Tim Ingold, the disciplinary liberator

7 06 2009

Enough with political talking heads; elections coverage is incredibly strenuous. Interwebs, talk some sense to me. Let’s see, there’s a quality Gil Scott-Heron tribute available on sixmillionsteps.com (love the Brian Jackson bit), an interesting discussion on history in media anthropology and then there’s a programmatic but very verbose paper by Tim Ingold on anthropology and ethnography.

My real purpose in challenging the idea of a one-way progression from ethnography to anthropology has not been to belittle ethnography, or to treat it as an afterthought, but rather to liberate it, above all from the tyranny of method. Nothing has been more damaging to ethnography than its representation under the guise of the ‘ethnographic method’. Of course, ethnography has its methods, but it is not a method. It is not, in other words, a set of formal procedural means designed to satisfy the ends of anthropological inquiry. It is a practice in its own right – a practice of verbal description. The accounts it yields, of other people’s lives, are finished pieces of work, not raw materials for further anthropological analysis. But if ethnography is not a means to the end of anthropology, then neither is anthropology the servant of anthropology.

Ingold, Tim (2008). Anthropology is Not Ethnography.  Proceedings of the British Academy 154: Radcliffe-Brown Lecture in Social Anthropology, 69-92.

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