Writing Anthropology: Essays on Craft and Commitment

Currently under contract with Duke University Press

Editor: Carole McGranahan


From the Introduction to this edited volume: "Many of the essays in this volume were part of a two-year long series on writing I edited on the group anthropology blog Savage Minds: Notes and Queries in Anthropology (now Anthrodendum) from 2014-2016. Although writing had become an open topic of concern in anthropology, I was hungry for more conversation about it. I wanted to think out loud about writing, but I mostly wanted to hear and learn from others. Knowing colleagues craved the same, I created a weekly space for anthropologists to write about writing. I invited scholars from across the subfields, the generations, and countries. Some are known for being leaders in, and even pioneers of, ethnographic writing. Others were scholars I knew who were good writers, or who I thought had something valuable to say. These were not necessarily the go-to” scholars for a conversation on writing. This volume puts together new essays with many of the original essays from the series. All are short, roughly 1,000-1,500 words, and are examples that showcase the possibilities of the new online essay genre. My instructions to the authors were simple: write something on writing. Each of the authors responded to that request in their own creative, inspired way.

The book you hold in your hands, or read on your screen, compiles these essays in one neat and untidy package. Fifty-two essays, spilling over into each other, some contained within their own narrative, others deep in conversation with what came before, and yet each offering us new thoughts, prompts, and agitations for writing. The essays are organized in ten sections: Ruminations; Writing Ideas; Telling Stories; On Responsibility; Crisis, Politics, and the Urgency of Now; Writing With, Writing Against; Academic Authors; Ethnographic Fiction and Poetry; Becoming and Belonging; and Writing and Knowing."

Contributors are: Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Jane Baxter, Ruth Behar, Adia Benton, Lauren Berlant, Robin Bernstein, Sarah Besky, Catherine Besteman, Yarimar Bonilla, Kevin Carrico, C. Anne Claus, Sienna Craig, Zoë Crossland, Lara Deeb, Kristen Drybread, Jessica Falcone, Kim Fortun, Kristen Ghodsee, Daniel Goldstein, Donna Goldstein, Sara Gonzalez, Ghassan Hage, Carla Jones, Ieva Jusionyte, Alan Kaiser, Barak Kalir, Michael Lambek, Stuart McLean, Lisa Sang Mi Min, Mary Murrell, Kirin Narayan, Chelsi West Ohueri, Anand Pandian, Noel Salazar, Bhrigupati Singh, Matt Sponheimer, Kathleen Stewart, Ann Laura Stoler, Paul Stoller, Nomi Stone, Paul Tapsell, Katerina Teaiwa, Marnie Thomson, Gina Athena Ulysse, Roxanne Varzi, Uzma Rizvi, Sita Venkateswar, Maria Vesperi, Sasha Su-Ling Welland, Bianca Williams, and Jessica Winegar. Scroll down for the Table of Contents.




On Writing and Writing Well: Ethics, Practice, Story | Carole McGranahan


Section One | Ruminations

1. Writing in and from the Field | Ieva Jusionyte

2. List as Form: Literary, Ethnographic, Long, Short, Heavy, Light | Sasha Su-Ling Welland

3. Finding Your Way | Paul Stoller

4. The Ecology of What We Write | Anand Pandian

5. When Do Words Count? | Kirin Narayan


Section Two | Writing Ideas

6. Read More, Write Less | Ruth Behar

7. Pro Tips for Academic Writing | C. Anne Claus

8. My Ten Steps for Writing a Book | Kristen R. Ghodsee

9. Slow Reading | Michael Lambek

10. Digging with the Pen: Writing Archaeology | Zoë Crossland


Section Three | Telling Stories

11. Anthropology as Theoretical Storytelling | Carole McGranahan

12. Beyond Thin Description: Biography, Theory, Ethnographic Writing | Donna M. Goldstein

13. Can’t Get There from Here? Writing Place and Moving Narratives | Sarah Besky

14. Ethnographic Writing with Kirin Narayan: An Interview | Carole McGranahan

15. On Unreliable Narrators | Sienna R. Craig


Section Four | On Responsibility

16. In Dialogue: Ethnographic Writing and Listening | Marnie Jane Thomson

17. Writing with Community | Sara L. Gonzalez

18. To Fieldwork, To Write | Kim Fortun

19. Quick, Quick, Slow: Ethnography in the Digital Age | Yarimar Bonilla

20. That Generative Space between Ethnography and Journalism | Maria D. Vesperi


Section Five | The Urgency of Now

21. Writing about Violence | K. Drybread

22. Writing about Bad, Sad, Hard Things | Carole McGranahan

23. Writing to Live: On Finding Strength While Watching Ferguson | Whitney Battle-Baptiste

24. Finding My Muse While Mourning | Chelsi West Ohueri

25. Mourning, Survival, and Time: Writing through Crisis | Adia Benton


Section Six | Writing With, Writing Against

26. A Case for Agitation: On Affect and Writing | Carla Jones

27. Anti-Racist Writing | Ghassan Hage

28. Writing with Love and Hate | Bhrigupati Singh

29. Peer-Review: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger| Alan Kaiser

30. When They Don’t Like What We Write: Criticism of Anthropology as a Diagnostic of Power | Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar


Section Seven | Academic Authors

31. Writing Archaeology “Alone,” or a Eulogy for a Co-Director | Jane Eva Baxter

32. Collaboration: From Different Throats Intone One Language? | Matt Sponheimer

33. What Is an (Academic) Author? | Mary Murrell

34. The Writing behind the Written | Noel B. Salazar

35. It’s All “Real” Writing | Daniel M. Goldstein

36. Dr. Funding, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Grant Writing | Robin Bernstein


Section Eight | Ethnographic Genres

37. Poetry and Anthropology | Nomi Stone

38. “SEA” Stories: Anthropologies and Poetries Beyond the Human | Stuart McLean

39. Dilations | Kathleen Stewart and Lauren Berlant

40. Genre-Bending, or the Love of Ethnographic Fiction | Jessica Marie Falcone

41. Ethnographic Fiction: The Space Between | Roxanne Varzi

42. From Real Life to the Magic of Fiction | Ruth Behar


Section Nine | Becoming and Belonging

43. On Writing from Elsewhere | Uzma Z. Rizvi

44. Writing to Become… | Sita Venkateswar

45. Unscholarly Confessions on Reading | Katerina Teaiwa

46. Guard Your Heart and Your Purpose: Faithfully Writing Anthropology | Bianca C.. Williams

47. Writing Anthropology and Such or “Once More, With Feeling” | Gina Athena Ulysse

48. The Anthropology of Being (Me) | Paul Tapsell


Section Ten | Writing and Knowing

49. Writing as Cognition | Barak Kalir

50. Thinking through the Untranslatable | Kevin Carrico

51. Freeze Dried Memory Crumbs: Fieldnotes from North Korea | Lisa Sang Mi Min

52. Writing the Disquiets of a Colonial Field | Ann Laura Stoler

53. On Ethnographic Unknowability | Catherine Besteman