Crumpled Paper Boat

Experiments in Ethnographic Writing

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 4 illustrations Published: March 2017

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies

Crumpled Paper Boat is a book of experimental ventures in ethnographic writing, an exploration of the possibilities of a literary anthropology. These original essays from notable writers in the field blur the boundaries between ethnography and genres such as poetry, fiction, memoir, and cinema. They address topics as diverse as ritual expression in Cuba and madness in a Moroccan city, the HIV epidemic in South Africa and roadkill in suburban America. Essays alternate with methodological reflections on fundamental problems of writerly heritage, craft, and responsibility in anthropology. Crumpled Paper Boat engages writing as a creative process of encounter, a way of making and unmaking worlds, and a material practice no less participatory and dynamic than fieldwork itself. These talented writers show how inventive, appealing, and intellectually adventurous prose can allow us to enter more profoundly into the lives and worlds of others, breaking with conventional notions of representation and subjectivity. They argue that such experimentation is essential to anthropology’s role in the contemporary world, and one of our most powerful means of engaging it.
Contributors. Daniella Gandolfo, Angela Garcia, Tobias Hecht, Michael Jackson, Adrie Kusserow, Stuart McLean, Todd Ramón Ochoa, Anand Pandian, Stefania Pandolfo, Lisa Stevenson, Kathleen Stewart

A School for Advanced Research Advanced Seminar


"In a ‘post-truth’ world, where facts have become less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief, this publication is of timely importance. . . . It is a text that encourages the reader to embrace writing as a practice immanent to the world, rather than a detached reflection upon society and our place within it." — Fawzia Haeri Mazanderani, LSE Review of Books

“There is still much to learn about cultivating uncertainty, failure and collaboration in geographic writing and research, and this volume invites just this kind of casting off.” — Ursula Lang, Antipode

"[The book's] experimental yet highly deliberate modes of ethnographic writing can also enable articulating the most sensitive nuances of anthropological pursuit. . . . One of the valuable qualities of the collection is precisely its openness to potentially vulnerable encounters." — Ana Svetel, Anthropological Notebooks

"This is an outstanding volume to use as provocation, to reflect on one’s own practice and history, as well as for teaching. I can see students becoming excited at the possibility of an anthropology that takes as its departure point the very hesitations and unknowns that we are schooled to suppress." — Paloma Gay y Blasco, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"I recommend this book to professionals and students of social anthropology for its inspirational invitation to write ethnography differently and to continue to question and think beyond familiar ideas about what ethnography (should) look like." — Markus Schleiter, Anthropos

"The volume challenges anthropological conventions on multiple fronts and provides both an energizing example and a refreshing reminder that powerful writing energizes our knowing and can bring anthropology out of its mostly self-imposed limits of speaking." — David Syring, Anthropology and Humanism

"Boldly experimental, the contributors to this invigorating collection reveal the seriousness and creativity with which contemporary anthropologists—alert to the explosion of narrative form in fiction, poetry, cinema, and elsewhere—are breathing new life into ethnographic writing; in so doing, they reopen the possibilities of this most vital form of ethnographic expression." — Hugh Raffles, author of Insectopedia

"This is an extraordinary project. The powerful writing does exactly what is promised: it is a demonstration of the value of what the editors term experiment, and a case for writing as pragmatic intervention." — Lawrence Cohen, author of No Aging in India: Alzheimer’s, the Bad Family, and Other Modern Things


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Anand Pandian teaches anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. His books include Reel World: An Anthropology of Creation, also published by Duke University Press.

Stuart McLean teaches anthropology at the University of Minnesota. His books include Fictionalizing Anthropology: Encounters and Fabulations at the Edge of the Human.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Prologue / Anand Pandian and Stuart McLean  1
Introduction: Archipelagos, a Voyage in Writing / Paper Boat Collective  11
1. The Ambivalent Archive / Angela Garcia  29
2. Writing with Care / Michael Jackson  45
3. After the Fact: The Question of Fidelity in Ethnographic Writing / Michael Jackson  48
4. Walking and Writing / Anand Pandian  68
5. Anthropoetry / Adrie Kusserow  71
6. Poetry, Uncertainty, and Opacity / Michael Jackson  91
7. Ta'bir: Ethnography of the Imaginal / Stefania Pandolfo  94
8. Writing through Intercessors / Stuart McLean  116
9. Desire in Cinema / Anand Pandian  119
10. Flows and Interruptions, or, So Much for Full Stops / Stuart McLean  126
11. Denial: A Visit in Four Ethnographic Fictions / Tobias Hecht  130
12. Ethnography and Fiction / Anand Pandian  145
13. SEA / Stuart McLean  148
14. Writing Otherwise / Lisa Stevenson  168
15. Origami Conjecture for a Bembé / Todd Ramón Ochoa 172
16. Ethnographic Excess / Daniella Gandolfo and Todd Ramón Ochoa  185
17. Conversations with a Hunter / Daniella Gandolfo 189
18. On Writing and Surviving / Lisa Stevenson  207
19. A Proper Message / Lisa Stevenson  209
20. Fidelity and Invention / Angela Garcia  222
Epilogue / Kathleen Stewart  225
Bibliography  231
Contributors   241
Index  243
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6340-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6329-3
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