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Anthropology as a Kind of Writing Author(s): Jonathan Spencer Reviewed work(s): Source: Man, New Series, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Mar., 1989), pp. 145-164 Published by: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2802551 . Accessed: 20/01/2013 04:58 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

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ANTHROPOLOGY

AS A KIND OF WRITING

JONATHAN

SPENCER

Universityof Sussex

This article reviews the recent interestin the literaryaspects of ethnographicwriting, on the work of Geertz,Sperberand the authorsassociatedwith the collective concentrating volume Writing culture.While it is argued that serious questions are raised in some of this work, it is also argued that recentfashionsin literarycriticaltheorymay prove unhelpful in addressingthose questions. In particular,the tendencyto read texts with little or no considerationfor the social and historicalcontext in which they were writtenseems an especially barren approach. Instead it is argued that anthropologyis as much a way of working-a kind of practicalactivity-as it is a way of writing.Acknowledgementof the personal element in the making of ethnographictexts may help the reader to a better assessmentof the interpretation on offer;more radical change requiresa change in anthropological practiceas well as in anthropologicalwriting.

and interpretation Writing This articleis about recentanthropologicalquestioningof anthropologists' own use of language-the way in which anthropologistsuse language in representingother cultures, that is the writing of ethnography.It was originallyprovoked by a recent collection of essays on anthropologyas literature culture entitledWriting (Clifford& Marcus 1986), but I swiftlyfound thatthiswas merelythe tip of a highlyself-consciousand reflexiveiceberg, mostly to be found in Americananthropology,but with voices intruding fromEurope. I shall review developmentsup to the end of 1986, but not attemptto cope with the subsequenttorrentof publicationson thistheme. My position is that of an interestedbut agnostic spectator:I agree that the way in which ethnographyis writtenis a great deal more important than has usually been recognisedin the past and that some review of the literaryproceduresof anthropologyis long overdue; my scepticismconcerns the gains to be made from an undue concern on the part of anthropologistswith recenttrends-and I use the word trendadvisedly-in cultureis to be taken as evidence for a more literarytheory. If Writinig wholeheartedsubjection of anthropologyto literarytheory the possible gains look meagre indeed. I would go so faras to suggestthat,despiteits trappingsof politicaland intellectualradicalism,it is in some of its presuppositions a depressinglyreactionarydocument. The thrustof my argumentconcernsthe relationshipbetween text and context. For various reasons the context of anthropological representations-the actual work of enquiry and the material on which generalisationsare based-has been omittedfrommuch ethnography.This Man (N. S.) 24, 145-164

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contextcan be restoredin two ways: by re-readingethnographyin terms of some wider historicalcontextwe may learn a greatdeal about the past of our discipline;while the effortto incorporatesome self-consciousness about such matterswithin anthropologicalwritingpromises to improve theusefulnessof new ethnography.But if we want to effectmore significant change in the writingand reading of ethnography,then we shall have to reconsidernot just anthropologicalwriting-most of which takes place at considerable remove from ethnographicexperience but anthropological practiceas a whole. The recent florescenceof literaryself-consciousnessin American anthropologycan be convenientlytracedto an apparentlyinnocuous footnote in CliffordGeertz's 1973 essay 'Thick description': Self-consciousnessabout modes of representation(not to speak of experimentswith them) has been very lackingin anthropology(Geertz 1973: 19 n.3)

The essay in which this is embedded is a dense and allusive text which is accordinglydifficultto summarise.It makes a number of assertions:that anthropologyis what anthropologistsdo; thatwhat theydo is ethnography; and thatethnographyis (or at least should be) writingof a very particular sort. To characterisethis peculiar sort of writingGeertz borrows a term and an examplefromthephilosopherGilbertRyle. This is of a boy winking; to describe this as 'a contractionof the eyelid' is what Ryle calls 'thin description';to unravelthe significanceof it-the boy may be winking,he may be parodyinga friendwinking,he may be imitatinga friendparodying what Ryle, and a thirdpartywinking and so on-requires interpretation, Geertz afterhim, call 'thick description'.Ethnographyis, then, an interpretativeexercise in 'thick description'. Ethnographymoreover should not be assessed by the amount of unit offers.But digestedinformationit containsbut ratherby the clarification one apparent advantage of 'information'as a criterionof ethnographic worthis, of course,thatit is relativelytangible.The disadvantage,formany, of Geertz's 'clarity'is thatit sounds subjectiveon the one hand, while, as a final arbiterof ethnographicsuccess, it has its own peculiar dangers: MargaretMead's account of Samoa (1928) was if nothingelse beautifully clear; it seemed to generationsof American readers to correspond to Geertz's criterionof interpretativesuccess: 'the power of the scientific imaginationto bring us into touch with the lives of strangers'(1973: 16). The problem, of course, was that the strangersthemselvesdisagreednot with the power, or even the imagination,but with the contentof Mead's of theirlives.1 representation A furtherproblemoccurs when the ethnographer-andthisis something thatmuch absorbedme in tryingto writeabout Sri Lanka in theearly1980s, a place which, in many respects,was on the brinkof politicaldisintegration-is concerned to represent areas of cultural incoherence and confusion.It is afterall a recurringaspect of change in the modernworld, perhaps especially in those areas of it where anthropologistshave been thickeston the ground, that old answers prove inadequate, old cultural cloth no longer stretchesto cover uncomfortablynew and worryingex-

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perience. Yet ethnographersare understandablyreluctantto report that some thingsmay not make sense in any particularculturalcontext.'If law is anywhere'as Tylor ordained 'it is everywhere',and if you couldn't find it you can't have looked hard enough or in the rightplaces (Levi-Strauss 1969:xi). Geertz,it is true,acknowledgestheseproblems,complainingthat'Nothing has done more... to discreditculturalanalysisthan the constructionof impeccable depictions of formal order in whose actual existencenobody can quite believe' (1973: 18). But this is preciselywhat Geertzhimselfcan be true of his ethnographic be accused of doing; it may not necessarily analysesbut it is impossible to tell because he so oftendenies his readers the opportunityto assess for themselvesthe materialfrom which he has constructedhis accounts. His justificationfor this way of working lies in the distinctionbetween thick descriptionand thin description:one cannot assess an ethnographicinterpretation against some sort of raw data, 'radically thinneddescription'as he puts it, because this is itselfalready an interpretation,a construction: What we inscribe (or try to) is not raw -social discourse, to which, because, save very marginallyor very specially,we are not actors, we do not have directaccess, but only that small part of it which our informantscan lead us into understanding(1973: 20).

itself The problem is that Geertz ignores two things-that interpretation formsof lifevaryin the kind and can be situatedsocially,and thatdifferent degree of interpretation they can or should receive. Withoutdenyingthe real methodologicalproblems involved, it is obvious that somethinglike raw figuresfor paddy ownershipor demographicchange is less dependent on informants'constructionsthan, say, the changes in tenancy patterns and justificationsfor those changes that follow demographicchange. As well as interpretingand writing,many ethnographersdo a great deal of countingor weighing or surveying,not to mentionreadingdocumentsin archivesand in the writingsof theirpredecessors. But let me now returnto Geertz's firstevasion-that interpretation is a sociallydeterminedactivity.It is surelypalpablyobvious that,forexample, a paddy-farmer'sexplicationof decisions over the hiringof labourerson his fieldis likelyto be different froman anthropologist's;the anthropologist should certainlyuse the farmer'saccount, and the labourer's too if it is accessible.A good anthropologistwill also allow his or her readersto assess the differencesbetween the two or three versions, differenceswhich we can expect to correspondto the differentpurposes and positions of the can become the centre explicators.Indeed, in skilledhands, thesedifferences of the whole analysis.2 But thisis what Geertzrefusesus. In his ethnographicwritings,especially those fromthe mid-1960sonward, thereis less and less space allowed for readers to agree or disagree or make theirown connexions. His characteristicstrategyis to seize on a metaphor-likeninga peasant economy to a style of baroque decoration,describingthe pre-colonialBalinese state as a theatre,talkingof the Balinese cockfightas a text in which the Balinese can, as it were, read about themselves-and then sustainit throughflashes

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of description,before climaxingin a kind of adjectival blizzard. On the cockfight: Any expressiveform lives only in its own present-the one it itselfcreates. But, here, that presentis severed into a stringof flashes,some more brightthan others,but all of them disconnected,aestheticquanta. Whateverthe cockfightsays, it says in spurts(1973: 445).

You may findsuch writingeitherexcitingor enervatingaccordingto taste or academic inclination;much of the time I incline to the formerview. What you will have difficultydoing is sortingout the kind of evidence Geertz could possibly adduce to support it. What, one wonders, is the Balinese for'aestheticquanta' and what sortof statements, what informants' explications,what entriesin sweatynotebooks,could have been synthesised into the account Geertz presents? Geertz's answer would fall back on the impossibilityof using uninterpreteddata in anthropologicalwork: 'what we call our data are reallyour own constructionsof other people's constructionsof what they and their compatriotsare up to' (1973: 9). This may well be true.But it would seem the merestpolitenessto acknowledge the source of a particularconstruction. One may not inscriberaw discourse; one does take down a lot of quotes, explications, constructionsand any half-decentfieldworkerhas some idea of who it is who has providedthequote, explication,or whatever. The idea that thereis no dividingline-because all is interpretation-betweenthehighliterarygloss of Geertz'sethnography, and what one assumes are the drabber,more mundanejottingsin his notebooks may be a useful excuse for the exerciseof a particularkind of literarystyle;but the stylein question presupposesa passive readership.In Geertz's world ethnographic accountsare assessed on a take-it-or-leave-it basis; one studyrarelyreplaces an earlierdeficientstudy,different accounts of the same place tend to run in parallel ratherthan building directlyon each other. The ethnographer providesa finishedproductand neveranythingless thana finishedproduct.3 James Cliffordin his essay 'On ethnographicauthority'(1983a) glosses this move of Geertz's in termsof Ricoeur's (1971) discussionof text and discourse. Discourse, says Ricoeur (followingBenveniste),is to be found in the specificmomentof its production,in the I-and-youof its referents; textualisationremoves discoursefrom these specificconditionsof production so that it can speak to otherpeople at othertimes. So ethnographers take away from the field textswhich are by definitionalreadyfreedfrom the conditionsof theirown production,and the turningof these textsinto of the originalcontext.The ethnographyfurthereliminatesthe specificities losses in such a process-and Clifford'scatalogue(1983a: 132) of such losses is similarto the one I have alreadyprovided-are, it seems, the inevitable resultof the process of textualisation. But are they?It seems to me that Clifford(who merelydescribesbut doesn't endorse this position) is following Geertz in confusingRicoeur's argument-a feat easily accomplished as may become apparent. Ricoeur in the paper they both cite ('The model of the text' (1971)) is concerned of a text and the interto establishan analogy between the interpretation

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pretationof what Weber called 'meaningfulaction'. A given action may be subject to competinginterpretations, just as a given text is the subject of competinginterpretations; but in both cases some interpretations are more probable than others: 'It is always possible to argue for or against an interpretation, to confrontinterpretations, arbitratebetween them, and to seek for an agreement,even if this agreementremainsbeyond our reach' (Ricoeur 1971: 550). These possibilitiesare greatlyreduced with Geertz's work because he insistson fillingthe dual role of author-producer of the textwhichis Bali-and interpreter. The textis, in Ricoeur'sphrase'a limited fieldof possible constructions'(1971: 550); but an assessmentof competing interpretations of a given textpresupposes accessto thetextitself,not merely it. The anothercritic'sinterpretation of 'text' of Geertz's interpretation is Bali his the of his experienceand notebooks-this is what he is interpreting. of anthropologists The ironyis thatthismost hermeneutical adopts a literary circle practicewhich tries above all to close the hermeneutic by limiting his readers' access to that which he wants to interpretfor himself. Geertz's argumentin 'Thick description'has importantimplicationsfor the relationshipbetween theoryand practicein anthropology.The conventional view is prettystraightforward (which isn't to say that anyone would accede to it when presentedas starklyas this): thereare facts,found in variable quantities in differentethnographies,and there are theories which attemptto make generalstatementsbased on those facts.Facts which don't fit can disprove a theory;odd factscan be used for new theoretical synthesis.Of course it has been long recognisedthat theoreticalpreconceptionsdeterminewhat does or doesn't countas a factto theethnographer; Malinowski, for example, used this as the criterionto mark off scientific anthropologyfrom the work of enthusiasticamateurs (1922: 9). But for in specific Geertzanthropologicaltheoryis foundin specificinterpretations ethnographies:'Theoreticalformulationshover so low over the interpretations they govern that they don't make much sense or hold much interest apartfromthem' (1973: 25). and interpretation Description Some anthropologists, especiallyin Britain,may be readyto dismissGeertz's discussionof anthropologyas representation, feelingit to be no more than the personal preoccupation of one of the discipline's foremostliterary dandies. But similarpoints have also been made fromthe point of view of a would-be generalisinganthropologist,unafraidto use outre'words such as 'science' and 'epistemology'. Dan Sperber, in his essay 'Interpretive ethnographyand theoreticalanthropology'(1985), acknowledges the limited natureof anthropologicaltheorybut argues that this is because what we call our theoryis, by and large,nothingof thesort;it is in facta rag-bag of vague generalisationsthat provides a sort of intermediatelanguage that is useful for the task of interpretation and translation,but useless for the real task of a scientificanthropology-the building of generalisations .(a task which he disguises behind the constructionof an 'epidemiology of culturalrepresentations').As an example of genuinelyscientificanthropo-

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logical generalisationhe proffersBerlin and Kay's (1969) celebratedwork on colour classification. Sperber's stricturesare, though, of relevance, even for those of his colleagues who are scepticalof his broaderproject.Ethnographies,he says, deal in representations.Representationscan be divided into two kinds: descriptiveand non-descriptive.Descriptionsare a kind of representation which are 'adequate when theyare true'; thatis to say, theycan be refuted by observation.Truth and falsityare propertiesof propositions;propositions are utterances;thereforedescriptionscan only come in the form of utterances.Moreover, theyare the kind of utterancewhich can be used in a logical argument:'The Nuer are transhumant pastoralists...','If the Nuer are transhumantpastoralists...','Thereforethe Nuer are transhumantpastoralists...'. Unfortunatelyfor Sperber (but not, I suspect,for the rest of us) only a small part of ethnographycomes in the formof descriptions.Non-descriptive representations come in two forms:reproductionsand interpretations. Interpretationsinvolve a combination of objective and subjective elements-characteristically they are what the interpretermakes of an experienceand offersto an interlocutor.For Geertz,remember,ethnography is, from notebook to monograph, a seamless web of interpretation: our own constructionsof other people's constructionsof what they and their compatriotsare up to' (1973: 9). Sperber, on the other hand, is concernedto unpick the stitchesthathold it all together.Ratherthan settle for the finishedethnographicproduct,he wants to ask-indeed his overall project requireshim to ask-whose constructionof what? If we are to use anthropologicalinterpretations as the materials for buildingempiricalgeneralisations,theyneed a particularkind of qualification-what he calls a 'descriptivecomment': A descriptivecomment identifiesthe object representedand specifiesthe type of representationinvolved. It therebymakes it possible to draw non-empiricalinferencesfrom a non-descriptiverepresentation.It provides, so to speak, the directionsfor its use (Sperber 1985: 12).

Obvious examples of descriptivecomments include captions to pictures and keys to maps. Less obvious examples-like, for example, what would count as an adequate descriptivecommentin an ethnographicaccount-are a littleharderto come by. Sperber,unfortunately, does not offerhis readers of what an an example anthropologically-useful ethnographicaccount mightlook like. We can, though, get the general idea which is not in itselfespecially wild-eyedor radical. Consider how a historianconstructsa historicalmonograph. The language in such cases is likely to be quite similar to the language of the typicalanthropologicalmonograph,and to containa similar mixtureof descriptionand interpretation. Where the two tend to differis in the way in which the reader is made aware of the raw materialupon which the account is based. The raw data of an historicalaccount, apart from the occasional direct quotation, are no more presentthan the raw materialof an anthropologicalaccount. They are, however, made explicit

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throughfootnotesand documentarycitations.Most readerswill be content to read the surfaceof the text and ignore the fineprintwhich details the conditionsof productionof the main text, but the fine printis therefor specialistsand the scepticalto scrutinise.Above all it allows the possibility of empiricalchallengeto both the descriptionand the interpretation found in the main text.4 That this leaves us no closer to an impossible contact with 'what reallyhappened' in no way detractsfromthe importanceof this rule of the game of historicaldiscourse. It is still adequate to its purpose of limitingthe 'field of possible constructions'. The scholarlyapparatusof footnotesin a work of historyis, I suggest, an example of a highlydeveloped systemof what Sperbercalls 'descriptive comment'. Compare this with Sperber's remarks on an example from Evans-Pritchard'sNuer religion.The chosen passage is an account of an incidentwhen a man had been accused of practisingtoo many sacrifices. Of the account itselfSperber notes that, while it seems 'about as raw a factualstatementas you will ever findin most ethnographicworks... not a single statementin it expresses a plain observation' (1985: 14). Of the generalisationwhich the anecdote aridits gloss are called forthto support by Evans-Pritchard('Through the sacrificeman makes a kind of bargain with his God') Sperberasks the sort of questionsthatgenerationsof bright undergraduateshave asked of standardethnographies:whose interpretation is this?the anthropologist's?the Nuer's? all Nuer's or just one or two? In in question seems to be an attempted fact,he concludes, the interpretation 'compromise between Nuer thought and the ethnographer'smeans of expression'(1985: 16). And much of what passes foranthropologicaltheory is, in fact,'interpretative generalisation'of a low and ratheruninformative kind, employing terms such as 'sacrifice','shaman', 'ritual', which have been long since cut adriftfrom any original and specificdenotationand in the interpretation of ethnographicexamples. insteadact as intermediaries Now if I were Evans-Pritchard(to coin a phrase) my answer to these strictureswould, I imagine,be somethinglike this. The task of the anthropologistis the translationof culture;our firstpriorityis to renderintelligible the ideas and actions of people in another culture; it is thereforequite reasonablethatwe should attemptto do so by workingaway froma specific utteranceor incident,throughvarious intermediaryinterpretations, such that the contentof the originalis renderedas faithfully and as coherently as possible. It is truethatsomeone like Sperber,interestedin gainingaccess to a wide range of more-or-lessunmediatedrepresentations, may be disappointed by this procedure; but his is a minority interest, and an offall but the ethnographythatwould satisfyhim would probablyfrighten most dedicated of readers. I imagine that a similar argumentwould be advanced by quite a few other ethnographers,especiallythose-probably now a majority-with littleor no commitmentto the buildingof general models of the variabilityof human social and culturalexistence. I think,though, that the forceof Sperber'scritiqueis not limitedto its implicationsfor what he sees as a properlyscientificanthropology.Although he approaches ethnographywith very differentassumptionsand

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intentionshe nevertheless,like Geertz, has to concede the problematic status of interpretation in anthropologicalwork. Unlike Geertz, though, he would have us make all possible effortto separateinterpretation from description.This can be seen in the second part of his argumentwhere he examines the use of 'freeindirectspeech'. Free indirectspeech is 'the style whichallows theauthorto tella story"fromthepointof view of theactors", and the readerto identifywith them' (1985: 19). 'Through the sacrificeman makes a kind of bargain with God' is a representation which allows the readerto see thingsas if he or she were a Nuer. The relationshipbetween thisand any utteranceprovidedby a Nuer to Evans-Pritchard is, as Sperber's analysis demonstrates,unclear, as is the relationshipof Geertz's 'disconnected, aestheticquanta' to any real or imagined Balinese representation of a cockfight. The problemof naturalism In other words, a great deal of ethnographicwritingcarrieslittleor no explicit referenceto the ethnographicwork on which it is based. Why should this be so? The most compellingreason would be the uneasy status of ethnographicwork itself,in particulartherelationshipbetweenindividual experience and 'scientific',or, if you prefer,'objective', generalisation. Because ethnographicexperienceis so specific as to be unrepeatable-a factwhich in itselfremoves ethnographicevidencefrommost understandings of scientificdata-generalisation is peculiarlyproblematic. A male ethnographerlearns differentthings from a female ethnographer,and countlesscontingenciesinterveneduringthe time in the field,fromworld historicaleruptionssuch as elections and droughtsand wars to such apparenttriviaas chance meetings,illnessand missed buses. Obviously, good ethnographicpracticeinvolves the attemptto make methodicalwhat may have been firstdiscoveredby chance;but thereis no denyingtheidiosyncrasy of individualethnographicexperience.In addition,the traditionof the lone fieldworker(occasionallysupplementedby spouse and children)magnifies the personal anxietiesfaced by all researchers.The anthropologicalhabit of writingat arm's lengthis not to be dismissedas an act of simple bad faith;it is as oftena tacticof emotionalself-defence. In that crucial period of professionalconsolidation between, say, 1940 and 1962-marked in British anthropologyby the publication of EvansPritchard's The Nuer (1940) at one end, and the polemical attacks of Needham (1962) and Leach (1961) at the other-it is possible to discernthe growth of a style of ethnographicwritingwhich I shall call 'ethnographic naturalism'.5 I use 'naturalism'by analogy with dramatictheory,to refer to the creationof a taken-for-granted of realityby certain representation standarddevices. My choice of termscomes in particularfromRaymond Williams's discussion of Brecht'sdramatictheory;thisis because Williams'sdiscussionis imbued with a recognitionof the power and importanceof some kinds of naturalism.The-danger of naturalism,though,is 'the exclusion,by particular conventionsof verisimilitude,of all direct commentary,alternative

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consciousness,alternativepoints of view' (Williams 1971: 278). For Brecht the effectof such naturalismwas to lull the audience and renderit passive; in its place he proposed the use of various techniqueswhich would make the audience aware of the conditionsof productionof the play itself,and also of the circumstancesof the action within the play. For modern anthropology in its period of professional consolidation one effect of of ethnographicexperience naturalisticdevices was to deny the particularity meansratherthan confrontthe implicationsof such particularity. by literary Against this we have to chartthe gains of the style,not least the success of what of classic ethnographiesin establishingthe potentialintelligibility had hithertobeen dismissedas 'savage', 'primitive',or 'superstitious'. Free indirect speech-the replacementof 'An old man told me at a sacrifice,"This is a kind of bargainwith God"' with 'Man makes a kind of bargain with God'-is but one featureof 'ethnographicnaturalism'.The devices of ethnographicnaturalismdo not serve as one more-or-lessadequate way amongst othersto representa chosen object. Ratherthey serve in the to constitutea particularsort of object-homo ethnographicus-and, process, other possible understandingsof the ethnographer'smaterialare eliminated.Take for example the way in which this object of discourseis homogenised: 'The Nuer is a product of hard and egalitarianupbringing, is deeply democratic,and is easily roused to violence' (Evans-Pritchard 1940: 181). We know thatsome of our neighboursand colleaguesare more kinds of English people are democraticthan others,we know thatdifferent more easilyroused to violencethanothers(men forexample); but the Nuer, as representedby Evans-Pritchard,do not appear to vary in this way. 'In the normal course of things,the Balinese are shy to the point of obsessiveness of open conflict'(Geertz 1973: 446)-except, one presumes,those that are not, or momentswhen the course of thingsis palpablyabnormal(1965 for example).6It may well be the case thatBalinesesocietyand Nuer society are culturallyhomogeneous in a way thatBritainand the United Statesare not; but given that consensus has been taken to be a definingfeatureof primitivesociety, at least since Durkheim's mechanical solidarity,while differenceis read as the sign of the modern, it seems probable that this featureis as much a productof our stylisticrepertoireas it is of any particular observation. Certainly,my own field experiencein Sri Lanka was of a culturalsettingcharacterisedby argument,scepticismand dispute about all sorts of aspects of everydayculture;yet it is nonethelessquite possible to read recent ethnographicaccounts of a curious homogeneous thing called 'Sinhalese culture'. Most spectacularlyof all, a few writershave performedthesame levelling process in the west, for example David Schneiderwhose accountof American kinshipand Americanculture(1968) eliminatesdifferences of class and ethnicityand presentsinstead a disturbinglyseamless descriptionof key American symbols and their interpretations.It is at this point, in my experience,that studentsstartto give voice to theirworriesabout what it is that they are supposed to be reading about. Ethnographicnaturalism, while working with ostensiblyunproblematicliterarydevices, in factcon-

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structsa kind of object-a world robbed of its idiosyncrasiesand foibleswhich is foreignto the experienceof its readers;and while the readerscan accept such foreignnessif the object is said to be from a distanttime or place, the use of similardevices in describinga known area of experience provokes considerableresistance.Defenders of Schneider(e.g. Marcus & Fischer 1986: 149-51) might argue that his true purpose is defamiliarisation-the rendering strange, and thus new, of the commonplace and unquestioned-and thereis an elementof truthin this. But the most telling lesson of Schneider'swork concernsethnographyratherthan America-it is anthropologicalwritingthatit puts in question farmore than American kinship. Anotheraspect of ethnographicnaturalismis the absence of any tangible point of view. The narratoris invisible and omniscient-an effectmuch enhanced by the use of free indirectspeech. The reason most oftenput forward for the habit of ethnographiceffacement-theremoval of the ethnographerfrom the scene of writing-is that without it ethnography will descend into subjectivityand autobiography.This is indeed a danger, but the alternative,the denial of ethnographicpresenceand the specificity of ethnographicexperience,is equally dangerous:it substitutesan unchallengeable subjectivityfor a challengeablesubjectivity. Experimental ethnography A briefexaminationof threerecentAmericanethnographieswill demonstratesome of the gains,and some of thelimitations,of thekindof approach I have been advocating. They are all accounts of Morocco based on fieldworkin the late 1960s and early 1970s-fieldwork carriedout in the shadows of Clifford,Geertzand, I suspect,Franz Fanon as well. The three books in order of publicationare Paul Rabinow's Reflections onfieldwork in Morocco(1977), Vincent Crapanzano's Tuhami(1980), and Kevin Dwyer's Moroccandialogues(1982). Rabinow's book is the shortest,in many respectsmost conventional,and probably the most successfulof the three. It is a companion to a more conventionalethnographySymbolicdomination (1975). It is a fairlystraightforward account of fieldwork, written in an autobiographical mode, fromwhat is rapidlybecoming a popular genreonly in its somediffering what greaterfranknessand self-consciousness. The chiefvalue of Rabinow's accountis the descriptionof his relationship with his various informants.These can be classed into two rough categoand the marginals.In the town ries-the dispensersof 'official'information, where he firstsettled he spent an uncomfortabletime tryingto learn Moroccan with an ex-colonial interpreter who, he graduallysensed, was providinghim with predigestedgobbetsof language and culture,packaging Arabic 'as if it were a touristbrochure'(Rabinow 1977: 27); he thenfound himselfat the otherend of the social spectrum,hangingout with a smallwas a young timepimp. Once installedin a village,his firstusefulinformant man of dubious reputation,who, as the relationshipbecame a growing source of tension between the anthropologistand the rest of the village,

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was replacedby a pillarof respectability in the community,a young married landownerwho simplypresentedhimselfand offeredto work as informant. What this man provided over a long period of time was anotherkind of 'official'version; togetherhe and Rabinow systematicallyconstructedfull genealogies, details of landholdingand agriculturalarrangementsand the like. What Rabinow could not elicitwas the detail of past politicaltension which he wanted; it required a visit fromhis friendthe pimp-who was happy to volunteer his version of these events-to provoke the other villagersto unbutton. Although the book is autobiographicalin mode, and otherwiselargely addressed to problems of anthropology,it does provide an occasionally sharp and oftenconvincingportraitof Moroccan society.In particular,the ways in, which people responded to the anthropologist-as an object of suspicion,or fear,or as-a resourceto be exploited,or as a medium to be managed-are themselvesimportantdata about the society, quite apart fromwhateverlighttheymay shineon Rabinow's otherethnography.That there was a general concern to presentthe ethnographerwith an official or respectableversion of the place reveals something of the nature of culturalself-awareness,as well as of the politicsof fieldwork.There is, on the otherhand, a feelingof completeness,of parts graduallyfittinginto a jigsaw, in the descriptionof the researchitselfwhich I cannothelp finding suspiciouslyneat and tidy. What Rabinow emphasisesis the way in which ethnographicknowledge is the resultof a complex process in which the informantand the anthropologist, in tryingto establisha common ground of understanding,are both forced to reflecton theirown assumptionsand culturalpreconceptions: Whenever an anthropologistenters a culture, he trains people to objectify their lifeworld for him. Within all cultures, of course, there is already objectificationand selfreflection.But this explicit self-conscioustranslationinto an external medium is rare. The anthropologist creates a doubling of consciousness. Therefore, anthropological analysis must incorporate two facts: first,that we ourselves are historicallysituated through the questions we ask and the manner in which we seek to understand and experience the world; and, second, that what we receive from our informantsare interpretations, equally mediated by historyand culture(1977: 119).

This also clarifiesthe apparent elective affinitybetween anthropologists and informantswho are themselvesmarginalto the culturebeing studied; one thinks,for example, of Victor Turner's (1967) famous account of his long exegeticalsessions with Muchona and the schoolteacher,all threeof themin theirdifferent ways on thefringeof Ndembu society.The marginal figureis more likely to ponder on what is going on and why, precisely because his or her partialdetachmentfromthe centreof thingsis if not a problem, at least pause for thought. What is createdin thiskind of encounteris a kind of intermediate ground between cultures, 'the beginnings of a hybrid, cross-culturalobject or product', a 'liminal world' as Rabinow (1977: 153) describesit. This is the same basic process that Sperberdescribes;but where Sperberlocates it at thelevel of ethnographyas text-as a productof the ethnographer's attempt

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to interprettheirrepresentations-itseems to reside rightlyat the level of ethnographyas practice. While a 'descriptivecomment' (specifyingwhat Rabinow calls the historicalsituationof anthropologistand informant)can place such interpretations back in the fieldworksituation,the passage from there to unmediated,or unreflective,representations seems blocked. A similarinsightlies at theheartof Crapanzano's Tuhami(1980) (subtitled Portrait ofa Moroccan).Tuhami himselfis a markedlymarginalcharacter,an unmarriedtilemakerliving on the fringeof the urban proletariatin a Moroccan town, who firstcame to Crapanzano's attentionas a potential informanton saints and demons, not least because of his considerable personal experienceof encounterswith them. The book is more self-consciously experimentalin its writingthan Rabinow's, takingthe formof a series of dialogues between Crapanzano and Tuhami interspersedwith passages of context about Moroccan society, writtenin a conventional ethnographicvoice, and passages of reflectionon the relationshipbetween Tuhami (the Other with a capital0) and the anthropologist.Like Rabinow, Crapanzano points out that the relationshipwith the informantcreateda new situationforboth of them. 'I became,' Crapanzanoreflects,'I imagine, an articulatorypivot around which he could spin out his fantasiesin order to createhimselfas he desired'(Crapanzano 1980: 140). A naturalstoryteller, Tuhami began to use the sessions as an opportunityto createa life for himself,weaving togetherwhat we would call fantasyand reality;as a psychoanalytically-inclined anthropologistCrapanzano began to see himself in a therapeuticrole, pushingTuhami towards some imaginedrelease. The elementof self-consciousexperimentis to be foundin thejuxtaposition of different'voices' and styles, the text's abrupt shifts between anthropologicaldetachmentand snatchesof raw dialogue. The intention is to forcereadersinto makingtheirown connexionsbetweenthe different parts of the text, while Tuhami's own mixtureof the fantasticand the down-to-earthis allowed graduallyto subvertCrapanzano's (and, I guess, the readers') expectationsof a 'realistic'life-history. on a numberof counts. The result,though,strikesme as unsatisfactory The carefullyselected and edited snatches of dialogue with Tuhami are too oblique-too littlecontextis providedforthe readerto cope with them as theystandand the result,perverselyenough,is to forcea greaterreliance on the author'ssubsequentcommentary.The commentaryitselfis, though, also oblique. It is most revealingnot about Morocco, nor about Tuhami or his milieu, nor even about Crapanzano himself-it tells us most about the contentsof Crapanzano's library.The increasinglyfragilestructureof Tuhami's life groans, and all but collapses, as it has to bear the weight of Sartreand Simmel and Lacan and a great deal of serious and committed head-scratchingover the nature of The Other. The most radical experimentin simultaneousauthorial presence and effacementis Kevin Dwyer's Moroccandialogues(1982). The book is the productof a second period of fieldwork,in which Dwyer, troubledby the returnedto the familyhe had nature of anthropologicalrepresentations, earlierstayed with and, in the course of one summer,took to recording

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long conversationshe held with the head of the household. The book is of these conversations,with a certainamount make up of transcriptions of ethnographicscene-setting, and passages in which Dwyer reflectson the contextof the particularconversationand what, at the time, he was trying to get at in asking particularquestions. Aftera couple of hundredpages in this vein the book climaxes with two chaptersof reflectionon anthropology, self, otherand the dialogic. Dwyer is concernedto avoid the bad faithinvolved in the presentation of seamless, polished accounts of othercultures.In this respecthe perhaps succeedsonly too well. One learnsverylittleabout Morocco, about Moroccan peasants, or even about the particular Moroccan peasant who dominatesthe book. The impressiongiven of anthropologicalwork is that it is a ratherlong-windeddevice for keeping innocentpeople up all night talking.In this case far too much of the conversationis too particular;as with Tuhami,the use of unmediatedmaterial-materialthat is as full of allusions to particularpeople and local events as fieldnotesalways areleaves the reader helpless. The anthropologist as writer cannot help intervening,however much his whole strategydepends on his non-intervention. The sorry conclusion that can be drawn from the book is that 'thin description'by itself-theattemptedrefusalof textual mediationbetween the actual field encounterand the reader of the ethnography-is as as is the more conventional much a barrierto ethnographicrepresentation practice of authorial omniscience. A numberof conclusionscan be drawnfromthisbriefsurvey,conclusions which referback to points made by Geertz and Sperber. Much of what I have described would seem to bear out Geertz's insistenceon the interpretativenatureof ethnographicdata as well as of ethnographictexts:that anthropologistsexplicateotherpeople's explications.The attemptsby both Crapanzano and Dwyer to eliminatethe anthropologistas mediatoronly serve to render the reader more helpless and dependent on whatever eventual interpretation is going to be offered.But as Rabinow and Crapanzano both make clear the alternativeelimination-the removal of the anthropologistand informantsfrom the finishedtext-also deprives the reader of importantinformation.The conditionsof productionof anthropological knowledge-who told whom? what? when? and why?-are themselvesdata of considerableimportance.Somethinglike Sperber's descriptivecomment can begin to situate ethnographicinterpretations back in the contextof theirown production,even if thatcontextis alreadyone of interpretationrather than one of unreflectingrepresentation.Most importantof all, if we want to presentcultureas an area of contest or disputein which people have different pointsof view, in which power and politicsaffectthe way in which different people make sense of theirworld and representit to others,then we have to employ some sort of literary practicewhich allows the historicalspecificityof ethnographicexperience to appear as an integralpart of the finalanalysis.8

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Text and context This bringsme finallyto Writing culture.There has been in the last decade a rising interestin America in what, with apologies, I shall call metaanthropology-the anthropologyof anthropologists.Key textsin this area are, apart from Writingcultureitself,the series of Historyof anthropology volumes editedby George Stocking(Stocking1983a; 1984; 1985; 1986), and two importantessays on ethnography-one by James Clifford(1983a) in thejournal Representations, and one by Marcus and Cushman (1982) in Annual reviewofanthropology. But withinthistrendthereare in facttwo discernible tendencies;I shall describe their exponents as Formalistsand Historians. Formalistsare concernedwith analysingthe internalstructureof anthropological texts as thingsin themselves;Historianson the other hand are concernedwith the 'external'relationsof texts,with sitingparticularwork in its own social, culturaland historicalcontext.Formalistsdo not referto themselvesas such, preferringon the whole sexier designationssuch as or experimentalist;Historians seem to be happy to be post-structuralist thoughtof as historians. Some people manage to be both-James Clifford,for example. In a review of Clifford'ssplendidbiographyof the FrenchmissionaryethnographerMaurice LeenhardtPersonand myth(Clifford1982), Paul Rabinow points to an area of tension within Clifford'swork; Clifford'sbook, he points out, hovers 'between a successfulstandardhistoricalapproach and a more dangerous post-modernone whose claims to traditionalstandards are less secure,but whose claims to creativityare stronger'(Rabinow 1983: 'On ethno196-7). This can be seen in Clifford'sessay in Representations: graphicauthority'(Clifford1983a). The essay startswith an unexceptional summary of the historical development of ethnographyas the central activityof modern anthropology,and aftera middle section on Geertz's interpretative ethnographyand the model of the text, proceeds to assess Dwyer's and Crapanzano's experiments,as well as the possibilityof more radicaldeparturesfromstandardmodes of authorship.But what we are left with in a ratherflat conclusionis a typologyof modes of authority('experiential,interpretive,dialogical, and polyphonic' (1983a: 142)), and the observationthat ethnographershave to choose between them. The lameness of this conclusion-which shows Cliffordin Formalist as to where to go next)-contrasts strongly mood (and not a little-baffled with, for example, his essay on Marcel Griaule in Historyof anthropology (Clifford1983b) in which Griaule's ethnographicpractice,as well as his ethnographicwriting,are assessed againsta subtlyinvoked backgroundof iolonialand post-colonialsociety. Similarly,Marcus and Cushman's essay on ethnographyis bland and unremarkablecomparedto Stocking's(1983b) recentreconstructionof the historicalcontext of Malinowski's Argonauts, withits playfulreadingof Malinowski'spreceptson fieldworkas a 'mythical charter'for subsequent anthropology,a reading which derives its force fromthe strengthof the historicalanalysiswhich surroundsit. On thebasis of Clifford'sown work, I think we are bound to reverse the terms of Rabinow's judgement: the 'dangerous post-modern'approach may look

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more excitingbut, so far,has yieldedratherordinaryresults;the 'standard historicalapproach', on the other hand, has proven remarkablyfruitful. My unhappinesswith the post-modernturnin Americananthropology is twofold.Firstthereis the abandonmentof any considerationof problems of validation: these are instead subsumed under the rubricof 'authority', which is itselfportrayedas a literaryratherthan a practicalissue.9 It is worthrememberingthatboth Geertz(1973: 30) and Ricoeur (1971: 549-51) expend considerableenergyon the problem of the validationof differing interpretations, proving,if nothingelse, that such questionsare not solely the province of naive empiricistsand other sorts of Anglo-Saxon. The most easily imaginableanswer to the problem of the validationof is not literarybut practical.The case of Margaret competinginterpretations Mead, to which I have already alluded, suggests one simple strategyfor 'limitingthe fieldof constructions'.We live in a world wherethe possibility of ethnographicsubjectscontestingthe anthropologist'sdescriptionis more and more likely;not only is thisa thoroughlygood thing,we should make every effortto encourageit. The momentof writingis a ratherlate stage to the interpreted. for the interpreterto reveal his or her interpretations to tryto devise ways in which ethnoInsteadit would seem more fruitful The graphicsubjectsare activelyinvolved in theirown self-representation. anthropologist'sskillscould thenbe used as an enablingdevice in a complex and argument. and quite possibly acrimonious process of interpretation This is not to insist on the subjects' ratificationof a particularethnography-if anthropologyis indeed a 'long conversation'the anthropologist also has a rightto his or her own say-but simplyto suggestthattheybe community'to which the text is addressed. included in the 'interpretative I can sense what remains of the reader's patience expiringat this apparentlynaive and utopian point. But thereare plentyof examples of the kind of researchI am talkingabout. The Mass Observationmovementin the Britain of the 1930s and 1940s-currently undergoing a publisher's revival-relied upon a huge number of volunteerethnographersreporting on various social and culturalnooks and crannies(see Calder & Sheridan 1984). The group of historiansassociatedwith thejourn,alHistoryworkshop in the 1970s again deliberatelysought to involve people in the production of their own histories (Samuel 1981). Still more recentlyin France the sociologist Alain Touraine and his collaboratorshave devised what they in which thedivisionbetween call the strategyof 'sociological intervention', researcherand researchedis again blurred,for theirstudiesof social movementslike Solidarityor the Frenchanti-nuclearmovement(Touraine 1981; Touraine et al. 1983a; 1983b). More modestlythereis the work of Richard Thorn and his colleagues in Visual Anthropologyat Bristol Polytechnic on the recordingof contemporaryculture.None of these is offeredas an unproblematicmodel for emulation; but all of them provide valuable and more examples of the potentialstrengthsand weaknesses of different open research practices. Ethnographicwritingis but one stage in a complex process of cultural cultureseems to be production. But the pervadingassumptionin Writing

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that texts can be compared as formalobjects, regardlessof the conditions of their own production. Derrida's slogan 'There is nothing outside the text' may have its strategicvalue in the stylewars currentlyragingin the literaturefaculty.If nothingelse, it can serve as a constantreminderthat, for example, we are readingEvans-Pritchard'saccountof his interpretation of what he took to be religionamong some people then classifiedas the Nuer at a time of extended political crisis in the southernSudan in the 1930s; we are not, forall that,confronting some transcendent realitycalled 'Nuer religion' to which Evans-Pritchard'stext may correspondmore or less successfully.The forceof thesloganin thisreadingmay not be especially novel (cf Rorty 1982: 154) but its effectmay stillbe salutary. A slightlydifferent reading,which runs implicitlythrougha numberof is thattextscan be wholly decontextuthe contributionsto Writing culture, alised and compared as formalobjects, strippedof historyand living in a social vacuum. Crapanzano (1986), for example, compares Goethe's descriptionof theRoman carnivalwithGeertz'sessayon thecockfightwithout feelingany need to justifysuch an anachronistic juxtaposition. Context is ignored in other ways too. Writingof Evans-Pritchard'sintroductionto The Nuer, for instance,Renato Rosaldo asks 'Why did the governmentof the Anglo-EgyptianSudan request his report?How much did it pay for the researchand the publicationof its results?'(Rosaldo 1986: 88). To this I would answerwithsome exasperation:why don't you findout?therelevant papers are presumablysittingin some colonial archive or other and are available for inspection(cf. Geertz 1988: 49-72). It is hard to avoid the conclusion that*'intertextuality' is used as a chic excuse for abandoning primaryresearchaltogether.I am put in mind of the definitionof a critic attributedto the poet Robert Frost: 'A criticis someone who pisses into a riverand says look what a big streamI made'. A number of importantquestions about ethnographyare omittedfrom the discussion in Writingculture.These include, for one, the relationship between institutionalstructuresand stylesof writing:here a relevantcomment mightbe thatwhat remainsof social science fundingin Britainis in factualsort, few of whom are the hands of Gradgrindsof a distressingly likely to be impressedby a hundredpages of heartfeltreflectionon Self and Other. The relationshipbetween anthropologicalwork and anthropological writingis also undiscussed.When Geertzansweredhis own question 'what do anthropologistsdo?' with 'anthropologistswrite' he managed to single out the one activitythat does not differentiate anthropologyfrom any otherkind of intellectualwork-anthropologistswade into paddy fields, get sick and read bad novels ratherthan confrontanotherday of mounting misapprehensions; theyalso take photographs,make filmsand tape recordings; a privilegedfew even get to teach students.The factthattheymostly do it by themselvesin strangeplaces is anotheroddity that passes unreculture.There is also the question of who reads marked upon in Writing ethnography10 and the ways in which anthropologytextsare writtenso as to exclude all but the committedfellow professionalfrom the exclusive circle of understanding.(Writingculture,with its lumberinguse of terms

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fromthe dead criticaldiscourseof the seventeenthand eighteenthcenturies, will never be accused of popular vulgarisation.) Some of these issues are raised in the penultimate-and best-paper in the book, Paul Rabinow's essay (1986) which is tellinglyentitled'Representationsare social facts' and which delivers its own critique of the assumptionson which the whole project is based. Not least among these is the discernibleshift from trying-however imperfectly-to represent other people in other places, to an exclusive concern with representing people who try to representother people in other places; at one point Rabinow describesthis as 'the voice fromthe campus library'.The scene of post-modernanthropologicalwritingis revealedin that phrase: it is an institutionof highereducation,preferablyin the USA, usually somewhere in the sunbelt (although student-freezones such as Princeton'sInstitute for Advanced Study have theirappeal). The librariesare well-stocked,the studentswell concealed. Time hangs heavy. Ambition nags away at the back of the mind. A new product appears in the consumerparadise: it is exclusive, well-packaged, evoking the radical spiriteven as it establishes themagic of authority;it can be appliedto anythingat all; and itsapplication, aftersome preliminaryintellectualdiscomfort,is quite painless; you don't even have to set foot outsideyour frontdoor. We are in the world of what Michael Silverstein(1985) has describedas 'yuppie anthropology'. culturewhich encouragessuch There is somethingin the tone of Writing ungenerousfantasy.Much that I have argued earlier-about the literary denial of anthropologicalpresencein ethnographicwritingfor example-is echoed again and again by the contributors.Why then am I so critical? Firstof all, it seems more than likely that the book will provoke a trend away from doing anthropology,and towards ever more barrencriticism and meta-criticism. Secondly,thereis everychancethatit has set the agenda in American(ifnot British)anthropologyforthe next few forself-criticism years; the omission of crucial questions-who does anthropology,in what context, and to whom are the results made available-is all the more regrettable.Thirdly,thereare alreadysigns thatliterarycriticismwill cross the boundarybetween the descriptiveand the prescriptiveas, for example, in Marcus and Fischer's constructionof a canon of 'experimental'ethnographyin Anthropology as cultural critique(1986). The great strengthof fieldworkin Anglo-Americananthropologyhas lain in the fieldworker'sabilityto relate specificrepresentations to a rich contextof social, culturaland historicalknowledge. There can be no prior justification for refusing the same context for anthropological representationsthemselves;the work of Stockingand Cliffordon the historyof anthropologynot only instructsus about the past, it also promisesto make us more profitablyself-consciousin the future.Similarly,in arguingfor a more open styleof ethnographicwriting,I have suggestedthatit is in the interestof both writerand readerthatexplicitattentionshould be paid to the specifichistoricand social sources of anthropologicalrepresentations. I should add that thereis every sign that this is what a large number of anthropologistsare doing.

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A criticonce likened the music of the great Afro-Americancomposer Thelonious Monk to the feelingof 'missing the bottom step in the dark', thatbriefmomentof vertigowhen the familiarand unexpecteddrops away. I suspect most anthropologistsaspire to a similar ability to upset the apple-cartof culturalexpectation.What I hope thisarticlehas demonstrated is thatthis abilitycannotbe reducedto recipesand formulasfromthe light industrythatis Americanliterarycriticism;as Sperbersays, 'ideally... each ethnographershould rethinkthe ethnographicgenre' (1985: 33). In the end, though,we may also need to rethinkthe styleof anthropologicalwork as well as the styleof anthropologicalwriting.11 NOTES

I should like to thank Mark Whitaker,Elizabeth Nissan, Richard Fardon, and audiences at Sussex and Durham for theircommentson a firstdraftof this article.I must also thank Ralph Grillo for his encouragement.I hope that Terry Turner will also recognisehis (necessarily unacknowledged) contribution. 1 The furoreover Freeman's (1984) attackon Mead was, I suspect,far more traumaticto American anthropology than it was in Britain; the search for alternativesto Mead's 'scientistic'ethnographicepistemology,of which Writingcultureis obviously one, can be partlytracedto this trauma. 2 The example is in fact based on Scott's (1985) brilliantaccount of class in everyday peasant life in a Malay village, a text which modestly embodies much that I am recommending. It is all the more ironic that it is the ethnographiccontributionof a political scientistratherthan an anthropologist. 3 It is interestingto note that Geertz's non-ethnographic writingsshow a growing irritainstead the knowing allution with the usual trappingsof scholarlyattribution,preferring sion and the buried half-quote,while in Negara (1980) and Islam observed(1968), footnotes are replaced by a parallel scholarly commentary,citing referencesand quibbles of detail, printedat the back of the volume and loosely tagged to the pages of the main text. 4 Public questioning of the empirical content of ethnographyis extremelyrare, and, tellingly,almost always confinedto cases where an ostensiblyanthropologicaltext has won of Don a wider public audience-Coming of age in Samoa, The mountain people, The teachings Juan, Shabono. Such questioningseems as much a product of the patrollingof disciplinary boundaries as of anythingmore high-minded. 5 Marcus and Cushman describe a similar style which they call 'ethnographicrealism'; I have problems with theirclaim that this has been dominantfor 'approximatelythe past 60 years' (1982: 25) i.e. since the publicationof Malinowski's Argonauts.This is to gloss over the considerable stylisticdifferencesbetween Malinowski, Mead, Firth, Evans-Pritchard, Fortune and Benedict, let alone the differencesbetween them and recent figuressuch as of the 1960s. Geertz or the ethnoscientists 6 In fairnessit should be pointed out that Geertz himselfalertsthe reader to the danger of this practice in the earlier 'Person, time and conduct in Bali' ([1966] 1973: 368 n.7), without in any way modifyingthe main text to take account of possible exceptions and qualifications.By the time of 'Deep Play', seven years later, he seems to have feltno such qualificationsnecessary(cf. n.3 above). 7 Dwyer's book was also presentedas a BBC radio documentaryin 1985 under the title groups Makinga noiseaboutlife.I have listenedto a recordingof this with two very different of students; the majority in both groups described it as both bafflingand boring. This strikes me as a prettyfair evocation of what much anthropologicalfieldworkis actually like. 8 This seems to be in agreementwith Fabian's (1983) denunciationsof anthropological is 'allochronism'; Fabian also recognisesthat the problem of anthropologicalrepresentation a problem of anthropological practice. Unfortunately,the specification of desirable changes in anthropologicalpractice goes missing in his breath-takingdisplay of polysyl-

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labic metatheory. 9 Clifford murmurs in a footnote 'Modes of authority based on natural-scientific epistemologiesare not discussed' (1983a: 142 n.1). 10 Marcus and Cushman devote two pages of theirarticleto a limited discussion of the readershipof ethnographies(1982: 63-4); althoughstudentsand the generalpublic are mentioned as categoriesof readers, all the importantauthor-readerrelationsare seen to inhere withina world of professionalacademics. 1 My descriptionof American literarycriticismas a 'light industry'seems especially prescientin view of the deluge of publicationson this theme which have appeared since this essay was originallydrafted.The most importantof these is probably Geertz's slim volume on anthropologistas author (Geertz 1988), which uses a number of the examples discussed above, makes a number of the same points of detail, but heads off in a quite incompatibledirection. REFERENCES Berlin,B. & P. Kay 1969. Basic colorterms.Berkeley,Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press. Calder, A. & D. Sheridan1984 (eds). Speakforyourself London: JonathanCape. in theMelanesianworld.Berkeley, Clifford,J. 1982. Personand myth:MauriceLeenhardt Los Angeles: Univ. of CaliforniaPress. 1983a. On ethnographicauthority.Representations 1, 118-46. 1983b. Power and dialogue in ethnography:Marcel Griaule's initiation.In Stocking (ed.) (1983a). & G.E. Marcus 1986 (eds). Writing culture.Berkeley,Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press. Crapanzano, V. 1980. Tuhami:portrait ofa Moroccan.Chicago: Univ. Press. 1986. 'Hermes' dilemma: the maskingof subversionin ethnographicdescription'.In Clifford& Marcus (eds) (1986). Dwyer, K. 1982. Moroccandialogues.Baltimore:JohnsHopkins Univ. Press. E.E. 1940. The Nuer. Oxford: Univ. Press. Evans-Pritchard, Fabian,J. 1983. Timeand theother.New York: Columbia Univ.Press. Freeman,D. 1984. MargaretMead and Samoa. Harmondsworth:Penguin. Geertz,C. 1968. Islamobserved. Chicago: Univ. Press. 1973. The interpretation ofcultures. New York: Basic Books. 1980. Negara. Princeton:Univ. Press. 1988. Worksand lives. Stanford:Univ. Press. Leach, E.R. 1961. Rethinking anthropology. London: AthlonePress. Malinowski, B. 1922. Argonauts oftheWestern Pacific.London: Routledge& Kegan Paul. Marcus G.E. & Cushman R. 1982. Ethnographiesas text.Ann. Rev. Anthrop.11, 25-69. & M. Fischer1986. Anthropology as culturalcritique.Chicago: Univ. Press. Mead, M. 1928. Comingofage in Samoa. New York: Morrow. and sentiment. Needham, R. 1962. Structure Chicago: Univ. Press. Rabinow, P. 1975. Symbolicdomination. Chicago: Univ. Press. 1977. Reflections onfieldwork in Morocco.Berkeley,Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press. 1983. Facts are a word of God: a review essay. In Stocking(ed.) (1983a). 1986. Representationsare social facts:modernityand post-modernity in anthropology.In Clifford& Marcus (eds) (1986). Ricoeur, P. 1971. The model of the text: meaningfulaction consideredas a text. SocialRes. 38, 529-62. Rorty,R. 1982. Consequences ofpragmatism. Brighton:Harvester. Rosaldo, R. 1986. From the door of his tent:the fieldworkerand the inquisitor.In Clifford& Marcus (eds) (1986). and socialisttheory.London: Routledge& Kegan Samuel, R. (ed.) 1981. People'shistory Paul.

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Schneider,D.M. 1968. Americankinship:a cultural account.Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. Scott,J.C. 1985. Weaponsoftheweak. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press. Silverstein,M. 1985. Review of D. Parkin(ed.) Semantic anthropology. Am. Ethnol.12, 795-6. Sperber,D. 1985. On anthropological knowledge. Cambridge:Univ. Press. Stocking,G.W. (ed.) 1983a. Observers observed: essayson ethnographicfieldwork (Hist. Anthrop. 1). Madison: Univ. of WisconsinPress. 1983b. The ethnographer'smagic: fieldworkin BritishanthropologyfromTylor to Malinowski. In Stocking(1983a). (ed.) 1984. Functionalism historicized (Hist. Anthrop.2). Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press. (ed.) 1985. Objectsand others(Hist. Anthrop.3). Madison: Univ. of WisconsinPress. (ed.) 1986. Malinowski,Rivers,Benedict and others(Hist. Anthrop.4). Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press. Touraine, A. 1981. The voiceand theeye. Cambridge:Univ. Press. Z. Hegedus, F. Dubet & M. Wieviorka1983a. Anti-nuclear protest.Cambridge:Univ. Press. F. Dubet, M. Wieviorka& J. Strzelecki1983b. Solidarity. Cambridge:Univ. Press. Turner,V.W. 1967. Theforestofsymbols.Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. Williams,R. 1971. DramafromIbsento Brecht.London: Chatto & Windus.

L'anthropologie comme un genre d'ecriture Resume Cet article fait la revue de l'interet recent dans les aspects litt6rairesde l'6critur( ethnographique,se concentrantsur le travailde Geertz, Sperber,et les auteursassocies aL volume collectifWritingculture.Alors, est-il argumente,que des questions s6rieusessont soulevees dans une partiede ce travail,iAest argumenteaussi que des modes recentesdans la th6orlecritiquelitt6rairepeuvent se revelerinutilespour s'adressera ces questions. En particulier,la tendancea lire des textesavec peu ou pas de considerationpour le contexte social et historiquedans lequel ils furentecritssemble une approche specialementsterile. Plut6t, est-il argumente,l'anthropologieest aussi bien une facon de travailler-une sorte d'activite pratique-qu'elle est une feaaond'ecrire. Une reconnaissancede l'element personnel dans la r6alisationde textes ethnographiquespeut aider le lecteura une meilleure evaluation de l'interpretation proposee; un changementplus radical demande un changement dans la pratique anthropologiqueaussi bien que dans l'ecritureanthropologique.

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Anthro as writing  

Spencer discusses Geertz, Williams, Sperber, and others in relation to writing ethnography

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