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Markus Schleiter, Pandian, Anand, and Stuart McLean (eds.): Crumpled Paper Boat. Experiments in Ethnographic Writing. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. 252 pp. ISBN 978-​0-​8223-​6340-​8. Price: £ 21.99 in:

Anthropos, page 258 - 259

Anthropos, Volume 115 (2020), Issue 1, ISSN: 0257-9774, ISSN online: 0257-9774, https://doi.org/10.5771/0257-9774-2020-1-258

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nen auf dem Bild nachträglich bekleidet wurden – dazu diente, die dargestellten Menschen “gefährlicher” er‐ scheinen zu lassen, wirkt nicht vollends überzeugend (313). Der auf der Textebene nachvollziehbar vermittel‐ ten “Gefährlichkeit” vermögen die vom Autor als visu‐ elles Pendant hierzu klassifizierten Fotografien nicht immer zu entsprechen; so wird denn auch als weite‐ rer “Beleg” visualisierter Bedrohlichkeit der vorgegebe‐ ne Untersuchungszeitraum verlassen und eine einzelne Fotografie eines einen Schrumpfkopf präsentierenden Jívaro gezeigt, die erst in den 1950-er Jahren aufgenom‐ men wurde (326). Hier stellt sich die grundsätzliche Frage, inwieweit der berechtigte Verweis Onkens auf ein spezifisches “epistemisches System” (60ff., 142), das jeder Betrachtung zugrunde liegt und sowohl For‐ schungspraxen als auch Denkkategorien maßgeblich be‐ einflusst, nicht auch in unseren zeitgenössischen Lesar‐ ten zu den Forschungsgegenstand konstruierenden Ur‐ teilen bzw. reduktionistischen Einordnungen führt – ein Aspekt, der dabei selbstverständlich sowohl mit Blick auf den Autor als auch auf die Leserschaft bzw. den Re‐ zensenten zum Tragen kommen kann und letztlich die Grundthese der hochgradigen Ambivalenz möglicher Bildbetrachtungen bestätigt. Für die Überlegungen On‐ kens ließe sich wiederum einwenden, dass eine eindeu‐ tige textliche Rahmung oftmals eine größere Autorität und Beeinflussungskraft ausstrahlen mag als ein viel‐ schichtiges Bildmotiv. Unangemessen erscheint es, aufgrund des beachtli‐ chen Umfangs der untersuchten Bilder einzelne “fehlen‐ de” Fotografen oder Fotografien anzumahnen. Der Hin‐ weis des Autors, dass aus den vorhandenen Quellen im Untersuchungszeitraum eine Auswahl getroffen werden musste (60, 367), ist nachvollziehbar. Was die Kriterien für die getroffene Auswahl waren, beispielsweise bei den behandelten bzw. nicht behandelten Wissenschaft‐ lern, hätte allerdings genauer verdeutlicht werden kön‐ nen. Insgesamt gelingt Onken ein faszinierender Über‐ blick über visuell und auch textlich vermittelte Darstel‐ lungsformen des im Vergleich zu anderen Regionen wie Afrika oder Asien in der Berichterstattung des Deut‐ schen Reiches eher weniger prominenten südamerikani‐ schen Kontinents. Was das Werk weiterhin auszeichnet, ist, dass es auch denjenigen, deren Interesse zunächst nicht vorrangig auf visuellen Medien liegt, als Über‐ blick über deutsche Forschungspraxen und Darstel‐ lungsformen Südamerikas im Untersuchungszeitraum empfohlen werden kann. Michael Kraus (michael.kraus@sowi.uni-goettingen.de) Pandian, Anand, and Stuart McLean (eds.): Crum‐ pled Paper Boat. Experiments in Ethnographic Writing. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. 252 pp. ISBN 978-0-8223-6340-8. Price: £ 21.99 As they state in their introduction, the authors of “Crumpled Paper Boat” created the volume with the in‐ tention of exploring how anthropologists can develop the genre of ethnography further (3). This situates the book within a recent debate in social anthropology, which seeks to reevaluate processes of ethnographic writing from the perspective of practice theory (see key readings from Alisse Waterston, Maria Vesperi, Helena Wulff, and Nigel Rapport). Anand Pandian and Stuart McLean foreground a deeper reflection on the contexts and the craft of writing ethnography itself. The book is structured around ten experiments in ethnographic writ‐ ing, and even its introduction demonstrates an experi‐ mental approach: based upon a joint writing session in‐ volving all the authors. The Writing Culture debates in the 1990 s already saw intensive discussion among anthropologists regard‐ ing how written ethnography could and should be trans‐ formed – so can this book offer anything new? In the in‐ troduction to “Crumpled Paper Boat,” its editors Pandi‐ an and McLean state that they are not only concerned with analyzing the fieldwork situation and the implica‐ tions of anthropologists’ institutional affiliations – as were stressed in the Writing Culture debate – but are even more interested in the act of writing itself, which they identify as the phase when ethnographers reach new insights into their interlocutors’ lifeworlds. Writing happens when ethnographers distance themselves from their ethnographic experience and embark upon a tran‐ sient passage towards revisiting their own thoughts. Pandian and McLean choose the metaphor of “travel” to evoke this. They propose that experimental ethnography can enable the creation of ethnographies that highlight the ambiguities, uncertainties, and existential risks faced by the people encountered in field studies (5). The au‐ thors’ assertion that the genre of ethnography is indis‐ pensable is based on their conviction that anthropologi‐ cal particularities have the potential to counter or ex‐ pand upon supposedly overarching truths (7). The metaphor of a “crumpled paper boat” alludes to the per‐ formativity of writing – when an author crumples a text in frustration – as well as to the (risky) journey of a boat heading for new horizons (2). The book presents a collection of truly unconvention‐ al ethnographic essays, many of which are inspired by more literary forms of writing. The ethnographies are stylistically innovative and exhibit a strong spirit of artistic creativity. Each experimental ethnography is paired with a commentary in a more conventional style that explains the ideas behind the respective form of ethnographic writing. These comments are what I re‐ gard as the backbone of the book, as they are what en‐ able the reader to understand the ideas behind the differ‐ ent experiments. This is important, as some of the au‐ thors do not explicitly position themselves within the re‐ spective academic discussions relating to their topics, nor do they locate themselves within discussions on writing ethnography. At the same time, the chapters of‐ fer insights into a wide range of settings and biogra‐ phies: a drug consumer in the U. S., self-reflections of anthropologists on their writings, a film director from 258 Book Reviews Anthropos 115.2020 South India, inter-African refugees from South Sudan, experiences of insanity in Morocco, a multi-sited ex‐ ploration of the AIDS epidemics in Cape Town, the small Orkney Islands in Scotland, festivities for the dead at Sierra Morena in Cuba, an anthropologist–com‐ muter listening to a radio show on bear-hunting while driving his car in the U. S., and, finally, a Canadian Inu‐ it community. The ethnographic examples can be categorized ac‐ cording to three lines of intervention: ethnographic writ‐ ing reflecting on the practice and forms of writing itself (chapters by Michael Jackson, Angela Garcia, Daniella Gandolfo), ethnographies that experiment with literary forms of writing (chapters of Adrie Kusserow, Stefania Pandolfo, Stuart McLean), and ethnographies that seek to unsettle existing perspectives in academic debates by presenting a counterview (see the chapters of Anand Pandian, Tobias Hecht, Todd Ramón Ochoa, and Lisa Stevenson). Moreover, some of the chapters combine two or even all three of these forms of ethnographic ex‐ perimentation. In the following, I outline at least one in‐ novative and striking example from each of these cat‐ egories to illustrate the key concepts and ways of re‐ thinking ethnography presented in the collection as a whole. Michael Jackson’s chapter is about the practice of an‐ thropological writing. He offers reflections on how to connect ethnographic experience, relations in the field, and scientific reasoning with thoughts on fidelity – both to the discipline of anthropology and to his interlocu‐ tors. In this sense, his chapter can be seen as an autoethnography of an anthropologist, which includes ethnographic glimpses of his research in a village in Sierra Leone and with African migrants in Denmark, the U. K., and the Netherlands. His reflections are nar‐ rated as reminiscences of fieldwork and life events that emerge while he takes a walk. As Pandian observes in his commentary (68), Jackson’s contribution asserts that the stroll itself is a part of writing, showing us how me‐ andering among different emerging and developing ideas is essential to the process of bringing a text to‐ gether. Working with refugees from South Sudan in Uganda, Adrie Kusserow bases her ethnography on her own po‐ ems, and as such experiments with a literary approach to ethnography. She sees poetry as a genre that can evoke the multidimensionality of the anthropological experience. She harnesses poetic techniques to describe the multiplicity of experiences of an individual refugee together with sociocultural insights into the conditions that refugees face and the liminality of their situation. Angela Garcia’s chapter illustrates what the authors mean by challenging and unsettling ethnographies. The chapter is about the everyday life of a convicted drug user who moves in and out of prisons and clinics in the U. S. federal state of New Mexico. This ethnographer reflects upon her interlocutor’s writing practices as well as her own practice of archiving the letters. She ex‐ plores how maintaining a personal archive of letters can be a way to sustain relations when personal visits are not always possible, and how this archiving emotionally affects both the writer and reader of the letters. The ethnography offers insights into the importance of relat‐ ing writing to archival processes. It also shows how the archiving of letters by an ethnographer as a scientific collector is intertwined with her academic endeavors while shaping her relationship with her interlocutor. Pandian’s ethnography of a film director is presented as a way to use experimental ethnography to revisit key concepts of social anthropology from a new perspective. He outlines how the “self” of the director cannot be re‐ duced to a single condition – rather, at any given mo‐ ment, the director interconnects with moments from the past and future as well as with different persons in‐ volved in the film: the roles enacted on screen, the audi‐ ence, and other filmmakers. Switching paragraph by paragraph from academic and public discourses on de‐ sire to ethnographic descriptions of the film director’s work, he aims to convey that desire is not limited to one subjective perspective. Instead, as McLean (127) puts it in his comment on the chapter, desire is an effect of a depersonalization deliberately undertaken by the direc‐ tor who moves between different personalities and re‐ lives the lives of the roles on screen – leading desires to overwhelm him as he lives as an abundance of persons. Overall, this book, alongside recent work on anthro‐ pological writing, does indeed offer inspiring ideas on how anthropological writing can, at least to some ex‐ tent, be reinvented. The Writing Culture debate un‐ doubtedly brought forth a strong body of radical thought and ethnographic experimentation; for example, that es‐ tablishing the authority of an ethnographer is achieved – at least in part – by textual strategies that invoke scien‐ tific objectivity. The Writing Culture debate, in my view, has been essential to ethnography by sparking the critical rethinking of ethnographies produced before the 1980 s as well as in distinguishing anthropology from more rigid and generalized ways that culture is present‐ ed in other disciplines and even in the public sphere. Nonetheless, I agree with the call launched by this new edition for the discipline of social anthropology to de‐ velop new thoughts and ideas on how to further reflect upon representation as well as to move on from what ethnography has become since the Writing Culture de‐ bate. This is all the more crucial in the light of recent developments, such as the corporatization of culture and the reappropriation of indigeneity, as well as the resurge of nationalisms, which have sparked new interpretations of the representation of culture in unprecedented forms. “Crumpled Paper Boat’s” authors’ proposal that reflect‐ ing on the process of writing itself could be a fruitful di‐ rection for the pursuit of such experiments is convinc‐ ing. Consequently, I recommend this book to profes‐ sionals and students of social anthropology for its inspi‐ rational invitation to write ethnography differently and to continue to question and think beyond familiar ideas about what ethnography (should) look like. Markus Schleiter (schleiter@uni-muenster.de) Book Reviews 259 Anthropos 115.2020

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Abstract

Anthropos is the international journal of anthropology and linguistics, founded in 1906 by Wilhelm Schmidt, missonary and member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Its main purpose is the study of human societies in their cultural dimension. In honor of Wilhelm Schmidt‘s legacy, the cultivation of anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, and religious studies remain an essential component oft he Anthropos Institute – the organizational carrier of the journal.

Zusammenfassung

Anthropos - internationale Zeitschrift für Völkerkunde wird vom Anthropos Institut St. Augustin seit 1906 zweimal jährlich herausgegeben. Ursprünglich als Sprachrohr für katholische Missionarsarbeit geplant, gilt sie heute als wichtige Fachzeitschrift der allgemeinen Ethnologie. Sie behandelt sowohl kulturelle als auch sprachliche Themen in mehreren Sprachen, mit Schwerpunkt auf den Völkern des gesamtamerikanischen und afrikanischen Kontinents.