11 Pages

Collaborative practices: hybrid ethnographies and fieldwork approaches in Barabazaar, Kolkata, India

ByMartin Beattie

James Clifford and George Marcus’s edited collection of essays, Writing Culture,

reveals anthropology’s links to literary theory and practice, demonstrating how ethnog-

raphies represent a biased or partial account of social reality. Arguing that anthropologi-

cal texts should be viewed as ‘ethnographic fictions’ rather than contributions to

science, Writing Culture maintains that all ethnographies have literary qualities, and

that the influential work of authors like Mary Douglas, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jean

Duvignaud are based on systematic and contestable exclusions, silencing incongruent

voices, and omitting irrelevant personal or historical circumstances. According to Clif-

ford, ‘ethnographic truths are thus inherently partial – committed and incomplete’ (Clif-

ford and Marcus 1986: 7).