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This essay posits sincerity and humor as linked ways of politicizing the interactions that underpin all ethnographic encounters. This politicization is contrasted with conventional anthropological preoccupations with authenticity (and fetishizations of ethnographic writing), and it demands attention to the human bodies that constitute ethnographic intersubjectivity. Combining a discussion of Habermas’s public sphere with the exploits of a nineteenth‐century African American mesmerist and protoanthropologist, Paschal Randolph, I argue against one kind of “occulted anthropology” (the disembodied version attributed to Habermas) for an agential variety exemplified by Randolph’s differently framed investments in the political powers of occultist possibility. Instead of being seduced by would‐be objective attempts to access a disembodied (i.e., universal) subjectivity, I argue for a Paschal‐like reclamation of the vulnerable ethnographic body (in all of its contingent particularity), a reclamation that fuses rational minds to laughing bodies while opening up space for a critique of potentially impoverished conceptualizations of politics and political activity.
Jackson, J. L. (2010). On Ethnographic Sincerity. Current Anthropology, 51 (S2), S279-S287. https://doi.org/10.1086/653129
Date Posted: 21 November 2013
This document has been peer reviewed.