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Accepted Paper:

Anthropology and the Misery of Writing  
Orin Starn (Duke University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores why anxiety and self-loathing about writing are so commonplace among we anthropologists. Drawing on my own experience of writing and depression, I suggest that our sometimes rotten troubles at our desks should be part of our discussions about anthropology's role in the world.

Paper long abstract:

We anthropologists have been much preoccupied with writing and its conundrums for several decades now. Our worthwhile yet almost ritualized agonising over matters of accountability, audience, and genre almost always revolves around our responsibilities to others. What do we owe the people we write about? Can our texts make some difference for a better world? But what about the price writing can exact from the anthropologist struggling to get that paper, dissertation, or book done? The effort to put words to page in something like a coherent fashion can lead down unpleasant pathways to crippling anxiety and worse. That not a few of us - from graduate students to tenured professors - have suffered bad, sometimes career-ending writing troubles is a public secret at once widely known and yet seldom openly discussed. I'll draw on my own experience of writing and depression to try to make some sense why bad feeling related to writing is so relatively commonplace in anthropology today. And I'll suggest that the complexities and sometime horrors of the writing craft should be part of our reckoning with anthropology's role in the world.

Panel Speak15b
The responsibilities of writing II
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -