Ethnography

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Ethnography

Personal experience and reflexivity should be used within anthropology as a tool to reflect on the culture that is being studied and not a refocusing of attention on the self. Works such as Dorinne Kondo’s “Dissolution and Reconstitution of Self,” use the idea of reflexivity as a mirror in which to view the culture being studied in a different manner. This use of reflexivity allows for the focus to stay on the culture being studied. A move away from this is the new branch of humanistic anthropology represented in this essay by Renato Rosaldo’s “Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage” and Ruth Behar’s “Anthropology that Breaks Your Heart” allows anthropologists to use reflexivity as a way to explore universal human feelings. For me, this is not the study of anthropology as much as self-reflexive psychology. The focus shifts from culture to self. The anthropologists completely understands the feelings of the people he/she is studying. I think that it is rather ambitious to state that emotion is univeral, and I do not think that it is the job of anthropologists to do so. The reflexive voice is a necessary aspect of ethnographic writing, but the anthropologist must be careful not to shift focus from concentrating on culture to concentrating on herself.

Dorinne Kondo does an excellent job in her essay “Dissolution and Reconstitution of Self”in using the reflexive voice as a way in which to describe culture and break down the observer/Other dichotomy by giving agency and power to her informants. Not only does the anthropologist interpret the people, but the people give their interpretation of the anthropologist. She states:

I emphasize here the collusion between all parties involved, for it is important to recognize the ways in which informmants are also actors and agents, and that the negotiation of reality that takes place in the doing of ethnography involves complex and shifting relations of power in which the ethnographrapher acts and is also acted upon. (Kondo 75)

Kondo acknowledges the affect that the Japanese have on her character and by so doing she acknowledges their power. Instead of standing in the place of supreme authority, the anthropologist, by using reflexivity, can give the authority to her informants.

Not only was she reflexively examining her positioning and the affect it would have on her informants, but she also looks at the affect that her informants have on her while still centering her discussion on the culture being studied.

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