960). Five years later, at the suggestion of his editors, he

wrote what he saw as a "subjective"first-person account, Understanding

an

AfricanKingdom: Bunyoro (1965). Although the book emphasizes overtmeth-

odologies-the use of assistants,informants, questionnaires, house-to-house

surveys, note taking,photography, keeping a diary, and writingup the re-

search-Beattie was nonetheless apologetic about being autobiographical

or

subjective,remarking in his preface on his "somewhatimmodest undertaking."

Following the publication of Understanding

an AfricanKingdom, the Spin-

dlers encouragedethnographers who had alreadypublished monographs for

their Holt, Rinehartand Winston Case Studiesin Cultural Anthropology

series

to write methodologically

orientednarrative accounts of theirfieldwork. Eleven

such essays, including one of their own, were incorporated in Being an An-

thropologist:

Fieldworkin ElevenCultures (1970).This volume includes thumb-

nail biographical

sketchesof the authors, statements concerningwhy they had

chosen anthropology as a career, and snapshotsshowing them in the

field.

These novel featuresadd a more

personal flavorto what are, for

the most

part, rather impersonalmethodological

statements.The photographsprimarily

serve to documentthe presence of the ethnographer

at the ethnographicscene,

but they also reveal that ethnographersenjoy representingthemselves as

fieldworkers.We see AlanBeals gettinghis haircut native-stylein Gopalpur,

India;Robert Dentan burning the furoff a monkeyin Malaysia;John Hostetler

prayingover a meal in a Hutteriteapartment and his colleague,Gertrude

Huntington,dressed as a Hutteritewoman pushing a Hutteritebaby in a pram;

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EMERGENCEOF NARRATIVEETHNOGRAPHY

77

JohnHitchcock working up his notes in a headman's goat shed in Nepal; and

Louise Spindlersitting on a step with a

Rorschachtest.

Menominiwoman who is taking a

Unlikethese authors, British anthropologistNigel Barley releasedhis eth-

nographicmonograph and fieldworkaccount simultaneously. The monograph

is a Ikvi-Straussian structuralist study,Symbolic Structures:An Explorationof

the Culture of the Dowayos(1983b), and the fieldaccount is a funny, warts-

and-all,first-person narrativeof hisAfrican field research, Adventuresin a Mud

Hut:An InnocentAnthropologistAbroad

(1983a). The remarkabledifference in

tone, tenor, and material presented in these two booksreveals Barley's dis-

comfortwith representing himselfin an ethnographic account.In Adventures

in a Mud Hut, he comes off as a silly, sad, incompetent, and even slapstick

characterwho marched,limped, and finally was carried through his initiatory

field research, andthe nativesalso come off as clowns.Foolish old men stare

at the photographs of lionsand leopards he uses in orderto elicitinformation

on local fauna,turning them in all directionsand sayingthings like, "I do not

knowthis man" (Barley1983a:96). This soundslike an Africanvariant on that

old anthropological

story about Polynesians who weren'table to interpretpho-

tographs at all. In general, what purports to be a personal narrativeends up

as a lampoon of the entire ethnographicenterprise.

Discomfortwith the act of self-representation,

withina serious ethnography,

can also be detected in Paul Rabinow's first-personmemoir, Reflections on

Fieldworkin Morocco (1977), where he refers to his previousmonograph,

Symbolic Domination (1975), as a "more traditionallyanthropological

treatment

of the samedata" (Rabinow1977:7). Jean-Paul Dumont, like Rabinow,published

his standard ethnographicmonograph, Underthe Rainbow (1976), beforehis

first-person fieldwork account, TheHeadman and 1 (1978), but he displays a

ratherdifferent attitude towards including himselfin his ethnography. For him

the work of self-representation

is neither laughable nor any less "traditional"

thanthe standard ethnographicrepresentation of the Other.In fact, as Peter

Riviere (1980) has pointedout, we learn rathermore aboutthe Panardin

Dumont's first-person accountthan we do in his monograph. Partof the reason

for this is that Dumont self-consciously centeredThe Headman and I around

the serious question of whohe was for the Panard, ratherthan who the Panard

were for him, the latter being the implicitquestion most ethnographiesexplore.

Withthis change in focuscomes the subtleshift of genre fromthe ethnographic

memoirtoward narrative ethnography.

In the ethnographicmemoir, an authortakes us backto a cornerof his or

her life in the fieldthat was unusuallyvivid, fullof affect, or framed by unique

events. By narrowing the lens, these authors provide a windowinto their

personallives in the field,a focus whichwould not be possiblein a full-length

autobiography.

The authorof a narrativeethnography also deals with experi-

ences, butalong with these comeethnographic

data, epistemological

reflections

on fieldworkparticipation, and culturalanalysis. The world, in a narrative

ethnography,is re-presentedas perceivedby a situatednarrator, who is also

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  • 78 JOURNAL OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL

RESEARCH

present as a characterin the story thatreveals his own personality. Thisenables

the readerto identify the consciousnesswhich has selected and shaped the

experiences withinthe text. In contrastto memoirs,narrative ethnographies

focusnot on the ethnographerherself, butrather on the characterand process

of the ethnographicdialogue or encounter.

Two key essays centering on the exploration of the ethnographic

encounter

were publishedby Stanley Diamondand KurtWolff in a volumeentitled Re-

flections on Community Studiesedited by

Vidich,Bensman, andStein (1964).

Diamond's essay, "NigerianDiscovery: The Politicsof Field Work,"subtly

explores the complexpolitical dimensionsinvolved in crossing culturalbound-

aries. KurtWolff's "Surrender and CommunityStudy: The Study of Loma"

describes how, during his fieldresearch in a

opened himselfto the risk of being hurt by

northernNew Mexico village, he

becoming so totally involvedand

identifiedwith the community that everything he saw or experienced became

relevantto him. "Itwas years beforeI understoodwhat had happened to me:

  • I hadfallen through the web of culture patterns andassorted conceptual meshes

into the chaos of love; I was lookingeverywhere, famished, with a ruthless

glance"(Wolff 1964:235).

It is precisely the vulnerability

revealed by Wolffthat Kevin Dwyer(1982:272-

74) sees as the central anthropological project. No matterhow muchcare an

ethnographer devotes to his or her project, its success dependsupon more

thanindividual effort. It

is tied to outsidesocial forces including an anthropo-

logicalcommunity that accepts the project as meaningful and international

relationships thatmake the fieldwork possible. In Dwyer'sview, the issues of

the fieldworkendeavor are not so much objectivity,neutrality, anddistance as

they are risk, the possibility of failure, andthe hope of success.

Speakingpedagogically, firsthandaccounts are usefulin preparingethnog-

raphers for fieldwork.Their value in detailing the complex and ambiguous

realitiesinvolved in the fieldwork experience was formallyrecognized by the

University of Amsterdamin the

early 1960s, when the Instituteof Cultural

Anthropology set up a series of formallectures for anthropologistsrecently

returnedfrom the field. An edited volumeof these lectures,Anthropologists

in the Field, was compiledby Jongmans and Gutkind (1967), together with

four previouslypublished essays andan annotated bibliography

on fieldmeth-

ods. Whilesome personalaspects of field experienceappear in severalof the

contributions,the mainthrust of the volumeis the description andevaluation

of variousfield techniques-socialsurvey, quantification,

restudy-rather than

an in-depthexploration of the subjective elementsof fieldwork.

Beginning in the 1970s, there was a shiftin emphasis from participant ob-

servationto the observationof participation.Martin Yang (1972) wrote an

importantessay discussingthe role of both his graduateeducation and what

he calledhis "first-handfieldwork" in the productionof his highlyacclaimed

ethnography,A ChineseVillage (1945). His field researchwas done in

the

villagein whichhe grew up andlived until he went awayto college.As he

put

it, "Myfieldwork was my own life and the lives of others in whichI had an

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EMERGENCEOF NARRATIVEETHNOGRAPHY

79

active part"(Yang 1972:63). This type of ethnographicexperience has been

calledboth "ethno-sociology"

and "auto-ethnography"

(see Hayano1979). Yang

was by no meansthe first indigenousanthropologist

to publish an ethnography

abouthis own group-JomoKenyatta (1938), Fei Hsiao Tung(1939), andChie

Nakane (1970), amongothers, had already done so-but he was unique, at

that time, in writing a self-reflexive essay aboutthe experience of doingso.16

During the 1980smore first-personexperiential fieldwork accounts,including

auto-ethnographies,

appeared than during the previous two decades.7" These

volumes clearly reveal the continuedmovement from participant observation

to the observationof participation.

Whatwas only a tricklein the 1930s grew

intoa streamof confessionalaccounts by the 1960sand became a swollenriver

of self-revelatory celebration by the 1980s. The exploration of the process of

producingethnographic informationand publishingethnographic accountshad

turnedtoward the political,philosophical, and poeticimplications of suchwork. 18

A criticalliterature simultaneouslysprang up. The process of self-examination

led to the examinationof other ethnographers'

selves, andthe eye shiftedfrom

the ethnosin ethnography to the graphia-the process of

writing.'9

A numberof fieldworkersare currently at work on book-length narrative

ethnographies,combining ethnographic

informationwith a dialecticof personal

involvement. Meanwhile, editedvolumes focused on specificaspects of field-

workcontinue to appear. Fieldworker identity is the focal point of Fieldwork:

TheHuman Experience(Lawless, Sutlive, andZamora 1983). The impact of

an ethnographer's sex and genderidentity on fieldworkand the effect of field-

work on an ethnographer's view of genderself-identity are the central topics

in Self, Sex, and Genderin Cross-Cultural

1986).

Fieldwork (Whitehead and Conaway

In Arab Womenin theField: Studying YourOwn Society(Altorki and

El-Solh 1988), the roles of gender and indigenous status in the fieldwork

experiences of Arabwomen ethnographers are explored. Most recently, the

mishaps,pratfalls, andlessons learnedwhile doing fieldworkare the

main topic

in TheHumbled Anthropologist:Tales from the Pacific(De Vita 1990).

What explains the shiftin ethnography toward representing ourselvesin the

act of engaging with and writing aboutour selves in interactionwith other

selves? In part, the change reflects today'sgeneral intellectualclimate of

epis-

temological doubt.Another factor in the development of reflexivity andalter-

native styles of ethnographicrepresentation has been the notable growth in

the prestige of anthropology as a discipline andin the size of the audiencefor

the

anthropological

perspective. Interest began to increase during the 1960s

andaccelerated throughout the 1980s.Not only havewe captured the attention

of the generalpublic, thanksin part to Margaret Meadand public television

programssuch as "Nova"and "Smithsonian World," but we have also become

the darlingof boththe humanitiesand the socialsciences. As ourcurrent public

guru, CliffordGeertz (1985), has recentlypointed out, our prestigein fields

such as history,philosophy, literary criticism, theory, law, politicalscience,

sociology,psychology, and economics has never been higher.

In an enlargedmarketplace for anthropological

ideas, ethnographershave

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  • 80 JOURNALOF ANTHROPOLOGICAL

RESEARCH

been pursuedby publishers for interesting ideas abouthumankind

and fasci-

nating stories. Some publishers have even been willing to read dissertations

and mentorthe rewritingprocess. WhenBarbara Myerhoff turnedher dis-

sertationinto the book Peyote Hunt (1974), her editorinsisted that she insert

herselfand her observationsinto the manuscript. Rewritethe text top down

was the suggestion; use an active personal voice. Quite pleased with the

results, Myerhoff notes that"I found I hadwritten a bookI trustedmore, that

was clearerand more reliable" (Myerhoff and Ruby1982:33).

Therehave also been notable changes inthe population of individuals

electing

to become ethnographers-in terms of gender (more women), class (more

from middle-and lower-class backgrounds), and ethnicity(more third-and

fourth-worldscholars). These transformationshave spurred a new critical

awarenessand a radicaldemocratization

of knowledgeresulting in the sug-

gestion that the class, race,

inquirer be placed withinthe

culture,