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.
Using a notion of the digital as one of its master metaphors, a version of the term reliant on Kara Keeling’s discussion of “digital humanism,” this chapter argues that there is something about the nonlinearities defining digitality’s difference that might help us to think about recalibrations in the ethnographic project itself. From a discussion of Marlon Riggs’s filmic depiction of his own death (as one way to talk about the nondigital) to a machine that uses digital technology to play with temporality in broadcast television, this essay asks what the changing social relations (and existential realities) predicated on the ubiquity of digital media might mean for ethnographic research and writing today. With the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem as central ethnographic subjects, it argues that taking digitality seriously means redefining some of what ethnography is and ain’t in a post–Writing Culture moment.