Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology

By Roger Sanjek | Go to book overview

Preface

After a long American Ethnological Society board of directors session on the first day of the 1984 American Anthropological Association meetings in Denver, I met Shirley Lindenbaum, editor of American Ethnologist and a fellow member of the board, in the hotel lobby. We were later joined by James Clifford, a historian of anthropology. The three of us talked about current concerns in anthropology, including the growing interest in ethnographies as texts.

By eleven o'clock in the evening we were all hungry and decided to eat in the hotel. We descended several flights to the one restaurant that was still open. The service was slow and uncoordinated. As Lindenbaum and Clifford sat eating their dinner and I sat waiting for mine, Clifford brought up the subject of fieldnotes. He said that in all the recent discussion about writing ethnography and about ethnographies as writing, no one had addressed what anthropologists write before they write ethnographies—fieldnotes. This led our conversation to a chain of associations, comments, and ideas about fieldnotes and about why ethnographers have written so little on the subject.

When I learned at the next day's AES board meeting that I was to chair the program committee for the AES Invited Sessions at the Washington AAA meetings, in 1985, I immediately thought of doing a panel on fieldnotes. In the next two days, I discussed this with Linden

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