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

By Susan R. Trencher | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
All in the Family

What should therefore be the very strength of anthropology--its experiential, reflexive and critical activity--has been eliminated as a valid area of inquiry by an attachment to a positivist view of science, which I find radically inappropriate in a field which claims to study humanity. ( Rabinow 1977:5)

The rejection of a positivist view of science common to fieldworker ethnographies, and the assumption of a wholly interpretive epistemology, were the underpinning for other significant and similar changes in these works. 1 These included: (1) the privileging of experience over observation; (2) the interpretation of field interaction as confrontation suffused with power and domination, and (3) ethnography seen as resolution and reconstitution. This chapter sets out the claims and intentions of fieldwork ethnographers. What did their authors intend to do? What did they claim as new in their practice? In short: what did these ethnographies say about their work, in their work?


KEY TERMS OF FIELDWORKER ETHNOGRAPHIES

Experience over Observation: Objective Observation Becomes Subjective Experience

Once one accepts a definition of anthropology as consisting of participant observation as I had, then one's course of action is really governed by these oxymoronic terms; the tension defines the space of anthropology. ( Rabinow 1977:79)

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