Mirrored Images: American Anthropology and American Culture, 1960-1980

By Susan R. Trencher | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 3
The Dissertation Re-Bound

While ethnographies produced in the first few decades of the 1900s were directed at describing "whole" cultures, dissertations and first ethnographies by fieldwork ethnographers fell into a category of accepted ethnographic practice in which the project of ethnography had been reduced from that of earlier Boasian and Malinowskian models.

(The) . . . all-purpose ethnographic monograph is less common today. . . . Many anthropologists . . . believe . . . that no culture can be adequately described in a single monograph. They therefore, prefer more specialized monographs on kinship, religion, economy, social organization or the like, although the emphasis often remains holistic with the subject seen in context and in relation to other aspects of culture. ( Edgerton and Langness 1974:66)

For the most part, "early works" (dissertations, articles, and first ethnographies by fieldwork ethnographers) "looked like" standard ethnographies. In general, standard ethnographies focused on culture and were presented through the third-person narrative of the ethnographer. Like other writings commonly produced in Anthropology at the time, these early works focused on culture covered particular "problems" (unlike the "whole world" monographs of the past), and were written in the third person with the occasional reference to the ethnographer himself. But these works actually incorporated significant shifts in the underlying epistemology of anthropological practice, although its manifestation in the written account remained subtle. This chapter focuses on these works and on the pervasive intellectual influence of Clifford Geertz as a means to locate some seminal ideas in

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