Anthropology/ Travel Writing

darbat at khareef

(photo by M. A. AL Awaid)

Marcus and Cushman write “The travel account is generally self-confident and authoritative in tone, and certain of a readership that wants a culturally shared translation of another way of life… but the realist ethnographic account has long been dogmatically dedicated to presenting material as if it were, or faithfully represented, the point of view of its cultural subjects rather than its own culture of reference” (1982 34). Thus in anthropology “the style of reportage was always pushed firmly toward generalization rather than maintained at the level of mere detailing of particular facts… it is impossible to work back from a final account to original fieldwork enterprise in anything like the way a chemist can work back through an experiment reported by another chemist” (35).

I think the travel writing framework is more useful as, when you know what filters and perspective are used by the person who is writing, you can sift the knowledge for yourself. As Lucien Lévy-Bruhl wrote in a letter to Edward Evans-Pritchard about using “evidences, often involuntary” of his sources: “I know their minds. I can understand the factors of their personalities, and behind what they say I can find what they have seen” (119).