Writing the Moment


How do anthropologists translate weave their data into an argument?

How does the lived experience of research become "data"? How do anthropologists weave ethnographic details into a larger argument in writing? How can a moment expand into a framing mechanism for analysis? As presented in the previous page on Evidence and Research in Cultural Anthropology, the discipline moves from the particularities and minutiae of everyday life to insights into larger social phenomena through an insistence on looking at what people do or do not share, and how social realities are produced and maintained. That means that even a small vignette can serve as an encapsulation of a broader way of looking or being in the world. This translates to how anthropologists write as conversations, events, and actions are used as vignettes or examples and expanded upon to produce statements about social life.

The interviews below demonstrate how different undergraduate students found moments in their fieldwork to be important for their analysis in their thesis. These "moments" indicate how anthropologists work to contextualize and frame the unruly information contained in ethnographic research.

Boston Typewriter Orchestra by Cole Edick

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra was an evocative gateway for Cole as he conducted his ethnographic fieldwork. Later in his academic career, this moment served as an ethnographic vignette from which to build a thesis chapter.  His project centered on alternative journalist in the context of Boston. Cole connects this moment to a larger observation and conceptual framework that only emerged through the process of writing, specifically around the idea of materiality and history as realized through collecting & papers. The vignette Cole wrote is presented alongside this video.

Taking the Shot
Maryssa Barron

Maryssa grapples with a moment of conflict from her fieldwork in South Africa, which explored conservation, nature, and big game hunting. While working on a game ranch she describes a moment when a wildebeest was to be culled - but how should the animal be killed? This event proved important as it provided a lens with which to see larger analytic questions in her work - what are the ethics of hunting? For whom? At what times?

Producing the Narrative
Marisa Houlahan

In this moment Marisa describes shadowing foreign journalists in her field site - and the production of narratives around shipbreaking. In her work she brings a variety of otherwise disparate interlocutors into conversation with one another in compelling ethnography. 

Where is the Field?

See where thesis writers - past and present - have conducted fieldwork!