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Ethnography Through Thick and Thin [Paperback]

George E. Marcus

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Book Description

23 Nov 1998

In the 1980s, George Marcus spearheaded a major critique of cultural anthropology, expressed most clearly in the landmark book Writing Culture, which he coedited with James Clifford. Ethnography through Thick and Thin updates and advances that critique for the late 1990s. Marcus presents a series of penetrating and provocative essays on the changes that continue to sweep across anthropology. He examines, in particular, how the discipline's central practice of ethnography has been changed by "multi-sited" approaches to anthropology and how new research patterns are transforming anthropologists' careers. Marcus rejects the view, often expressed, that these changes are undermining anthropology. The combination of traditional ethnography with scholarly experimentation, he argues, will only make the discipline more lively and diverse.

The book is divided into three main parts. In the first, Marcus shows how ethnographers' tradition of defining fieldwork in terms of peoples and places is now being challenged by the need to study culture by exploring connections, parallels, and contrasts among a variety of often seemingly incommensurate sites. The second part illustrates this emergent multi-sited condition of research by reflecting it in some of Marcus's own past research on Tongan elites and dynastic American fortunes. In the final section, which includes the previously unpublished essay "Sticking with Ethnography through Thick and Thin," Marcus examines the evolving professional culture of anthropology and the predicaments of its new scholars. He shows how students have increasingly been drawn to the field as much by such powerful interdisciplinary movements as feminism, postcolonial studies, and cultural studies as by anthropology's own traditions. He also considers the impact of demographic changes within the discipline--in particular the fact that anthropologists are no longer almost exclusively Euro-Americans studying non-Euro-Americans. These changes raise new issues about the identities of anthropologists in relation to those they study, and indeed, about what is to define standards of ethnographic scholarship.

Filled with keen and highly illuminating observations, Ethnography through Thick and Thin will stimulate fresh debate about the past, present, and future of a discipline undergoing profound transformations.

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From the Inside Flap

"This is an exceptionally significant contribution both to the field of anthropology and to broader discussions among scholars in a range of culture-focused fields. It is a very thoughtful, quirky, empirically compelling, and provocative work by one of the intellectual leaders in our field."--Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"This is an exceptionally significant contribution both to the field of anthropology and to broader discussions among scholars in a range of culture-focused fields. It is a very thoughtful, quirky, empirically compelling, and provocative work by one of the intellectual leaders in our field."--Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
THE GROUNDING ACT of fiction in any project of ethnographic writing is the construction of a whole that guarantees the facticity of "fact." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening if unnecessarily difficult argument 10 Aug 2001
By rudiger - Published on
The field of anthropology, as Professor Marcus sees it, has arrived at a crossroads. It can no longer afford to go on viewing the world as an assembly of distinct communities, each worthy of being viewed in isolation. But anthropological traditions and methods are still very much rooted in the early 20th century when ethnographic studies were conceived. Something must be done, Marcus asserts, to get anthropology back in line with the world it attempts to explain.
The force of this argument stems apparently from the fact that, well, it IS a small world after all. From the sands of the Sahel to the forests of the ..., no one is sheltered from outside cultural, political and economic influences anymore. The inescapable phenomenon known as globalization, says Marcus, necessitates no less than anthropology's reinvention of itself, so as to become capable of analysis that's more "holistic" (this being one of the author's favorite adjectives). One must view peoples and cultures today in "juxtaposition" (his favorite noun) if one is to understand the nature of the connections between them. And the tool Marcus proposes to achieve such holistic juxtapositions is the Multi-Sited Ethnography.
I am with the good doctor 100 percent, that is, when I can understand just what it is he is trying to say. Marcus is the kind of writer who actually prefers words like "exegesis" over more readily accessible ones like "interpretation." His numerous references to thinkers outside anthropology ("Wittgensteinian" is one of his more erudite adjectives) only serve to thicken the fog. Come on, George! You are a tenured professor, a made man, and you needn't go on trying to impress the girls with the size of your vocabulary.
Still, "ETHNOGRAPHY THROUGH THICK AND THIN" makes a valuable contribution to the field of anthropology, and I hope Marcus's message is heard and taken to heart by his colleagues. But next time, Professor, try to cut out the fat and streamline your writing a wee bit, for the benefit of the unwashed non-eggheads like me.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sterling book 4 Jun 2008
By A Careful Reader - Published on
Surprisingly, this book is much freer from jargon than the previous reviewer suggests. An excellent collection of challenging yet readable essays.
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