Description - Fictions of Feminist Ethnography by Kamala Visweswaran
Though feminist ethnography has become fairly common, the question of what the term means remains open, with many of the texts falling under this rubric relying on unexamined notions of "sisterhood" and the recovery of "lost" voices. Writing about women in India, her work with them, and the nature of anthropology itself, Kamala Visweswaran addresses this question in the essays that make up "Fictions of Feminist Ethnography". Blurring ethnographic and literary genres, these essays employ strategies from history, fiction, autobiography and biography, deconstruction, and post-colonial discourse to reveal the fictions in anthropology and the anthropology in fiction, and, in the process, to devise a new approach to writing feminist ethnography. What sets Visweswaran's work apart from previous self-reflexive feminist ethnographies, which attend to the power relations between ethnographer and subject, is her rigorous engagement with the concrete inequalities, refusals, and misunderstandings within herself and among the women she worked with in India. In each essay, she takes very specific elipses and power differentials in her fieldwork and works out their epistemological consequences.
The result is a series of contextualizations of the politics of identity in the field, at "home", and in and among the activities these women were engaged in during and after the nationalist movement in India. We learn in lucid detail about the partiality of knowledge and the inevitable difficulties and violations involved in "studying" the lives of women, both inside and outside the USA. Clearly and forcefully written, this book should be of interest not only to anthropologists, but also to cultural theorists and critics, feminist scholars and writers, and other social scientists who grapple with epistemological and political issues in their fields.
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University of Minnesota Press
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