Accepted Paper:

Communicating is more than words: a multimodal and interactive perspective in the making of ethnographic texts  

Author:

Vincenzo Matera (University of Bologna)

Paper short abstract:

A crucial point within ethnographic writing debates is the doubt that ethnographic texts are not in a real way pictures of a people, but texts in which we are able to see ourselves. I argue the possibility of making public those experiences through a device as complicated as writing.

Paper long abstract:

Ethnographic writing is since many years a very discussed issue: a crucial point within ethnographic writing debates is the doubt that ethnographic texts are not in a real way pictures of a people and of a place, but are texts in which we are able to read and to see ourselves, our ways to create radical alterity, our ideologies and representations, our class, gender and race biases, and our historical collocations.

From this premise, my paper exemplifies a perspective that runs counter to some of the established viewpoints about the nature of verbal and writing communication, but one that, I argue, gives a richer and more realistic insight into the ways that human beings live in the world and how they interconnect with each other. Beginning from the idea that humans are essentially social beings it rejects the common assumption that our processes of communication lie pre-eminently in the transfer of information or the exercise of verbal (and primarily referential) language. Instead it emphasises the importance of the multimodal resources on which we can and do draw to connect with each other: the amazing array of auditory, visual, somatic, olfactory, and material resources through which humans interact both nearby and at a distance. Language is without doubt still one wonderful channel for human communication - but it must be seen in perspective as, after all, only one among our many communicative resources. So, maybe, the making of ethnographic texts too should be open to a wider imaginary.

Starting from these standpoints, and since the writing of an ethnographer is the account of an unique experience, I argue some crucial questions concerning limits and possibilities to make public those experiences through a device as complicated as writing.

Panel IW02
Writing anthropology: genres and cultural translation