“Gender and Genre in Ethnographic Writing”

19th to 20th September 2019 Free University of Bolzano

The Malinowskis at Oberbozen, March 1923 © Helena Wayne

Discussant: Prof. Dame Marilyn Strathern, University of Cambridge

Modern social-cultural anthropology has been based on ethnography not only as ethnographic method, defined early on by Malinowski through his own fieldwork experiences, but also as a specific writing genre: the ethnographic monograph.  Although Malinowski claimed the monograph to be “scientific”, he was also aware that a pleasant writing style would give appeal to this genre, and to this day, in comparison with other social science texts, ethnographic writing is marked by a strong literary sensibility.  Yet in spite of the successful efforts of Malinowski and numerous other anthropologists from various schools to popularize the new discipline, their work developed and codified the ethnographic account above all as a scientific and academic genre.

Since its founding three years ago, MFEA has opened up a new seam of research.  With this year’s symposium focusing on the ‘graphy’ in ethnography, it has fresh questions to ask of writing.  Suppose when it came to thinking about style and audience the ethnographer was not alone?  The stimulus here is the role that Elsie Masson played in Bronislaw Malinowski’s literary presentation.  This in turn leads to further questions about gender and divisions of labor.  Various turns in the discipline have critiqued and reviewed both the ethnographic method and its written products.  In particular, gender has emerged to the fore through the probings of postmodern, postcolonial, feminist and queer anthropologists (sometimes overlapping) who have promoted a more self-critical and reflexive ethnography in order to problematize the position of the ethnographer.  This stance has dovetailed with efforts, on the one hand, to develop a more participatory writing genre to include the voices of participants, and on the other hand and more recently, a public-focused ethnography that would have greater circulation beyond the academic sphere.

This symposium aims to investigate and discuss the multiple connections between ethnography, ethnographic writing and gender in both history of anthropology and contemporary anthropology, underlining problems, potentialities, stereotypes, experiments, continuities, changes and challenges.


Thursday, 19 September  

Bozen Campus Room  F.06

9:00-9:30    Welcome / Greetings from Authorities

9:30-10:00   Symposium Introduction (MFEA co-coordinators Elisabeth Tauber and Dorothy Zinn)  

10:00-10:45    Contribution from Malinowski grandchildren Rebecca Stuart Malinowska and Lucy Ulrich: The women in Malinowski’s life (according to family legend

10:45-11:45    Nigel Rapport (University of St. Andrews): Towards an anthropological appreciation of silence as an ethnographic key

Coffee Break 11:45-12:00

12:00-13:00   Hande Birkalan-Gedik (Johann-Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Frankfurt am Main):  Can There be Feminist Anthropology in Turkey? Histories, Continuities and (Dis)connections of Gender and Genre

13:00-14:30   Lunch Break

14:30-15:30   Daniela Salvucci (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano): Elsie Masson’s writings between literature, journalism and ethnographic sensibility

15:30-16:15   Interim discussion. Discussant Marilyn Strathern (University of Cambridge)

16:15-16:30  Coffee Break

16:30-17:30   Paloma Gay y Blasco (University of St. Andrews):  Devising a reciprocal genre: ambiguity, doubt, and the purposes of ethnography

Friday, 20 September 

Bozen Campus, Room F.06

9:00-10:00   Omar Kasmani  (Freie Universität, Berlin)   Not I but He. Writing {as} Longing

10:00-11:00   Marina Della Rocca (Free University of Bozen-Bolzano) Engaged ethnography in a women’s shelter. Self-reflexivity, participation and activism in the ethnographic writing

11:00-11:15  Coffee Break

11:15-13:00  Final Discussion, Discussant Marilyn Strathern and Symposium participants

13:00-14:30  Lunch Break

14:30.   Excursion to Oberbozen

18:30    Group Dinner in Oberbozen