Violence: Ethnographic Encounters

Violence: Ethnographic Encounters

Violence: Ethnographic Encounters

Violence: Ethnographic Encounters

Excerpt

In Violence: Ethnographic Encounters anthropologists offer first-hand accounts of fieldwork experiences with violence in Peru, India, Iraq, Kenya, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Lebanon and Syria and Morocco. Written in a decidedly descriptive style, the stories depict how personal experience with violence made insight into the phenomenon of violence possible. However, by foregrounding the contingency of fieldwork experiences, the unexpected and unassimilable, these essays also elucidate where the anthropological project of producing knowledge about other peoples and places ultimately finds its limits: in the body and mind of the ethnographer.

We follow diverse writing strategies and our emphasis is on narrative description in lieu of impatient rendering of experience into concepts and theoretical paradigms. Especially in the U.S., where popular culture openly cultivates a bias against things “intellectual,” an emphasis on history and theory in academic settings is understandable, even laudable. But in much contemporary anthropological writing, historical texts and “high theory” are often deployed as substitutes for a thicker descriptive exposition of what happens during research in the fieldwork setting and elides working through our uncomfortable experiences on paper.

Our descriptions rely on creative and theoretically informed methods and strategies that never allow for a passive harvesting of facts for disinterested presentation. They elucidate the authors' field experiences in and through the act of writing. By struggling with the adequate expression of experience, the authors insist on holding on to a difference between their own discourse and a conceptual apparatus, holding on to a relation of astonishment and surprise. Our narrative descriptions hope to show insights gained through theory, submitting neither to theory nor substituting theory in its exposition. They focus on moments during fieldwork that haunt later memory and which betray an intimacy with difference – a difference that is not merely external to the experiencing subject. In this way, we hope . . .

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