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Writing and Methodology : Literary Texts as Ethnographic Datra and Creative Writing as a Means oif Investigation

By Oscar Hemer


The chapter will discuss the relation between writing and ethnography from two radically different perspectives. Firstly, writing as method. In academic research, the writing process is often regarded as merely a means of conveying results, and ”good writing” is even met with suspicion. Drawing from my own experience of both literary, journalistic and academic writing I will discuss the interrelations between these three writing practices, with specific focus on creative forms of academic writing and even the deployment of fictional elements in ethnographic research. Examples will be taken from the extensive discussion on the relation between Literature and Anthropology after Anthropology’s “literary turn” in the 1980s, which has implications for many other disciplines, not least Media and Communication studies. I will argue that writing itself constitutes a methodology that is under-researched in the context of Communication for Development. The second part of the chapter will ”turn the tables” and look at literary texts (books, films or other formats) as ethnographic data. Again, primarily founding my argument on my research in South Africa and Argentina, I will claim that literature may hold key information about processes of development and social change that cannot be assessed by other means. I will specifically focus on the notion of the conceptual repertoire (Appadurai) and fiction’s role in the production of collective memory and self-understanding

Topics: Writing, Ethnography, Literature, Anthropology
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Year: 2016
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