A Truth with Points of View

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Title: A Truth with Points of View
Author: Leuschke, Kate
Department: Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Comparative Literature Program
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Running Time: 7867198 bytes
Issue Date: 2001
Abstract: My fieldwork in Ciudad Mante, Tamaulipas, Mexico forms the base of this text which focuses on the production of ethnographic life histories. Several excerpts from my fieldnotes are included and analyzed through traditional anthropological and literature lenses. I look at the way life histories are related to the Crisis of Representation in anthropology, to linguistics, feminism, and autoethnography. Using my own work and the published life histories of Oscar Lewis, R.M. Keesing, Vincent Crapanzano, Elisabeth Burgos-Deray, and Ruth Behar, I claim that the model of a reader-author contract from literature studies can illuminate the processes involved in the production of an ethnographic life history. This contract must be extended to take into account the agency of the subject of the life history. I examine various aspects of the contract itself, manipulations of both the form and the content of a text which represents the encounter between the anthropologist and the subject. I claim that the primary way readers are able to engage with a text is through a sense of empathy and identification with one of the "characters." This identification can allow the reader to feel that they are part of an unmediated dialogue with the subject because they inhabit the character of the anthropologist. I call attention to the problems with this assumption and the ambiguous nature of identification as a tool of interpretation. Finally, I argue that identification and therefore other basic tenets of the reader-author-subject contract must be renegotiated in order to allow conversation to occur on equal terms between subject, anthropologist and reader of life histories.
Subject: Literature and anthropology
Subject: Ethnology -- Methodology
Subject: Ethnology -- Mexico -- Tamaulipas (State)
Subject: Identification
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Leuschke, Kate. "A Truth with Points of View". 2001. Available electronically from

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