Writing Anthropology

Essays on Craft and Commitment

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: May 2020

Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Creative Nonfiction

In Writing Anthropology, fifty-two anthropologists reflect on scholarly writing as both craft and commitment. These short essays cover a wide range of territory, from ethnography, genre, and the politics of writing to affect, storytelling, authorship, and scholarly responsibility. Anthropological writing is more than just communicating findings: anthropologists write to tell stories that matter, to be accountable to the communities in which they do their research, and to share new insights about the world in ways that might change it for the better. The contributors offer insights into the beauty and the function of language and the joys and pains of writing while giving encouragement to stay at it—to keep writing as the most important way to not only improve one’s writing but to also honor the stories and lessons learned through research. Throughout, they share new thoughts, prompts, and agitations for writing that will stimulate conversations that cut across the humanities.

Contributors. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Jane Eva Baxter, Ruth Behar, Adia Benton, Lauren Berlant, Robin M. Bernstein, Sarah Besky, Catherine Besteman, Yarimar Bonilla, Kevin Carrico, C. Anne Claus, Sienna R. Craig, Zoë Crossland, Lara Deeb, K. Drybread, Jessica Marie Falcone, Kim Fortun, Kristen R. Ghodsee, Daniel M. Goldstein, Donna M. Goldstein, Sara L. Gonzalez, Ghassan Hage, Carla Jones, Ieva Jusionyte, Alan Kaiser, Barak Kalir, Michael Lambek, Carole McGranahan, Stuart McLean, Lisa Sang Mi Min, Mary Murrell, Kirin Narayan, Chelsi West Ohueri, Anand Pandian, Uzma Z. Rizvi, Noel B. Salazar, Bhrigupati Singh, Matt Sponheimer, Kathleen Stewart, Ann Laura Stoler, Paul Stoller, Nomi Stone, Paul Tapsell, Katerina Teaiwa, Marnie Jane Thomson, Gina Athena Ulysse, Roxanne Varzi, Sita Venkateswar, Maria D. Vesperi, Sasha Su-Ling Welland, Bianca C. Williams, Jessica Winegar


Writing Anthropology is the long-awaited handbook that our discipline desperately needs to move us away from the lingering idea that our texts should be indecipherable to mortals. Carole McGranahan and company have given anthropologists a beautifully wrinkled and coffee-stained road map to help us all get to a writing place that is thoughtful, self-aware, compassionate, and (gasp!) accessible.” — Jason De León, author of The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail

“In this powerful volume, a multitude of ruminations, thoughts, prompts, and provocations flow together like a vibrant stream until we see the lifeblood of contemporary anthropology as a committed way of writing about people that is beholden to a sense of accountability. The accomplished anthropologists featured in this book pursue a shared commitment to writing well. But this is not merely for the sake of more effective explication or theoretical nuance. They aim to better convey the hardships and dignity of humanity itself. This is ethnography at its best: beautifully written, surprising, deeply instructive, and grounded in an ethical practice that never ceases to care about and attend to everything and everyone with whom anthropologists engage.” — Laurence Ralph, author of The Torture Letters: Reckoning with Police Violence

"In these 53 short, blog-style essays, students now have a new, pithy guide to help them think through a wealth of writing issues. Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals." — Choice

"A rich wordhoard of ideas that focus on 'craft and commitment' in anthropological writing…" — David Syring, Anthropology and Humanism


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Carole McGranahan is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Colorado, author of Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War, and coeditor of Ethnographies of U.S. Empire, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. On Writing and Writing Well: Ethics, Practice, Story / Carole McGranahan  1
Section I. Ruminations
1. Writing in and from the Field / Ieva Jusionyte  23
2. List as Form: Literary, Ethnographic, Long, Short, Heavy, Light / Sasha Su-Ling Welland  28
3. Finding Your Way / Paul Stoller  34
4. The Ecology of What We Write / Anand Pandian  37
5. When Do Words Count? / Kirin Narayan  41
Section II. Writing Ideas
6. Read More, Write Less / Ruth Behar  47
7. Pro Tips for Academic Writing / C. Anne Claus  54
8. My Ten Steps for Writing a Book / Kristen R. Ghodsee  58
9. Slow Reading / Michael Lambek  62
10. Digging with the Pen: Writing Archaeology / Zoë Crossland  66
Section III. Telling Stories
11. Anthropology as Theoretical Storytelling / Carole McGranahan  73
12. Beyond Thin Description: Biography, Theory, Ethnographic Writing / Donna M. Goldstein  78
13. Can't Get There from Here? Writing Place and Moving Narratives / Sarah Besky  83
14. Ethnographic Writing with Kirin Narayan: An Interview / Carole McGranahan  87
15. On Unreliable Narrators / Sienna R. Craig  93
Section IV. On Responsibility
16. In Dialogue: Ethnographic Writing and Listening / Marnie Jane Thomson  101
17. Writing with Community / Sara L. Gonzalez  104
18. To Fieldwork, to Write / Kim Fortun  110
19. Quick, Quick, Slow: Ethnography in the Digital Age / Yarimar Bonilla  118
20. That Generative Space between Ethnography and Journalism / Maria D. Vesperi  121
Section V. The Urgency of Now
21. Writing about Violence / K. Drybread  127
22. Writing about Bad, Sad, Hard Things / Carole McGranahan  131
23. Writing to Live: On Finding Strength While Watching Ferguson / Whitney Battle-Baptiste  134
24. Finding My Muse While Mourning / Chelsi West Ohueri  137
25. Mourning, Survival, and Time: Writing Through Crisis / Adia Benton  140
Section VI. Writing With, Writing Against
26. A Case for Agitation: On Affect and Writing / Carla Jones  145
27. Antiracist Writing / Ghassan Hage  149
28. Writing with Love and Hate / Bhrigupati Singh  153
29. Peer Review: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger / Alan Kaiser  158
30. When They Don't Like What We Write: Criticism of Anthropology as a Diagnostic of Power / Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar  163
Section VII. Academic Authors
31. Writing Archaeology "Alone," or a Eulogy for a Codirector / Jane Eva Baxter  169
32. Collaboration: From Different Throats Intone One Language? / Matt Sponheimer  173
33. What Is and (Academic) Author? / Mary Murrell  178
34. The Writing behind the Written / Noel B. Salazar  182
35. It's All "Real" Writing / Daniel M. Goldstein  185
36. Dr. Funding or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Grant Writing / Robin M. Bernstein  188
Section VIII. Ethnographic Genres
37. Poetry and Anthropology / Nomi Stone  195
38. "SEA" Stories: Anthropologies and Poetries beyond the Human / Stuart McLean  201
39. Dilations / Kathleen Stewart and Lauren Berlant  206
40. Genre Bending, or the Love of Ethnographic Fiction / Jessica Marie Falcone  212
41. Ethnographic Fiction: The Space Between / Roxanne Varzi  220
42. From Real Life to the Magic of Fiction / Ruth Behar  223
Section IX. Becoming and Belonging
43. On Writing from Elsewhere / Uzma Z. Rizvi  229
44. Writing to Become . . . / Sita Venkateswar  234
45. Unscholarly Confessions on Reading / Katerina Teaiwa  239
46. Guard Your Heart and Your Purpose: Faithfully Writing Anthropology / Bianca C. Williams  246
47. Writing Anthropology and Such, or "Once More, with Feeling" / Gina Athena Ulysse  251
48. The Anthropology of Being (Me) / Paul Tapsell  256
Section X. Writing and Knowing
49. Writing as Cognition / Barak Kalir  263
50. Thinking Through the Untranslatable / Kevin Carrico  266
51. Freeze-Dried Memory Crumbs: Field Notes from North Korea / Lisa Sang Mi Min  270
52. Writing the Disquiets of a Colonial Field / Ann Laura Stoler  274
53. On Ethnographic Unknowability / Catherine Besteman  280
Bibliography  283
Contributors  293
Index  305
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