The Devlopment of Reflexive Anthropology Essay

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The Devlopment of Reflexive Anthropology

Reflexive anthropology has pressured scholoars to recognize their own biases and look increasingly inwards when studying “other” cultures. Reflexive anthropology is a break away from the traditional study of a clearly defined “us” and “them,” that seeks to shift towards indentification rather than difference. It attempts to uncover the politics behind ethnography. Reflexivity shows how “we” are effected by “others”, and how “others” are effected by “us.” It holds anthropologists accountable for what they write, and how they represent culture. Anthropologists like Dorinne Kondo and Renato Rosaldo have greatly influenced the devlopment of reflexive anthropology through their enthnographies.
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They attempted to erase her “American” ways, and replace them with “Japanese” ways. In realizing the ways that they had imposed upon her, Kondo realized how too often academics impose upon the people that they are studying. She says that “In searching for structure to impose on experience, one all too readily reduces the complex to the readily apprehensible, assuming authority and control over one’s informants to make them fit into one’s own categories, according to one’s own motives” (82).

Kondo argues that writing ethnography is a way for the writer to “reencounter the other ‘safely’.” Going through the entire process of her experince with the informants allows the author to place herself into the text, and allows her to address herself. Encourpoating the ethnographer’s personalized experiences into the writing puts the person at a certain level of vulnerability. They are, in many ways, just as vulnerable as the people they are studying when so much of their personhood is included into the book. However, such notions cannot be taken too far. It is dangerous for an author to believe that s/he can fully understand how their informants think and feel just because they experience similar feelings, such as vulnerability.

Rosaldo, for example, believes that he has new insight into the lives of Ilongot men and their reasons for cutting off human heads. His work,

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