First Find Your Child a Good Mother: The Construction of Self in Two African Communities

First Find Your Child a Good Mother: The Construction of Self in Two African Communities

First Find Your Child a Good Mother: The Construction of Self in Two African Communities

First Find Your Child a Good Mother: The Construction of Self in Two African Communities

Excerpt

Lila Abu-Lughod

It is now widely accepted in anthropology that our knowledge of other societies as presented in ethnographies is the product of a complex set of interactions in the field and "at home" rather than the result of a simple process of investigation. Paul Riesman was an early pioneer in the exploration of some of the many ways this is true. Like many who followed, he questioned the strict separation that previously had kept serious ethnographies in an objective mode distinct from "confessional" fieldwork accounts in a subjective mode. For him, reflexivity was an essential aspect of anthropological work.

He made two important methodological breakthroughs in his first book on the Fulani of Burkina Faso (then Upper Volta), which was published in French in 1974, several years before the works generally associated with the development of "reflexive anthropology" were to appear (e.g., Dumont 1978; Rabinow 1977; Crapanzano 1977, 1980). Arguing that "few ethnographic works give a sufficient account . . . of how the material they report was collected," he tried systematically to share with the reader how he had gotten specific bits of information, describing the sorts of encounters in which conversations and questions had occurred in the . . .

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