By Christian Scharen, Aana Marie Vigen
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G. personal diaries, fictional novels, poetry, ethnographic field notes, autobiography) long before it became en vogue within mainstream academic anthropology to question the rigid divisions among them. Another level of serious critique shifted attention away from words as representation to zero in on the power of image. Specifically, both Gordon and hooks take Clifford and Marcus to task for their choice of cover image that makes a white male ethnographer (one of the contributors to the book working in the field) the center with a darker skinned man off to the side, possibly observing the ethnographer writing.
As an informant, the witness purposely informs or tells, with all of the potential for betrayal implied. Yet witnessing in the context of the Americas also brings to mind the long-standing indigenous tradition of personal testimony, with the witness calling up a broken humanity to redeem it. Characteristically, American traditions of African American preachers, Latin American human-rights activists, and the advocates for the poor continually reinvent stories of redemption through suffering to challenge social injustice .
Central pieces of this learning become part of who we are and it would be both impossible and foolish to attempt to divorce ourselves from it. Ethnographic work involves both subjective and objective dimensions and also inductive and deductive modes of inquiry. ” We may well bring some (relatively limited) assumptions, understandings, and particular commitments to the ethnographic field. The critical question is whether we are both honest and transparent about them and also genuinely willing to test them—open them to being altered and even disproved by what we learn through the research.