Accepted paper:

The watermelon


Eva van Roekel (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam )

Paper short abstract:

Research on feelings suggests structural or constructivist models and evokes person-centred affective experiences very limited. Exploring boundaries between ethnography and fiction offers insights as both employ methodologies and narrative styles that embrace individual affective experiences inclusively.

Paper long abstract:

Local meanings of death and mourning have been studied by many anthropologists in different cultural settings (Robben 2004; Rosaldo 1989; Scheper-Hughes 1994). In the semi-fictional short story The watermelon I narrate the lived and imagined experience of Gabriel after a fatal car accident in Caracas where his best friend died. Shock, solidarity and social isolation together with different therapeutical remedies, (prescribed) drugs and SanterĂ­a healing practices shaped Gabriel's life for many years after the accident. Through shared experiences with Gabriel and his family and friends, personal memories of the tragic event, in combination with my latter fieldwork on the local meaning of mourning and experiences of guilt in Argentina, I relocate the ethnographic Venezuelan experience in an imaginative migrant life in contemporary Buenos Aires where a particular local interpretation of psychoanalysis, memories and trauma shape people's affective lives on a daily basis. The semi-fictional short story departs from the epistemological premise that knowledge on feelings should be explored in the complex accumulation of people's transformative lives and locate these experiences in a dynamic social context of globalising and multicultural imaginative worlds. By doing so, it in-directly explores the boundaries between ethnography and fiction and suggest in-depth insights in the cultural dynamics of people's feelings at a particular time and place. Only through this intimate convergence of ethnography and fiction, where the narrator's imagination thoughtfully follows situated cultural logics, the semi-fictional story evokes Gabriel's feelings of guilt and loss in a righteous and inclusive sense.

panel P72
Anthropology of storytelling