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Ethnographic biography: telling leprosy through a life

Dr James Staples, Brunel University

Wednesday 11 February at 5.30 pm

This seminar addresses the question of how anthropologists might write in ways that better allow the objects of our fieldwork to be represented as themselves – or in ways that they might at least recognise – rather than ‘in unwitting dialogue with the people in other ethnographies’ (Beatty 2010: 437). Given the conventions of academic writing, our attempts to classify and explain those we work alongside often serve to undermine the very qualities that make them human and draw us to them in the first place. My recent book, Leprosy and a Life in South India: Journeys with a Tamil Brahmin, aims to confront these issues, adapting a classic genre in anthropology (the life history account) and dealing with classic themes (disease, poverty, caste, migration and religious conversion) in ways that, I hope, recognise the limits of ethnographic description. The paper describes how the research for the book was carried out and analyses what was learned in the process: specifically, about a life and a time, but also more generally about how we might capture and tell the lives of others.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to http://jamesstaples.eventbrite.co.uk