Clifford, J. 1986. Introduction: Partial Truths.

Clifford, James. 1986. “Introduction: Partial Truths.” In Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, edited by James Clifford and George E. Marcus. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Pp. 1-26.

“Ethnography is actively situated between powerful systems of meaning. It poses its question at the boundaries of civilizations, cultures, classes, races, and genders. Ethnography decodes and recodes, telling the grounds of collective order and diversity, inclusion and exclusion. It describes processes of innovation and structuration, and is itself part of these processes” (2-3).

Ethnographies contextually situate themselves within social realms, uses expressive writing, is written within specific traditions/disciplines, is distinguishable from novels, understands its political situation (through representation, etc.), and understands the historical constraints to a full analysis.

Shift from authoritative, external observer to “indigenous ethnographers” (Fahim, ed 1982, Ohnuki-Tierney 1984), where people study within their own cultures to look for new understandings.

“’Cultures’ do not hold still for their portraits” (10). — Love this.

Prescribes to not look at the interpretation of cultural texts, but instead the relations of how they’re produced (kx^ but what about their interpretation, prompting of action?!)

Dialogical models of ethnography are not autobiographical, but attempt to demonstrate polyvocality in culture, something that was suppressed in traditional ethnographies. Who gets to write? Who tells the tales? Who “knows” better/best?


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