Anthropologists often worry about writing. It’s the sheer presumption – of making meaning of other people’s lives and then putting those understandings into a written or multimedia form – that bothers them. A lot. They’ve long fretted about it, and generated a habit of writing about their writing as a result.
Those who write about academic writing haven’t, until recently, strongly connected with this anthropological thinking. If you are doing a doctorate in a field other than anthropology or a related social science, then you may not yet have come across this body of work. Maybe this is because it’s still possible to find doctoral writing advice books which don’t move outside their linguistic and literary originary boundaries.
However, I think the anthropological work is pretty interesting and relevant well beyond the discipline. And I’m not the only one. Many of you may already have come across the Writing across Boundaries project, led by Bob Simpson and Robin Humphrey from Durham University. They wrote about this project recently for the LSE impact blog. The WAB web resources feature a lot of anthropologists, and you do get a strong flavour from their various posts about the kinds of discussions that are now integral to their discipline.
If you want to go further into writing and anthropology, here are three texts to get you started. These are not recommendations to purchase by the way – these books should be in most university libraries. If you really want to buy, you can probably pick them up as used copies.
Geertz, Clifford (1988) Works and lives. The anthropologist as author. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press
Clifford J and Marcus, G (1986) Eds. Writing culture: The poetics and politics of ethnography. Berkely: University of California Press
Waterson A. and Vesperi. M. D. (2009) Anthropology off the shelf. Anthropologists on writing. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell.
You might also check out:
Cultural Anthropology journal webpage on Literature, Writing and Anthropology
Ethnography Matters, including their page on ethnography and speculative fiction
Many anthropologists also now routinely use a range of writing genres. If your library subscribes (sigh) the journal Anthropology and Humanism, which always has sections for academic papers, fiction and poetry, is an interesting starting point.
Any more you’d add as “introductory”?