Being There

Being There: The Fieldwork Encounter and the Making of Truth

John Borneman
Abdellah Hammoudi
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 288
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pphf4
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  • Book Info
    Being There
    Book Description:

    Challenges to ethnographic authority and to the ethics of representation have led many contemporary anthropologists to abandon fieldwork in favor of strategies of theoretical puppeteering, textual analysis, and surrogate ethnography. InBeing There,John Borneman and Abdellah Hammoudi argue that ethnographies based on these strategies elide important insights. To demonstrate the power and knowledge attained through the fieldwork experience, they have gathered essays by anthropologists working in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tanzania, the Canadian Arctic, India, Germany, and Russia that shift attention back to the subtle dynamics of the ethnographic encounter. From an Inuit village to the foothills of Kilimanjaro, each account illustrates how, despite its challenges, fieldwork yields important insights outside the reach of textual analysis.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94343-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ONE The Fieldwork Encounter, Experience, and the Making of Truth: AN INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-24)
    John Borneman and Abdellah Hammoudi

    American anthropology opened up a Pandora’s box the moment it specified culture as its object, simultaneously setting itself at a distance from the natural sciences and defining itself in contradistinction to both American cognitivism and French structuralism. By the 1980s, the discipline was engaged in a soul-searching movement to critically assess its object, its principal method, and the most current form of the write-up of research results. In 1986, two books appeared seeking to provide a focus for this wide-ranging debate:Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, edited by James Clifford and George E. Marcus, andAnthropology as...

  5. TWO Textualism and Anthropology: ON THE ETHNOGRAPHIC ENCOUNTER, OR AN EXPERIENCE IN THE HAJJ
    (pp. 25-54)
    Abdellah Hammoudi

    So much has been said about anthropology as writing, discourse, texts, and pretexts that the task of reconsidering the ethnographic encounter might be likened to a recourse to magic in order to resurrect the dead. A focus on experience and deep acquaintance might well prove to be essential, however, to engage with our current and future predicament, in which we can no longer manage not to bein each other’s way. One paradox of the present situation is that (in many quarters of our discipline) the more globalized the world, and thus the greater the circulation of people, goods, and...

  6. THREE The Suicidal Wound and Fieldwork among Canadian Inuit
    (pp. 55-76)
    Lisa Stevenson

    Once, while sitting by a smoking fire of arctic heather and driftwood, a young boy, Paul,¹ told me the story of his best friend’s death. He was racing his snowmobile when he hit a guide wire. It caught him at the neck. Paul had been to the hospital to visit his friend, and his friend had tried to speak to him but no words would come out.

    Our conversation around the fire soon moved to other deaths and other stories. But a little while later, reflecting on what happens after death, Paul remarked, “My sister used to say my uncle...

  7. FOUR The Hyperbolic Vegetarian: NOTES ON A FRAGILE SUBJECT IN GUJARAT
    (pp. 77-112)
    Parvis Ghassem-Fachandi

    Scholars of Hindutva have argued that in the context of communal violence in India a heightened sense of vulnerability among members of the Hindu middle and lower middle class is integral to the legitimization of violence, where a “majority” feels threatened by a “minority” (Jaffrelot 1996; Hansen 1999; Nussbaum 2007). In the state of Gujarat, this process includes the projection of a lack of vulnerability onto Muslims, expressed and rationalized by reference to diet, worship, and sexuality.

    In this essay, I explicate how the affect of disgust relates to violence by focusing on a case study of an upwardly mobile...

  8. FIVE The Obligation to Receive: THE COUNTERTRANSFERENCE, THE ETHNOGRAPHER, PROTESTANTS, AND PROSELYTIZATION IN NORTH INDIA
    (pp. 113-150)
    Leo Coleman

    The practice of social and cultural anthropology has long been rooted in an attempt to account for persons and social forms on the basis of extended and, by the standards of most other social sciences, extraordinarily intimate encounters. Close involvement with others is not only our method but in large part also our object; we seek to understand, generally speaking, the significant relations people make with each other.

    From this basis we anthropologists speak of deep, participatory, long-term collaborations with our research interlocutors as both an epistemological and ethical warrant for our work (the choice of “interlocutor” itself, over “informant,”...

  9. SIX Encounter and Suspicion in Tanzania
    (pp. 151-182)
    Sally Falk Moore

    My fieldwork in Tanzania extended over many years, from 1968 to 1993. It was intermittent: a few months at a time, and then an interval of months, or a year or two, and then another visit. The reflexive remarks that follow are retrospective and selective. There are too many stories to tell.

    The first summer I was accompanied by my husband and two teenage daughters; they refused to be left behind. The advantage: I could “show” my family to my Chagga acquaintances and demonstrate that I was an ordinary human being in an extraordinary situation. They understood that in my...

  10. SEVEN Encounters with the Mother Tongue: SPEECH, TRANSLATION, AND INTERLOCUTION IN POST–COLD WAR GERMAN REPATRIATION
    (pp. 183-200)
    Stefan Senders

    In the mid-1990s I was in Berlin, Germany, doing research onAussiedler, or “ethnic German” repatriates. The Berlin Wall had fallen in November 1989, but there was already a widespread feeling of frustration concerning the newly conjoined Germanies. Many in both east and west wondered aloud whether things might be better if the wall were still standing. In the former East Germany, and in Berlin in particular, violence against foreigners had increased; there had been murders, and tensions had increased to the point that the federal border police had been called in to provide security on the Berlin subways. It...

  11. EIGHT Institutional Encounters: IDENTIFICATION AND ANONYMITY IN RUSSIAN ADDICTION TREATMENT (AND ETHNOGRAPHY)
    (pp. 201-236)
    Eugene Raikhel

    Several months after my return from the field, I was reading online newspaper articles in the basement of NYU’s Bobst Library when I came across an extraordinary story. Sergei Tikhomirov, the director of St. Petersburg’s Municipal Addiction Hospital, where I had conducted much of my fieldwork, had been arrested and charged with having ordered the murder of a fellow administrator—the deputy director in charge of finances. This woman had been killed by a small bomb planted in the doorway to her apartment. The director had reported that a similar remote-controlled device was placed—but did not detonate—near his...

  12. NINE Fieldwork Experience, Collaboration, and Interlocution: THE “METAPHYSICS OF PRESENCE” IN ENCOUNTERS WITH THE SYRIAN MUKHABARAT
    (pp. 237-258)
    John Borneman

    This essay examines the relation of presence in fieldwork to interlocution. Within anthropology in the past several decades, two kinds of criticisms of the fieldwork encounter have had particular resonance: that fieldwork experience and presence do not generate any unique knowledge and that the power/dominance of the (Western) ethnographer ethically taints the knowledge derived from encounters. The questioning of the ethnographer’s presence has frequently led to text-based reading being substituted for fieldwork experience, with a corresponding focus on textual representation; the questioning of the ethnographer’s power has led to demands for collaboration and dialogue, which in turn often emphasize righteous...

  13. TEN Afterthoughts: THE EXPERIENCE AND AGONY OF FIELDWORK
    (pp. 259-272)
    Abdellah Hammoudi and John Borneman

    As we reflect back on the essays assembled in this volume, it appears that each deals with a particular defining moment of thinking about and practicing anthropology. They do not aim to define a subdiscipline in anthropology or formulate an encompassing theoretical orientation regarding substantive issues. As a group, the authors differ in ethnicity, gender, and nationality, and in their respective stages of professional development. Though they all live near and work in U.S. and Canadian universities, their research spans societies that vary widely in geographical location, language, and sociopolitical situation: Canadian Inuit, European, Arab, African, Indian, and Russian societies....

  14. Biographical Notes
    (pp. 273-276)
  15. Index
    (pp. 277-280)