Author:Katja Sarajeva (Spider)
Paper short abstract:
While writing is an uncertain process under uncertain circumstances, it is the reason we do fieldwork and remains the ultimate outcome. It is also the way we deal with uncertainties, both professional and intellectual, as we write our way out of the predicaments we get ourselves in.
Paper long abstract:
The position of the anthropologist is almost by default one of uncertainty. We work with the external pressures of securing funding and of publishing, the inherent complexities of fieldwork and the occasional intellectual and existential crises that come with the territory when you are your own research instrument, and we sometimes work in uncertain environments.
Participating in and observing the events of Moscow Pride 2007 is a good example. It was a highly volatile course of events in a political context where the role and intentions of the state were unclear. It was difficult to grasp what was happening and the future course of events, and it was even harder to imagine a text or the analysis.
In hindsight, it is writing, more than anything else that stands out as the central organizing principle, the core of the anthropological endeavour. It was writing that put me on the streets that day, it guided me through the mayhem, and it forced me to make sense of the events and interactions I saw.
The text was a negotiation and a balancing act between the immediacy of the ethnographic description and the distanced view of analysis. In a similar manner, different formats of presentation demand a balance between the narrative that captures the reader and the analysis that prompts reflection, occasionally undoing familiar assumptions in the process. That is, creating uncertainty.
While writing is an uncertain process under uncertain circumstances, it remains a cornerstone of the profession, and one of its greatest assets.
Anthropological writing in a time of uncertainty: career, control and creativity