W r i t i n g E t h n o g r a p h y

English 311.001
A n t h r o p o l o g y 3 9 9
Spring 2006
Thursday 4:30-7:10pm

Description is revelation. It is not
The thing described, nor false facsimile. . . .
Intenser than any actual life could be,
A text we should be born that we might read, . . .
Thus the theory of description matters most.
(from "Description Without Place" by Wallace Stevens)

Ethnography, writes Linda Brodkey, is "a process by which each of us confronts our respective inability to comprehend the experience of others even as we recognize the absolute necessity of continuing the effort to do so." In our class, we will work as ethnographers, selecting research sites (a place, an event, a group, an individual, or an issue), collecting information from informants, and writing about our chosen fields. We'll keep journals, write field notes, observe, interview, and, perhaps, photograph and video. Our goal: to produce one ethnographic essay and to help each other in our work. Discussions will include current issues in ethnographic writing such as the authorship of ethnographic materials, the production of knowledge among researcher and informants, complications in the fieldwork relationship, historical conventions of ethnographic writings, and the use of ethnographic materials in publications and museums. We'll also consider computer applications. Much of our class will be conducted in workshop sessions where we'll discuss each other's writings.

Course Readings:

Here are a few of the book we'll be using. As I make final decisions, I'll add more. Please don't buy other books, even if they're on the shelves at the GMU bookstore.

-- Sunstein, Bonnie Stone and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater. FieldWorking: Reading and Writing Research. Bedford/Saint Martin's 0-312-25825-9
– Duneier, Mitchell. Sidewalk. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 0-374-52725-3
– Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild.

I'm considering:

– Best, Amy L. Fast Cars, Cool Rides: The Accelerating World of Youth and Their Cars. New York University Press ISBN 0-8147-9931-0