Anonymous said: Do you ever want to write a novel, fiction, i.e. a work not based on ethnographic data?
I think every ethnographer has fantasies of writing fiction, partially because we are not able to write about the interior lives of our subjects. I know that some ethnographers use ethnographic fiction in order to avoid ethical issues about potentially causing harm to informants, but for my part I think the most attractive thing about fiction is the possibility of getting into a characters heads and exploring their thoughts.
That being said, I have written some short fiction and one of my ethnographic stories won the 2012 Ethnographic Fiction prize from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. You can check it out here:
Who will teach me to write? a reader wanted to know.
The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere capacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.”
John Van Maanen, Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press (Second Edition), 2011, pg 172
John Van Maanan, Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press (Second Edition), 2011, pg. 147.