The call to reimagine truth and responsibility brings with it pertinent questions about the writings we produce, the concepts we mobilize, and the narratives we circulate. The writing culture moment (Clifford and Marcus 1986) offered new meanings to what it means to write an ethnography and for whom, and what it means to be reflexive. ‘Writing Culture’ (Clifford and Marcus 1986) provided much-needed avenues to challenge particular notions of authority and representation. In doing so, it specifically emphasized how anthropological truths, among other things, are partial, contested, and incomplete. Thirty-four years since then• several turns and approaches in between• we are still grappling with ways in which our writings and analyses construct, sustain, and mediate specific partial truths with overbearing authority• particularly about communities that experience marginalization and vulnerabilities. Building and expanding the literature on strategic essentialism (Spivak 1984), ontological openings (de la Cadena 2015), decoloniality (Mignolo and Walsh 2018, Quijano 1999), post-colonialism (Mbembe 2001), post-development, (Escobar 1995, 2000), we aim to continue discussing how ‘ethnographic concepts’ (de la Cadena 2015) are essential to widen, and trouble assumed meanings. While we acknowledge the deeply situated partial truths and ethnographic concepts we produce, we often reify and mobilize these truths, concepts, and social categories in our efforts to build and extend our own research. It is this inherent contradiction that this panel wishes to address. We look at the practices that produce these ‘truths’ and tease out the intricate relations of power/knowledge that manifest through these practices. Specifically, we complicate understandings of ‘human rights’, ‘development’, and ‘indigeneity’, which are often an integral part of our analyses and are considered as truths. We seek to present the very contested, situated, non-permanent, and deeply partial natures of these truths. We do so based on our ethnographic challenges, where we try to grasp the multiple meanings of specific enacted concepts such as ‘dispossession’, ‘indigenous peoples’, ‘development’, and ‘victimhood’. We will draw attention to how these ‘assumed’ meanings, which become ‘truths’ and ‘social categories’, are mobilized even in our ‘act of doing’ ethnography and how they are reaffirmed and reified in our quest to produce authoritative narratives. Therefore, we will necessarily address the need for ethnographies to not reproduce the ‘danger of a single story’ (Adichie 2009) but be diverse and contested. This panel, therefore, asks: How do our ethnographic experiences give meanings to concepts, which will eventually become analytical categories? How can we avoid reinforcing and reifying the very partiality that we seek to critique? How do they, then, inform the narratives we produce? How could we be more sensitive in producing ethnographic narratives? How do we navigate and contest regimes of truth and power that are often established and protected by the discipline? How are ‘non-academic’ truths to be acknowledged?
Next from AAA Annual Meeting 2021
Normative Implications of Development Driven Truths: Conflicting Value Systems in Kyrgyzstan
AAA Annual Meeting 2021
18 November 2021