A comparison of Behar’s The Vulnerable Observer and Tsing’s In the Realm of the Diamond Queen

A comparison of Behar’s The Vulnerable Observer and Tsing’s In the Realm of the Diamond Queen

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When presented with ethnographic works, the first thing one would normally do would be to compare. The Vulnerable Observer by Ruth Behar and In the Realm of the Diamond Queen by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, both demonstrate key factors that prove to be prevalent throughout the anthropological world today. Through the examination of each piece, it is clear that they both share similar restrictions, trials and tribulations. As both books begin to unravel, the themes of marginality and borders (in a multitude of contexts) rise to the surface. Besides the similarities, there are also major differences between the two pieces of work. Behar and Tsing share a very different style of anthropology, which creates am interesting contrast on the way each theme is interpreted.

To begin, Ruth Behar’s The Vulnerable Observer examines anthropology from a more personal and emotional lens. Throughout the ethnography, Behar compiles a series of essays that demonstrate the trials and tribulations that accompany being an immigrant. Moving from Cuba to the United States provided many struggles for Behar and her family, and this book really focuses on a multitude of them. Besides focusing on the struggles that are faced from those circumstances, Behar also tells many stories along the way. As this is more of a “personal” account, the stories contain real people who had an impact on Behar’s life.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s book In the Realm of the Diamond Queen examines the Meratus Dayaks, who position themselves in the Southern part of Indonesia. She examines the way in which this particular group is marginalized and in some ways exploited. Through this ethnographic work, Tsing is able to provide a very interesting insight on this particular culture grou...


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...amination of both these pieces of work, it is clear that they share a multitude of themes between the two. Firstly, the people within both books experience their fair share of limitations or borders, which restrains them physically, emotionally and politically. As well, there is a common theme of marginality that is relevant from start to finish throughout both novels. And finally, both pieces of ethnographic research provide an insight to the different ways in which anthropology can be conducted.







Works Cited


Behar, R. (1996). The vulnerable observer. Boston: Boston Press.


Douglas, M. (1966). External boundaries In Symbolic and

Interpretive Anthropology

Lowenhaupt Tsing, A. (1993). In the Realm of the Diamond

Queen. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.


Mascia- Lees, M. (2000). Gender and anthropology. In The

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