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Anthropology and Literary Engagments: Crossing Borders of Academica and Creative Writing

Will you be attending this session? Check it out:
4-0730 ANTHROPOLOGY AND LITERARY ENGAGEMENTS: CROSSING BORDERS OF ACADEMIC AND CREATIVE WRITING

Sponsored By:AAA Executive Program Committee

Friday, November 16, 2012: 1:45 PM-5:30 PM
Continental 8 (Hilton San Francisco)
On an upsurge since the 1980s “Writing Culture” debate, the anthropology of literature and writing has a long history of border crossings. It involves the role of literature and literary texts in anthropology, and it is concerned with writing as process and form. There is a sense that the writing of fiction, poetry, and drama can offer elements and passages of an ethnographic nature, which in turn speaks to the idea of the writer as ethnographer. The same may be said of literary translations of works by indigenous authors. Literary works of all kinds are frequently included as a particular kind of data in anthropological research, also by anthropologists who do not otherwise take a special interest in literature. Many anthropologists seek out works set in their fieldsite areas by local writers or performers of oral literature, in order to gain further insights into cultural values and social circumstances that are the topics of their research. Such works are also used in teaching and appear on reading lists in general anthropology courses, even in graduate-level seminars. At the same time, inspired by the richness of their ethnography, anthropologists write novels, short stories, creative nonfiction (a genre that is now a staple of most MFA programs in creative writing), poems, memoirs, and detective stories–genres that offer opportunities to tell previously untold stories from the field. To hone and teach skills in these various genres, courses on experimental writing, ethnographic writing, anthropological writing genres, literary translation, even creative writing are now taught by anthropologists. No doubt the “experimental turn” in anthropological writing is influenced by the style and structure of fiction, as well as by poetry, plays, performance and installation art–and, the technology of new media (including the ubiquitous blogging and online “social media”), as well as by indigenous productions. A number of prominent contemporary writers had some anthropological training, but left the academy for careers in fiction (e.g., Amitav Ghosh, Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut), science fiction (Ursula K. LeGuin), poetry (e.g., Gary Snyder, Octavio Paz, Nathaniel Tarn), screenwriting (George Lucas, Joan Campion), or songwriting (e.g. Mick Jagger, Tracy Chapman). Increasingly, literary and reading communities are the objects of study by anthropologists. This panel brings together papers discussing the engagement of anthropology with a variety of literary texts and authors. How can such encounters contribute theoretically to anthropology? What does the crossing of conventional borders between anthropology and literature entail for anthropology’s relationship with other academic disciplines, and for its reach to a wider audience?

This session would be of particular interest to:Those involved in mentoring activities, Students, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Practicing and Applied Anthropologists

Organizers: Helena Wulff (Stockholm University and Stockholm University) and Alma Gottlieb (Universtiy of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Chairs: Helena Wulff (Stockholm University and Stockholm University)
Discussants: Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University) and James W Fernandez PhD (University of Chicago)
1:45 PM The Story of Yaya’s Story Paul Stoller (West Chester University)
2:15 PM The Face of Ethnography In Literary Mirrors: Learning From Anton Chekhov Kirin Narayan (Universtiy of Wisconsin Madison)
2:30 PM On Timely Appearances: Anthropology In Dialogue with Literature and Art Mattias Viktorin (Stockholm University)
2:45 PM Gonzo Ethnography Barbara Tedlock (State University of New York at Buffalo and State University of New York at Buffalo)
3:00 PM Discussant James W Fernandez PhD (University of Chicago)
3:15 PM Discussion
3:30 PM Break
4:00 PM Crossing (Writing) Borders: Collaborating with a Guy Who Lives and Breathes Narrative Alma Gottlieb (Universtiy of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
4:15 PM Crossing Borders: The Ethnography of the Inner Life Philip Graham (Universtiy of Illinois)
4:30 PM Who Do We Write for Now? Ruth Behar (University of Michigan and Department of Anthropology)
4:45 PM Literary Senses: Negotiating the Border Between Contemporary Irish Fiction and Academic Writing Helena Wulff (Stockholm University and Stockholm University)
5:00 PM Discussant Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University)
5:15 PM Discussion

Dr. Herzfeld receives Honorary Doctorate

On 24 February 2011, Professor Michael Herzfeld (Department of Anthropology, Harvard U)  received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece. Professor Herzfeld, who is the author of several books about Greek society and culture and has conducted research there for many years, has also conducted fieldwork in Italy and Thailand. Congratulations!

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