"The essays cover a wide range: life history, anthropological cinema, the novel and ethnography, ethnography as theater, written transmissions of oral tradition, and ethnography as autobiography."—ChoiceLike Conrad's Marlow, whose tale of journeying into the "heart of darkness" gives us as much insight into one man's personality as it does into the mysteries of the dark world he explored, so the anthropologist's record of another culture contains more than objective, scientific data about his investigation. Embedded within it are clues to the "personality" of anthropology itself: the attitudes, approaches, even prejudices that at any given stage in history are inextricable from the ideology of the anthropologist. Therefore, the mirror he holds up to show us another culture can never be a perfect one. His own professional attitude toward his subject, as well as his choice of medium, are factors that create "cracks" in the mirror of anthropology through which we believe we view the life of other cultures.
Hence, the concept of "reflexivity" and the striving to recognize how it warps in the portrayal of anthropological truth lie at the core of the twelve finely wrought essays collected in this volume. Wide ranging in geography as well as viewpoint, they highlight various methods and media (film, ethnography, text) through which an anthropologist chooses to portray a culture, and the various forms, such as art, theater, and ritual, through which a culture portrays itself. Recognizing the link between these two processes provides the key to cultural and methodological self awareness.
Reflexivity is defined and clarified in the introduction and in three of the essays, and the remaining nine essays evince the principle through fieldwork and startling case studies. Essays by Jay Ruby and Eric Michaels shed new light on the enormous potential of film and video, showing how a form generally thought to be "nonscientific" can in fact give fresh insight into the scientific premises underlying the discipline's methodology. Essays by Barbara Babcock and Carol Ann Parssinen focus on the novel and ethnography, examining existing works.
Anthropologists, as well as students of film, art, and theater, will find that this intriguing work begins to redefine traditional distinctions between science and the arts and brings to light fresh resources that are utilized in the search for anthropological truth.
Contributors: Richard Schechner, Victor Turner, Barbara Myerhoff, Jay Ruby, Eric Michaels, Dennis Tedlock, George Marcus, Paul Rabinow, Barbara Babcock, Carol Ann Parssinen, and Dan Rose.
Jay Ruby is Professor of Anthropology and director of a graduate program in the anthropology of visual communication at Temple University. He is the editor of Robert J. Flaherty, A Biography, written by Paul Rotha, also published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.