Giving Care, Writing Self: A New Ethnography

Giving Care, Writing Self: A New Ethnography

Giving Care, Writing Self: A New Ethnography

Giving Care, Writing Self: A New Ethnography

Synopsis

"The authors of this social science text draw on the division and difference in late-twentieth-century human science to write a critical, reflexive ethnography. The book's substantive focus is, simultaneously, the caregiving work and subjectivities that can develop around an ill parent living at home in urban North China at the end of the century, as well as a recurrent decentering of the authoritative, ethnographic voice and vision that would produce a conventional, centered narrative of these caregiving and subjectivity-producing practices and spaces. Schneider and Wang seek to write themselves into this text, both as would-be but skeptical filial sons, and as sociologists who are variously disloyal to the very scientific traditions that they would use to ground their own personal/professional selves." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In a recently published interview, Trinh Minh-ha (1996) discusses some of the complexities of naming positions in the world of postcolonial studies. Annamaria Morelli, her interlocutor, credits postcolonial theory and practice with deconstructing many of the familiar categories in terms of which various “others” have been defined, studied, and located relative to a center or, as Trinh puts it, a “site of domination” (16). But Morelli goes on to wonder if perhaps the most tenacious of these centered categories, “the West” itself, is often spared the full power of this critique, thus insuring that its “others” remain fixed by a unitary image of the dominant, “center” category in this core binarism.

Trinh responds that this deconstructive work on the West or the center must be engaged “on both sides” of the various versions of this divide. She agrees that those who speak from subordinate positions should take care not to overstate the unity of the dominant center (thus further cementing their own marginality). But she wants to give more attention to what those who speak from that place of privilege and power, claiming to be allies of the deconstruction noted above, have to say. To work against the continued dominance of this privileged place even as one speaks from it, it is not enough only to disavow dominance, she says. One also should offer a critical analysis of how that site of domination came to be and continues to seem, to be, so unitary to its others. She reminds us how the self-characterizations coming from the center today so typically and strategically embrace images of a “mobile, changing, flexible, complex, and problematic” subjectivity; qualities of subjects that are, as she puts it, “safe for democracy.” By contrast, images of the center’s others in its own media remain “uncomplicated, unsophisticated, unproblematic, verifiable, and knowable”; as “incapable or undeserving of ‘democracy’” (15).

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