chapter  6
Writing Fieldnotes
On the conventionalities of note-taking and taking note, local and academic
Pages 13

Fieldnotes. The Makings of Anthropology is a collection of papers, edited by Roger Sanjek (1990a), which concerns itself with a reflexive “unpacking” of the anthropological practice of writing down notes in the field as prologue to writing-up in the academy. In this essay, I review the efforts of Sanjek and his contributors before arguing that the writing of notes in the field may be understood as embodied local practice quite as much as academic abstraction. Fieldnotes possess (at least) a dual conventionality and encapsulate a ‘magical’ transcendence. More broadly, the practice of ‘writing’ social reality, of transforming experience into text, into a meaningful narrative, represents a link between the anthropologist and his subjects of study rather than a distinction.