Writing Culture and the Life of Anthropology
Orin Starn is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He is the author of The Passion of Tiger Woods: An Anthropologist Reports on Golf, Race, and Celebrity Scandal and Nightwatch: The Politics of Protest in the Andes, and the coeditor of The Peru Reader, all also published by Duke University Press.
This chapter situates contemporary ethnography within late industrialism, a historical period characterized by degraded infrastructure, exhausted paradigms, and the incessant chatter of new media. In the spirit of Writing Culture, it calls for ethnography attuned to its times. It also calls for ethnography that “loops,” using ethnographic techniques to discern the discursive risks and gaps of a particular problem domain so that further ethnographic engagement in that domain is responsive and creative, provoking new articulations, attending to emergent realities. Ethnographic findings are thus fed back into ethnographic engagement. This mode of ethnography stages collaboration with interlocutors to activate new idioms and ways of engaging the world. It is activist, in a manner open to futures that cannot yet be imagined.