Twin Muses: Ethnography and Fiction

Date: February 12, 2009
Time: 11:30 AM
Location: ANSO, 6303 NW Marine Dr.

Kirin Narayan

While ethnography is the standard disciplinary genre for communicating insights from fieldwork, since at least 1890 some anthropologists have turned to fiction. I present ethnography and fiction as shadow selves connected by a narrative impulse. Reflecting on the shared history, porous borders, and joint practitioners of ethnography and fiction, I also discuss some related mediating terms: oral narrative that is partly ethnographic in its evocation of lived milieus, partly fictional in the imaginative spaces it opens; ethnographic fiction in which anthropologists have carried insights from fieldwork into short stories and novels; and creative nonfiction as it appears in fieldwork memoirs and autoethnography.

Kirin Narayan is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is author of Storytellers, Saints and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu Religious Teaching (which won the 1990 Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing and was Co-winner of the 1990 Elsie Clews Parsons Prize for Folklore); Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon: Himalayan Foothill Folktales (in collaboration with Urmila Devi Sood); Love Stars and All That (a novel); and My Family and Other Saints (a memoir).