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O n Ethnographic Allegory

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JAMES CLIFFORD

O n Ethnographic Allegory
1 . a story in which people, things and happenings have another meaning, as in a fable or parable: allegories are used for teaching or explaining. 2. the presentation of ideas by means of such stories. ..."

the child." I got u p , took a blanket and covered Tashay with it; h e was still sleeping. T h e n I took another blanket and my smaller duiker skin covering and I left. Was I not the only one? T h e only other woman was Tashay's grandmother, and she was asleep in her hut. So, just as I was, I left. I walked a short distance from the village and sat down beside a tree. . . . After she was born, I sat there; I didn't know what to d o . I had n o sense. She lay there, m o v i n g her arms about, trying to suck her fingers. She started to cry. I just sat there, looking at her. I thought, "Is this my child? W h o gave birth to this child?" T h e n I thought, "A big thing like that? H o w could it possibly have c o m e o u t from my genitals?" I sat there and looked at her, looked and looked a n d looked. (1981:1-3) T h e story h a s g r e a t i m m e d i a c y . Nisa's voice is u n m i s t a k a b l e , t h e e x p e r i e n c e s h a r p l y e v o k e d : " S h e lay t h e r e , m o v i n g h e r a r m s a b o u t , t r y i n g to s u c k h e r fingers." B u t as r e a d e r s w e d o m o r e t h a n r e g i s t e r a u n i q u e e v e n t . T h e story's u n f o l d i n g r e q u i r e s us, first, to i m a g i n e a diff e r e n t cultural n o r m ( ! K u n g birth, a l o n e in the bush) a n d t h e n to r e c o g n i z e a c o m m o n human e x p e r i e n c e (the q u i e t h e r o i s m o f c h i l d b i r t h , f e e l i n g s o f p o s t p a r t u m w o n d e r a n d d o u b t ) . T h e story o f an o c c u r r e n c e s o m e w h e r e in the K a l a h a r i D e s e r t c a n n o t r e m a i n j u s t that. It i m p l i e s b o t h local c u l t u r a l m e a n i n g s a n d a g e n e r a l story o f b i r t h . A d i f f e r e n c e is p o s i t e d a n d t r a n s c e n d e d . M o r e o v e r , Nisa's story tells us ( h o w c o u l d it not?) s o m e t h i n g basic a b o u t w o m a n ' s e x p e r i e n c e . Shostak's life o f a !Kung i n d i v i d u a l inevitably b e c o m e s a n a l l e g o r y o f (female) humanity. I a r g u e b e l o w that these kinds o f t r a n s c e n d e n t m e a n i n g s a r e n o t a b s t r a c t i o n s o r i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s " a d d e d " to the o r i g i n a l " s i m p l e " acc o u n t . R a t h e r , t h e y are the c o n d i t i o n s o f its m e a n i n g f u l n e s s . E t h n o g r a p h i c texts are i n e s c a p a b l y allegorical, a n d a serious a c c e p t a n c e o f this fact c h a n g e s the ways they c a n be written a n d r e a d . U s i n g Shostak's e x p e r i m e n t as a case study I e x a m i n e a r e c e n t t e n d e n c y to d i s t i n g u i s h a l l e g o r i c a l levels as specific " v o i c e s " within the text. I a r g u e , finally, t h a t t h e v e r y activity o f e t h n o g r a p h i c writingseen as inscription o r t e x t u a l i z a t i o n e n a c t s a r e d e m p t i v e W e s t e r n allegory. T h i s p e r v a s i v e s t r u c t u r e n e e d s to b e p e r c e i v e d a n d w e i g h e d against o t h e r possible emplotments for the performance o f ethnography.
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I n a r e c e n t essay o n narrative V i c t o r T u r n e r a r g u e s t h a t social performances enact powerful storiesmythic and commonsensical t h a t p r o v i d e the social process " w i t h a rhetoric, a m o d e o f e m p l o t m e n t , a n d a m e a n i n g " ( 1 9 8 0 : 1 5 3 ) . In w h a t follows I treat e t h n o g r a p h y itself as a p e r f o r m a n c e e m p l o t t e d by p o w e r f u l stories. E m b o d i e d in w r i t t e n r e p o r t s , these stories s i m u l t a n e o u s l y d e s c r i b e real c u l t u r a l e v e n t s a n d m a k e additional, m o r a l , i d e o l o g i c a l , a n d e v e n c o s m o l o g i c a l s t a t e m e n t s . E t h n o g r a p h i c w r i t i n g is allegorical at the level b o t h o f its c o n t e n t (what it says a b o u t cultures a n d their histories) a n d o f its f o r m ( w h a t is i m p l i e d b y its m o d e o f textualization). A n a p p a r e n t l y s i m p l e e x a m p l e will i n t r o d u c e m y a p p r o a c h . M a r j o r i e S h o s t a k b e g i n s h e r b o o k Nisa: The Life and Words of a !Kung Woman w i t h a story o f c h i l d b i r t h the ! K u n g w a y o u t s i d e t h e v i l l a g e , alone. H e r e are some excerpts: I lay there and felt the pains as they came, over and over again. T h e n I felt s o m e t h i n g wet, the beginning of the childbirth. I thought, "Eh hey, maybe it is 1. Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, 2 n d ed. In literary studies definitions of allegory have ranged from Angus Fletcher's (1964:2) loose characterization ("In the simplest terms, allegory says one thing and means another") to Todorov's reassertion (1973:63) o f a stricter sense: "First of all, allegory implies the existence o f at least two meanings for the same words; according to some critics, the first meaning must disappear, while others require that the two be present together. Secondly, this double meaning is indicated in the work in an explicit fashion: it does not proceed from the reader's interpretation (whether arbitrary or not)." According to Quintilian, any continuous or extended metaphor develops into allegory; and as Northrop Frye ( 1 9 7 1 : 9 t ) observes, "Within the boundaries o f literature we find a kind of sliding scale, ranging from the most explicitly allegorical, consistent with being literature at all, at one extreme, to the most elusive, anti-explicit and anti-allegorical at the other." T h e various "second meanings" o f ethnographic allegory I shall be tracing here are all textually explicit. But ethnographies slide along Frye's scale, exhibiting strong allegorical features, usually without marking themselves as allegories.

Literary description always opens onto another scene set, so to speak, "behind" the this-worldly things it purports to depict.
MICHEL BEAUJOUR, "Some Paradoxes of Description"

A l l e g o r y ( G r . alios, "other," a n d agoreuein, "to speak") usually d e n o t e s a p r a c t i c e in w h i c h a n a r r a t i v e fiction c o n t i n u o u s l y refers to a n o t h e r p a t t e r n of ideas o r events. It is a r e p r e s e n t a t i o n that "interp r e t s " itself. I a m u s i n g the t e r m a l l e g o r y in the e x p a n d e d sense r e -

lOO

JAMES CLIFFORD

O n Ethnographic Allegory

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c l a i m e d f o r it b y r e c e n t critical d i s c u s s i o n s , n o t a b l y t h o s e o f A n g u s F l e t c h e r ( 1 9 6 4 ) a n d Paul D e M a n ( 1 9 7 9 ) . A n y s t o r y h a s a p r o p e n s i t y t o g e n e r a t e a n o t h e r s t o r y i n t h e m i n d o f its r e a d e r ( o r h e a r e r ) , t o r e p e a t a n d d i s p l a c e s o m e p r i o r story. T o f o c u s o n e t h n o g r a p h i c a l l e g o r y i n p r e f e r e n c e , say, t o e t h n o g r a p h i c " i d e o l o g y " a l t h o u g h t h e p o l i t i c a l d i m e n s i o n s are always p r e s e n t ( J a m e s o n 1 9 8 1 ) d r a w s attention to aspects o f cultural description that have until recently b e e n m i n i m i z e d . A r e c o g n i t i o n o f a l l e g o r y e m p h a s i z e s t h e fact t h a t realistic p o r traits, t o t h e e x t e n t t h a t t h e y a r e " c o n v i n c i n g " o r "rich," a r e e x t e n d e d m e t a p h o r s , patterns o f associations that point to c o h e r e n t (theoretical, e s t h e t i c , m o r a l ) a d d i t i o n a l m e a n i n g s . A l l e g o r y ( m o r e s t r o n g l y t h a n " i n t e r p r e t a t i o n " ) calls t o m i n d t h e p o e t i c , t r a d i t i o n a l , c o s m o l o g i cal n a t u r e o f s u c h w r i t i n g p r o c e s s e s . A l l e g o r y d r a w s s p e c i a l a t t e n t i o n t o t h e narrative c h a r a c t e r o f c u l tural r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s , to the stories built into t h e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n a l p r o c e s s itself. I t a l s o b r e a k s d o w n t h e s e a m l e s s q u a l i t y o f c u l t u r a l d e scription by a d d i n g a temporal aspect to the process o f reading. O n e l e v e l o f m e a n i n g i n a t e x t will a l w a y s g e n e r a t e o t h e r l e v e l s . T h u s t h e rhetoric o f p r e s e n c e that has prevailed in m u c h post-romantic literat u r e ( a n d i n m u c h " s y m b o l i c a n t h r o p o l o g y " ) is i n t e r r u p t e d . D e M a n ' s critique o f t h e valorization o f symbols over allegory in romantic esthetics also questions the project o f realism (De M a n 1969). T h e claim that nonallegorical description was possiblea position u n d e r l y i n g b o t h p o s i t i v i s t l i t e r a l i s m a n d realist s y n e c d o c h e ( t h e o r g a n i c , f u n c t i o n a l , o r "typical" r e l a t i o n s h i p o f p a r t s t o w h o l e s ) w a s c l o s e l y a l l i e d to t h e r o m a n t i c search for u n m e d i a t e d m e a n i n g i n t h e event. Positivism, realism, a n d romanticismnineteenth-century ingredients o f t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y a n t h r o p o l o g y a l l r e j e c t e d t h e "false" artifice o f r h e t o r i c a l o n g w i t h allegory's s u p p o s e d abstractness. A l l e g o r y violated t h e c a n o n s b o t h o f e m p i r i c a l s c i e n c e a n d o f artistic s p o n t a n e i t y ( O n g 1 9 7 1 : 6 9 ) . It w a s t o o d e d u c t i v e , t o o m u c h a n o p e n i m p o s i t i o n o f m e a n i n g o n s e n s i b l e e v i d e n c e . T h e r e c e n t "revival" o f r h e t o r i c b y a d i v e r s e g r o u p o f literary a n d cultural theorists ( R o l a n d B a r t h e s , K e n n e t h Burke, Gerard Genette, Michel d e Certeau, H a y d e n White, Paul D e M a n , a n d Michel Beaujour a m o n g others) has t h r o w n serious d o u b t o n t h e positivist-romantic-realist consensus. I n e t h n o g r a p h y t h e c u r r e n t t u r n to rhetoric coincides with a p e r i o d o f political a n d epistemological rvaluation in which the constructed, i m p o s e d nat u r e o f r e p r e s e n t a t i o n a l authority h a s b e c o m e u n u s u a l l y visible a n d c o n t e s t e d . A l l e g o r y p r o m p t s u s t o say o f a n y c u l t u r a l d e s c r i p t i o n n o t "this r e p r e s e n t s , o r s y m b o l i z e s , that" b u t r a t h e r , "this is a ( m o r a l l y c h a r g e d ) story a b o u t t h a t . "
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T h e specific a c c o u n t s c o n t a i n e d in e t h n o g r a p h i e s c a n n e v e r b e l i m i t e d t o a p r o j e c t o f scientific d e s c r i p t i o n s o l o n g as t h e g u i d i n g task o f t h e w o r k is t o m a k e t h e ( o f t e n s t r a n g e ) b e h a v i o r o f a d i f f e r e n t w a y o f life h u m a n l y c o m p r e h e n s i b l e . T o say t h a t e x o t i c b e h a v i o r a n d s y m b o l s m a k e s e n s e e i t h e r i n " h u m a n " o r "cultural" t e r m s is t o s u p p l y t h e s a m e sorts o f allegorical a d d e d m e a n i n g s that a p p e a r in o l d e r narrat i v e s t h a t s a w a c t i o n s as "spiritually" s i g n i f i c a n t . C u l t u r a l i s t a n d h u m a n i s t a l l e g o r i e s s t a n d b e h i n d t h e c o n t r o l l e d fictions o f d i f f e r e n c e a n d s i m i l i t u d e t h a t w e call e t h n o g r a p h i c a c c o u n t s . W h a t is m a i n t a i n e d i n t h e s e t e x t s is a d o u b l e a t t e n t i o n t o t h e d e s c r i p t i v e s u r f a c e a n d t o m o r e abstract, c o m p a r a t i v e , a n d explanatory levels o f m e a n i n g . T h i s t w o f o l d s t r u c t u r e is s e t o u t b y C o l e r i d g e i n a classic d e f i n i t i o n . We may then safely define allegorical writing as the employment of one set o f agents and images with actions and accompaniments correspondent, so as to convey, while in disguise, either moral qualities or conceptions of the mind that are not in themselves objects of the senses, or other images, agents, fortunes, and circumstances so that the difference is everywhere presented to the eye or imagination, while the likeness is suggested to the mind; and this connectedly, so that the parts combine to form a consistent whole. (1936 :30) W h a t o n e sees i n a c o h e r e n t e t h n o g r a p h i c a c c o u n t , t h e i m a g e d c o n s t r u c t o f t h e o t h e r , is c o n n e c t e d i n a c o n t i n u o u s d o u b l e s t r u c t u r e w i t h w h a t o n e understands. A t t i m e s , t h e s t r u c t u r e is t o o b l a t a n t : " D u r i n g the ceramic m a n u f a c t u r i n g process, w o m e n converse gently, quietly, a l w a y s w i t h o u t c o n f l i c t , a b o u t e c o s y s t e m d y n a m i c s . . ." ( W h i t t e n 1 9 7 8 : 8 4 7 ) . U s u a l l y it is l e s s o b v i o u s a n d t h u s m o r e realistic. A d a p t i n g Coleridge's f o r m u l a , w h a t a p p e a r s descriptively to t h e senses ( a n d primarily, as h e suggests, to t h e observing eye) s e e m s to b e "other," while w h a t is s u g g e s t e d b y t h e c o h e r e n t s e r i e s o f p e r c e p t i o n s is a n u n d e r l y i n g s i m i l i t u d e . S t r a n g e b e h a v i o r is p o r t r a y e d as m e a n i n g f u l w i t h i n a c o m m o n network of symbolsa c o m m o n ground of understandable activity valid for b o t h o b s e r v e r a n d o b s e r v e d , a n d by i m p l i c a t i o n f o r all h u m a n g r o u p s . T h u s e t h n o g r a p h y ' s n a r r a t i v e o f specific d i f f e r e n c e s p r e s u p p o s e s , a n d a l w a y s r e f e r s t o , a n abstract p l a n e o f s i m i l a r i t y . It is w o r t h n o t i n g , t h o u g h I c a n n o t p u r s u e t h e t h e m e h e r e , t h a t b e f o r e t h e e m e r g e n c e o f s e c u l a r a n t h r o p o l o g y as a s c i e n c e o f human a n d cultural p h e n o m e n a , e t h n o g r a p h i c a c c o u n t s w e r e c o n n e c t e d t o d i f f e r e n t a l l e g o r i c a l r e f e r e n t s . F a t h e r Lafitau's f a m o u s c o m p a r i s o n (1724) o f Native A m e r i c a n customs with those o f the ancient H e b r e w s a n d E g y p t i a n s e x e m p l i f i e s a n earlier t e n d e n c y to m a p descriptions o f t h e o t h e r o n t o c o n c e p t i o n s o f t h e "premiers temps." M o r e o r less e x p l i c i t biblical o r classical a l l e g o r i e s a b o u n d i n t h e e a r l y d e s c r i p t i o n s o f t h e N e w W o r l d . For as J o h a n n e s F a b i a n (1983) a r g u e s , t h e r e h a s b e e n a p e r v a s i v i : IcndriK y l o p r e l i g u r e o t h e r s in a t e m p o r a l l y d i s t i n c t , bui l o -

2. A n "allegorical anthropology" is suggested fairly explicitly in recent works by Boon (1977, 1982), Crapanzano (1980), Taussig (1984), and Tyler (1984a).

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JAMES CLIFFORD

O n Ethnographic Allegory m o r a l , practical lessons for A m e r i c a n society. B u t as F r e e m a n h e a p s u p instances o f S a m o a n a n x i e t y a n d v i o l e n c e , the a l l e g o r i c a l f r a m e f o r his o w n u n d e r t a k i n g b e g i n s to e m e r g e . C l e a r l y s o m e t h i n g m o r e is g e t t i n g e x p r e s s e d t h a n simply the " d a r k e r side," as F r e e m a n p u t s it, o f S a m o a n life. I n a r e v e a l i n g h n a l p a g e h e admits as m u c h , c o u n t e r i n g M e a d ' s " A p o l l o n i a n " sense o f cultural b a l a n c e with biology's " D i o n y s i a n " h u m a n n a t u r e (essential, e m o t i o n a l , etc.). B u t w h a t is the scientific status o f a "refutation" that c a n be s u b s u m e d so neatly b y a W e s t e r n m y t h i c o p p o s i t i o n ? O n e is left with a stark contrast: M e a d ' s attractive, s e x u a l l y l i b e r a t e d , c a l m Pacific w o r l d , a n d n o w F r e e m a n ' s S a m o a o f s e e t h i n g tensions, strict controls, a n d violent o u t b u r s t s . Ind e e d M e a d and Freeman form a kind o f diptych, whose opposing panels signify a r e c u r r e n t W e s t e r n a m b i v a l e n c e a b o u t the " p r i m i t i v e . " O n e is r e m i n d e d o f Melville's Typee, a s e n s u o u s paradise w o v e n t h r o u g h w i t h d r e a d , the t h r e a t o f v i o l e n c e .
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c a t a b l e , s p a c e (earlier) w i t h i n an a s s u m e d p r o g r e s s o f W e s t e r n history. C u l t u r a l a n t h r o p o l o g y in the twentieth c e n t u r y has t e n d e d to r e p l a c e ( t h o u g h n e v e r c o m p l e t e l y ) these historical allegories with h u m a n i s t all e g o r i e s . It has e s c h e w e d a search for origins in f a v o r o f s e e k i n g h u m a n similarities a n d c u l t u r a l d i f f e r e n c e s . B u t the r e p r e s e n t a t i o n a l p r o c e s s itself has n o t essentially c h a n g e d . M o s t d e s c r i p t i o n s o f o t h e r s c o n t i n u e to a s s u m e a n d r e f e r to e l e m e n t a l o r t r a n s c e n d e n t levels o f truth. T h i s c o n c l u s i o n e m e r g e s clearly f r o m the r e c e n t M e a d - F r e e m a n c o n t r o v e r s y . T w o c o m p e t i n g portrayals o f S a m o a n life are cast as scientific p r o j e c t s ; b u t b o t h c o n f i g u r e the o t h e r as a m o r a l l y c h a r g e d alter e g o . M e a d c l a i m e d to b e c o n d u c t i n g a c o n t r o l l e d " e x p e r i m e n t " in t h e field, "testing" the universality o f stressful a d o l e s c e n c e by e x a m i n i n g a c o u n t e r instance empirically. B u t d e s p i t e B o a s i a n r h e t o r i c a b o u t t h e " l a b o r a t o r y " o f fieldwork, M e a d ' s e x p e r i m e n t p r o d u c e d a m e s s a g e o f b r o a d ethical a n d political significance. L i k e R u t h B e n e d i c t in Patterns of Culture ( 1 9 3 4 ) , she h e l d a liberal, pluralist vision, r e s p o n d i n g to t h e d i l e m m a s o f a " c o m p l e x " A m e r i c a n society. T h e e t h n o g r a p h i c stories M e a d a n d B e n e d i c t told w e r e manifestly l i n k e d to t h e situation o f a c u l t u r e s t r u g g l i n g with d i v e r s e values, with an a p p a r e n t b r e a k d o w n o f established traditions, with Utopian visions o f h u m a n m a l l e ability a n d fears o f d i s a g g r e g a t i o n . T h e i r e t h n o g r a p h i e s w e r e "fables o f identity," to a d a p t N o r t h r o p Frye's title ( 1 9 6 3 ) . T h e i r o p e n l y allegorical p u r p o s e was not a kind o f moral or expository frame for e m pirical d e s c r i p t i o n s , s o m e t h i n g a d d e d o n in p r e f a c e s a n d c o n c l u s i o n s . T h e entire project o f inventing and representing "cultures" was, for M e a d a n d B e n e d i c t , a p e d a g o g i c a l , ethical u n d e r t a k i n g .
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Le transfert de l'Empire de la Chine l'Empire de soi-mme est constant.


VICTOR SEGALEN

M e a d ' s " e x p e r i m e n t " in c o n t r o l l e d c u l t u r a l v a r i a t i o n n o w l o o k s less like science t h a n a l l e g o r y a too sharply f o c u s e d story o f S a m o a s u g g e s t i n g a possible A m e r i c a . D e r e k Freeman's critique i g n o r e s a n y p r o p e r l y literary d i m e n s i o n s in e t h n o g r a p h i c w o r k , h o w e v e r , a n d instead a p p l i e s its o w n b r a n d o f scientism, i n s p i r e d by r e c e n t d e v e l o p m e n t s in s o c i o b i o l o g y . A s F r e e m a n sees it, M e a d w a s simply w r o n g a b o u t S a m o a n s . T h e y a r e not the casual, p e r m i s s i v e p e o p l e she m a d e f a m o u s , b u t a r e beset b y all the u s u a l h u m a n tensions. T h e y a r e v i o lent. T h e y g e t ulcers. T h e m a i n b o d y o f his critique is a m a s s i n g o f c o u n t e r e x a m p l e s d r a w n f r o m the historical r e c o r d a n d f r o m his o w n fieldwork. I n 1 7 0 p a g e s o f e m p i r i c a l o v e r k i l l , h e successfully s h o w s w h a t w a s a l r e a d y e x p l i c i t for an alert r e a d e r o f Coming of Age in Samoa: t h a t M e a d c o n s t r u c t e d a f o r e s h o r t e n e d p i c t u r e , d e s i g n e d to p r o p o s e
3. Mead (1923), Freeman (1983). I have drawn on my review of Freeman in the Times Literary Supplement, May 13, 1983, 4 7 5 - 7 6 , which explores the literary dimensions of the controversy. For another treatment in this vein, see Porter 1984.

A scientific e t h n o g r a p h y n o r m a l l y establishes a p r i v i l e g e d all e g o r i c a l r e g i s t e r it identifies as "theory," "interpretation," o r " e x p l a n a t i o n . " B u t o n c e all m e a n i n g f u l levels in a text, i n c l u d i n g t h e o r i e s a n d i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s , a r e r e c o g n i z e d as allegorical, it b e c o m e s difficult to v i e w o n e o f t h e m as p r i v i l e g e d , a c c o u n t i n g for the rest. O n c e this a n c h o r is d i s l o d g e d , the s t a g i n g a n d v a l u i n g o f m u l t i p l e a l l e g o r i c a l r e g i s t e r s , o r " v o i c e s , " b e c o m e s an i m p o r t a n t a r e a o f c o n c e r n for ethn o g r a p h i c w r i t e r s . R e c e n t l y this has s o m e t i m e s m e a n t g i v i n g i n d i g e n o u s d i s c o u r s e a s e m i - i n d e p e n d e n t status in the t e x t u a l w h o l e , int e r r u p t i n g t h e p r i v i l e g e d m o n o t o n e o f "scientific" r e p r e s e n t a t i o n . M u c h e t h n o g r a p h y , t a k i n g its distance f r o m totalizing a n t h r o p o l o g y , seeks to e v o k e m u l t i p l e (but not limitless) a l l e g o r i e s .
4

M a r j o r i e Shostak's Nisa e x e m p l i f i e s , a n d wrestles with, t h e p r o b l e m o f p r e s e n t i n g a n d m e d i a t i n g m u l t i p l e s t o r i e s . 1 shall d w e l l o n it at s o m e l e n g t h . S h o s t a k explicitly stages t h r e e a l l e g o r i c a l r e g i s t e r s : (1) the r e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f a c o h e r e n t cultural subject as s o u r c e o f scientific k n o w l e d g e (Nisa is a " ! K u n g w o m a n " ) ; (2) the c o n s t r u c t i o n o f a g e n d e r e d subject ( S h o s t a k asks: w h a t is it to b e a w o m a n ? ) ; (3) t h e story o f a m o d e o f e t h n o g r a p h i c p r o d u c t i o n a n d r e l a t i o n s h i p (an intimate dia5

4. O n the origins of this "monotone," see De Certeau 1983:128. 5. T h e rest of this section is an expanded version of my review of Nisa in the Times Literary Supplement, September 17, 1982, 9 9 4 - 9 5 .

104

JAMES CLIFFORD

O n Ethnographic Allegory typical attitudes, activities, a n d e x p e r i e n c e s . B u t S h o s t a k w a s dissatisfied b y the lack o f d e p t h in h e r interviews, a n d this l e d h e r to s e e k o u t a n i n f o r m a n t able to p r o v i d e a detailed p e r s o n a l n a r r a t i v e . Nisa w a s q u i t e u n u s u a l in h e r ability to recall a n d e x p l a i n h e r life; m o r e o v e r t h e r e d e v e l o p e d a s t r o n g r e s o n a n c e b e t w e e n h e r stories a n d Shostak's p e r s o n a l c o n c e r n s . T h i s p o s e d a p r o b l e m for the e x p e c t a t i o n s o f a g e n e r a l i z i n g social science. A t t h e e n d o f h e r first s o j o u r n in the field, S h o s t a k w a s t r o u b l e d b y a s u s p i c i o n that h e r i n t e r l o c u t o r m i g h t b e t o o i d i o s y n c r a t i c . N i s a h a d k n o w n s e v e r e p a i n ; h e r life as she recalled it w a s o f t e n v i o l e n t . M o s t p r e v i o u s a c c o u n t s o f the !Kung, like Elizabeth M a r s h a l l T h o m a s ' s The Harmless People ( 1 9 5 9 ) , h a d s h o w n t h e m to b e p e a c e - l o v i n g . " D i d I really w a n t to b e the o n e to b a l a n c e the p i c t u r e ? " (350). O n a r e t u r n t r i p to t h e K a l a h a r i , S h o s t a k f o u n d r e a s s u r a n c e . T h o u g h N i s a still e x e r t e d a special fascination, she n o w a p p e a r e d less u n u s u a l . A n d t h e e t h n o g r a p h e r b e c a m e " m o r e s u r e t h a n e v e r that o u r w o r k t o g e t h e r c o u l d a n d s h o u l d m o v e f o r w a r d . T h e i n t e r v i e w s I was c o n d u c t i n g w i t h o t h e r w o m e n w e r e p r o v i n g to m e that Nisa was f u n d a m e n t a l l y similar to t h o s e a r o u n d h e r . S h e was u n u s u a l l y articulate, a n d s h e h a d s u f f e r e d g r e a t e r t h a n a v e r a g e loss, b u t in most o t h e r i m p o r t a n t r e spects she w a s a typical ! K u n g w o m a n " (358). R o l a n d B a r t h e s ( 1 9 8 1 ) has written p o i g n a n t l y o f a n i m p o s s i b l e science o f t h e i n d i v i d u a l . A n insistent t u g t o w a r d the g e n e r a l is felt t h r o u g h o u t Nisa, a n d it is n o t w i t h o u t pain that w e find N i s a g e n e r a l i z e d , tied to "an i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f !Kung life" (350). T h e b o o k ' s scientific d i s c o u r s e , tirelessly c o n t e x t u a l , t y p i f y i n g , is b r a i d e d t h r o u g h t h e o t h e r t w o voices, i n t r o d u c i n g e a c h o f the fifteen t h e m a t i c sections o f t h e life w i t h a few p a g e s o f b a c k g r o u n d . ( " O n c e a m a r r i a g e has s u r v i v e d a few y e a r s b e y o n d the y o u n g wife's first m e n s t r u a t i o n , the relat i o n s h i p b e t w e e n t h e s p o u s e s b e c o m e s m o r e e q u a l " [ 1 6 9 ] . A n d so forth.) I n d e e d , o n e s o m e t i m e s feels that the scientific d i s c o u r s e f u n c tions in t h e t e x t as a k i n d o f b r a k e o n the book's o t h e r voices, w h o s e m e a n i n g s a r e excessively p e r s o n a l a n d intersubjective. T h e r e is a r e a l d i s c r e p a n c y . F o r at the s a m e time that Nisa's story c o n t r i b u t e s to b e t t e r g e n e r a l i z a t i o n s a b o u t t h e !Kung, its v e r y specificity, a n d t h e p a r t i c u l a r c i r c u m s t a n c e s o f its m a k i n g , create m e a n i n g s that are resistant to t h e d e m a n d s o f a t y p i f y i n g science. T h e b o o k ' s s e c o n d a n d t h i r d registers are s h a r p l y distinct f r o m t h e first. T h e i r s t r u c t u r e is dialogical, a n d at times e a c h s e e m s to exist p r i m a r i l y in r e s p o n s e to the o t h e r . Nisa's life has its o w n t e x t u a l a u t o n o m y , as a distinct n a r r a t i v e s p o k e n in characteristic, b e l i e v a b l e t o n e s . B u t it is m a n i f e s t l y the p r o d u c t o f a c o l l a b o r a t i o n . T h i s is p a r t i c u l a r l y t r u e o f its o v e r a l l s h a p e , a full l i f e s p a n f i f t e e n c h a p t e r s i n c l u d i n g

l o g u e ) . N i s a is the p s e u d o n y m o f a fifty-year-old w o m a n w h o has l i v e d m o s t o f h e r life in s e m i - n o m a d i c c o n d i t i o n s . M a r j o r i e S h o s t a k b e l o n g s to a H a r v a r d - b a s e d r e s e a r c h g r o u p that has studied t h e !Kung S a n h u n t e r - g a t h e r e r s since the 1950s. T h e c o m p l e x t r u t h s t h a t e m e r g e f r o m this "life a n d w o r d s " are n o t limited to an i n d i v i d u a l o r to h e r s u r r o u n d i n g cultural world. T h e book's t h r e e registers a r e in crucial respects d i s c r e p a n t . First, t h e a u t o b i o g r a p h y , c r o s s - c h e c k e d against o t h e r !Kung w o m e n ' s lives, is i n s e r t e d w i t h i n an o n g o i n g c u l t u r a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n (to w h i c h it a d d s " d e p t h " ) . S e c o n d , this s h a p e d e x p e r i e n c e s o o n b e c o m e s a story o f " w o m e n ' s " e x i s t e n c e , a story that r h y m e s closely with m a n y o f the e x p e r i e n c e s a n d issues h i g h l i g h t e d in r e c e n t feminist t h o u g h t . T h i r d , Nisa n a r r a t e s a n i n t e r c u l t u r a l e n c o u n t e r in w h i c h t w o i n d i v i d u a l s coll a b o r a t e to p r o d u c e a specific d o m a i n o f t r u t h . T h e e t h n o g r a p h i c e n c o u n t e r itself b e c o m e s , h e r e , t h e subject o f t h e b o o k , a fable o f c o m m u n i c a t i o n , r a p p o r t , a n d , finally, a k i n d o f fictional, b u t p o t e n t , k i n s h i p . Nisa is t h u s manifestly an a l l e g o r y o f scientific c o m p r e h e n s i o n , o p e r a t i n g at t h e levels b o t h o f c u l t u r a l d e s c r i p t i o n a n d o f a s e a r c h f o r h u m a n o r i g i n s . ( A l o n g with o t h e r s t u d e n t s o f g a t h e r e r h u n t e r s , the H a r v a r d p r o j e c t S h o s t a k i n c l u d e d t e n d to see in this l o n g e s t stage o f h u m a n cultural d e v e l o p m e n t a baseline f o r h u m a n n a t u r e . ) Nisa is a W e s t e r n feminist allegory, p a r t o f the r e i n v e n t i o n o f t h e g e n e r a l c a t e g o r y " w o m a n " in the 1970s a n d 80s. Nisa is an a l l e g o r y o f e t h n o g r a p h y , o f contact a n d c o m p r e h e n s i o n . A b r a i d e d n a r r a t i v e , the b o o k m o v e s constantly, at times a w k w a r d l y , b e t w e e n its t h r e e m e a n i n g f u l registers. Nisa is like m a n y w o r k s t h a t p o r t r a y c o m m o n h u m a n e x p e r i e n c e s , conflicts, j o y s , w o r k , a n d so o n . B u t t h e t e x t S h o s t a k has m a d e is o r i g i n a l in t h e w a y it r e fuses to b l e n d its t h r e e registers into a seamless, "full" r e p r e s e n t a tion. T h e y r e m a i n s e p a r a t e , in d r a m a t i c tension. T h i s p o l y v o c a l i t y is a p p r o p r i a t e to t h e book's p r e d i c a m e n t , that o f m a n y self-conscious e t h n o g r a p h i c w r i t e r s w h o find it difficult to s p e a k o f w e l l - d e f i n e d " o t h e r s " f r o m a stable, distanced position. D i f f e r e n c e i n v a d e s t h e text; it c a n n o l o n g e r be r e p r e s e n t e d ; it m u s t b e e n a c t e d . Nisa's first r e g i s t e r , that o f cultural science, holds its subject in f i r m r e l a t i o n to a social w o r l d . It e x p l a i n s Nisa's p e r s o n a l i t y in t e r m s o f !Kung w a y s , a n d it uses h e r e x p e r i e n c e to n u a n c e a n d c o r r e c t g e n e r alizations a b o u t h e r g r o u p . I f Nisa reveals intersubjective m e c h a n i s m s in u n u s u a l d e p t h , its p o l y v o c a l c o n s t r u c t i o n s h o w s , t o o , t h a t t h e transition to scientific k n o w l e d g e is n o t s m o o t h . T h e p e r s o n a l d o e s n o t y i e l d t o t h e g e n e r a l w i t h o u t loss. Shostak's r e s e a r c h was b a s e d o n syst e m a t i c i n t e r v i e w s with m o r e t h a n a s c o r e o f !Kung w o m e n . F r o m t h e s e c o n v e r s a t i o n s she a m a s s e d a b o d y o f data l a r g e e n o u g h to r e v e a l

io6

JAMES CLIFFORD

O n Ethnographic Allegory

107

"Earliest M e m o r i e s , " "Family L i f e , " " D i s c o v e r i n g S e x , " " T r i a l M a r riages," "Marriage," "Motherhood and Loss," " W o m e n and Men," " T a k i n g L o v e r s , " " A H e a l i n g Ritual," " G r o w i n g O l d e r . " A l t h o u g h at t h e start o f t h e i n t e r v i e w s N i s a h a d m a p p e d o u t h e r life, s k e t c h i n g the m a i n a r e a s to b e c o v e r e d , the thematic roster a p p e a r s to b e Shostak's. I n d e e d , b y casting Nisa's d i s c o u r s e in the s h a p e o f a "life," S h o s t a k a d d r e s s e s t w o r a t h e r d i f f e r e n t a u d i e n c e s . O n o n e side, this intensely p e r s o n a l c o l l e c t i o n o f m e m o r i e s is m a d e suitable for scientific typificat i o n as a "life-history" o r "life-cycle." O n t h e o t h e r , Nisa's life b r i n g s i n t o play a p o t e n t a n d p e r v a s i v e m e c h a n i s m for the p r o d u c t i o n o f m e a n i n g in t h e W e s t t h e e x e m p l a r y , c o h e r e n t self (or r a t h e r , the self p u l l i n g itself t o g e t h e r in a u t o b i o g r a p h y ) . T h e r e is n o t h i n g u n i v e r s a l o r n a t u r a l a b o u t the fictional processes o f b i o g r a p h y a n d a u t o b i o g r a p h y ( G u s d o r f 1 9 5 6 ; O l n e y 1 9 7 2 ; L e j e u n e 1975)- L i v i n g d o e s n o t easily o r g a n i z e itself into a c o n t i n u o u s narrative. W h e n Nisa says, as she o f t e n d o e s , " W e lived in that place, e a t i n g things. T h e n w e left a n d w e n t s o m e w h e r e else," o r simply, " w e lived a n d l i v e d " (69), the h u m o f u n m a r k e d , i m p e r s o n a l e x i s t e n c e c a n be h e a r d . F r o m this b l u r r e d b a c k g r o u n d , a n a r r a t i v e s h a p e e m e r g e s in the occasion o f s p e a k i n g , s i m u l t a n e o u s l y to o n e s e l f a n d a n o t h e r . Nisa tells h e r life, a p r o c e s s t e x t u a l l y d r a m a t i z e d in Shostak's b o o k . A s alter e g o , p r o v o k e r , a n d e d i t o r o f the d i s c o u r s e , S h o s t a k m a k e s a n u m b e r o f significant i n t e r v e n t i o n s . A g o o d d e a l o f c u t t i n g a n d rea r r a n g i n g t r a n s f o r m s o v e r l a p p i n g stories into "a life" t h a t d o e s n o t r e p e a t itself u n d u l y a n d that d e v e l o p s by r e c o g n i z a b l e steps a n d passages. Nisa's distinct voice e m e r g e s . B u t Shostak has systematically rem o v e d h e r o w n i n t e r v e n t i o n s ( t h o u g h they can often b e s e n s e d in Nisa's r e s p o n s e ) . S h e has also taken o u t a variety o f n a r r a t i v e m a r k e r s : h e r friend's habitual c o m m e n t at the e n d o f a story, "the w i n d has t a k e n t h a t away," o r at t h e start, "I will b r e a k o p e n t h e story a n d tell y o u what's t h e r e " ; o r in t h e m i d d l e , " W h a t a m I t r y i n g to d o ? H e r e I a m sitting, t a l k i n g a b o u t o n e story, a n d a n o t h e r r u n s r i g h t into m y h e a d a n d into m y t h o u g h t s ! " (40). Shostak has clearly t h o u g h t c a r e fully a b o u t t h e f r a m i n g o f h e r transcripts, a n d o n e c a n n o t h a v e e v e r y t h i n g t h e p e r f o r m a n c e with all its d i v a g a t i o n s , a n d also an easily u n d e r s t a n d a b l e story. I f Nisa's w o r d s w e r e to be widely r e a d , c o n c e s s i o n s h a d to b e m a d e to t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s o f b i o g r a p h i c a l a l l e g o r y , to a r e a d e r s h i p p r a c t i c e d in the ethical i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f selves. B y t h e s e f o r m a l m e a n s the book's s e c o n d d i s c o u r s e , Nisa's s p o k e n life, is b r o u g h t close to its r e a d e r s , b e c o m i n g a n a r r a t i o n that m a k e s e l o q u e n t " h u m a n " sense. T h e b o o k ' s t h i r d distinct r e g i s t e r is Shostak's p e r s o n a l a c c o u n t o f fieldwork. " T e a c h m e w h a t it is to b e a !Kung w o m a n " was the q u e s t i o n

she a s k e d o f h e r i n f o r m a n t s (349). I f Nisa r e s p o n d e d w i t h p e c u l i a r a p t n e s s , h e r w o r d s also s e e m e d to a n s w e r a n o t h e r q u e s t i o n , " W h a t is it to b e a w o m a n ? " Shostak told h e r i n f o r m a n t s "that I w a n t e d to l e a r n w h a t it m e a n t to b e a w o m a n in their c u l t u r e so I c o u l d b e t t e r u n d e r s t a n d w h a t it m e a n t in my o w n . " W i t h Nisa, the r e l a t i o n s h i p b e c a m e , in !Kung t e r m s , that o f an a u n t talking to a y o u n g n i e c e , to "a girlw o m a n , r e c e n t l y m a r r i e d , s t r u g g l i n g with t h e issues o f l o v e , m a r r i a g e , sexuality, w o r k a n d identity" (4). T h e y o u n g e r w o m a n ("niece," s o m e times " d a u g h t e r " ) is instructed b y an e x p e r i e n c e d e l d e r in t h e arts a n d p a i n s o f w o m a n h o o d . T h e t r a n s f o r m i n g relationship e n d s with a n equality in affection a n d respect, a n d with a final w o r d , p o t e n t in feminist m e a n i n g : "sister" ( 3 7 1 ) . Nisa speaks, t h r o u g h o u t , n o t as a n e u t r a l witness b u t as a p e r s o n g i v i n g specific kinds o f a d v i c e to s o m e o n e o f a p a r t i c u l a r a g e with manifest questions a n d desires. S h e is n o t an " i n f o r m a n t " s p e a k i n g cultural truths, as if to e v e r y o n e a n d n o o n e , p r o v i d i n g i n f o r m a t i o n r a t h e r t h a n circumstantial r e s p o n s e s . I n h e r a c c o u n t , S h o s t a k describes a search for p e r s o n a l k n o w l e d g e , f o r s o m e t h i n g g o i n g b e y o n d the usual e t h n o g r a p h i c r a p p o r t . S h e h o p e s that i n t i m a c y with a !Kung w o m a n will, s o m e h o w , e n l a r g e o r d e e p e n h e r sense o f b e i n g a m o d e r n W e s t e r n w o m a n . W i t h o u t d r a w i n g e x p l i c i t lessons f r o m Nisa's e x p e r i e n c e , she d r a m a t i z e s t h r o u g h h e r o w n q u e s t the w a y a n a r r a t e d life m a k e s sense, a l l e g o r i cally, for another. Nisa's story is r e v e a l e d as a j o i n t p r o d u c t i o n , the o u t c o m e o f a n e n c o u n t e r that c a n n o t be r e w r i t t e n as a subject-object dic h o t o m y . S o m e t h i n g m o r e t h a n e x p l a i n i n g o r r e p r e s e n t i n g the life a n d w o r d s o f a n o t h e r is g o i n g o n s o m e t h i n g m o r e o p e n - e n d e d . T h e b o o k is p a r t o f a n e w interest in r e v a l u i n g subjective ( m o r e accurately, in ter subjective) aspects o f r e s e a r c h . It e m e r g e s f r o m a crucial m o m e n t o f f e m i n i s t politics a n d e p i s t e m o l o g y : consciousness r a i s i n g a n d the s h a r i n g o f e x p e r i e n c e s by w o m e n . A c o m m o n a l i t y is p r o d u c e d that, by b r i n g i n g s e p a r a t e lives t o g e t h e r , e m p o w e r s p e r s o n a l action, r e c o g nizes a c o m m o n estate. T h i s m o m e n t o f r e c e n t feminist c o n s c i o u s n e s s is a l l e g o r i z e d in Nisa's fable o f its o w n relationality. (In o t h e r ethn o g r a p h i e s , traditionally m a s c u l i n e stories o f initiation a n d p e n e t r a tion d i f f e r e n t l y stage the p r o d u c t i v e e n c o u n t e r o f self a n d o t h e r . ) Shostak's e x p l i c i t feminist a l l e g o r y thus reflects a specific m o m e n t in w h i c h t h e c o n s t r u c t i o n o f " w o m a n ' s " e x p e r i e n c e is g i v e n c e n t e r s t a g e . It is a m o m e n t o f c o n t i n u i n g i m p o r t a n c e ; b u t it has b e e n c h a l l e n g e d b y r e c e n t c o u n t e r c u r r e n t s within feminist theory. T h e assertion o f c o m m o n f e m a l e qualities (and oppressions) across racial, ethnic, a n d class lines is n e w l y p r o b l e m a t i c . A n d in s o m e q u a r t e r s " w o m a n " is
6

0. O n ethnography as an allegory of conquest and initiation, see Clifford 1983b.

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s e e n , n o t as a l o c u s o f e x p e r i e n c e , b u t as a shifting subjective p o s i t i o n n o t r e d u c i b l e to a n y e s s e n c e . S h o s t a k ' s a l l e g o r y s e e m s to r e g i s t e r t h e s e c o u n t e r c u r r e n t s in its occ a s i o n a l l y c o m p l e x a c c o u n t s o f the p r o c e s s e s o f play a n d t r a n s f e r e n c e , w h i c h p r o d u c e t h e final inscription o f c o m m o n a l i t y . For the book's int i m a t e r e l a t i o n s h i p s are based o n subtle, r e c i p r o c a l m o v e m e n t s o f d o u b l i n g , i m a g i n a t i o n , a n d desire, m o v e m e n t s a l l e g o r i z e d in o n e o f t h e stories S h o s t a k tells in c o u n t e r p o i n t to Nisa's n a r r a t i v e a n incid e n t t u r n i n g o n t h e v a l u e o f a girl-woman's b o d y . O n e day I noticed a twelve-year-old girl, whose breasts had just started to develop, looking into the small mirror beside the driver's window o f our Land Rover. S h e looked intently at her face, then, o n tiptoe, examined her breasts and as m u c h o f her body as she could see, then went to her face again. She stepped back to see more, moved in again for a closer look. She was a lovely girl, although not outstanding in any way except being in the full health a n d beauty o f youth. S h e saw m e watching. I teased in the !Kung manner I had by then thoroughly learned, "So ugly! H o w is such a young girl already so ugly?" She laughed. I asked, "You don't agree?" She beamed, "No, not at all. I'm beautiful!" She continued to look at herself. I said, "Beautiful? Perhaps my eyes have b e c o m e broken with age that I can't see where it is?" She said, "Everywhere my face, my body. T h e r e is no ugliness at all." T h e s e remarks were said easily, with a broad smile, but without arrogance. T h e pleasure she felt in her changing body was as evident as the absence of conflict about it. (270) A g r e a t d e a l o f t h e b o o k is h e r e : an old voice, a y o u n g voice, a m i r r o r . . . talk o f self-possession. Narcissism, a t e r m o f d e v i a n c e a p p l i e d to w o m e n o f the West, is t r a n s f i g u r e d . W e notice, too, that it is t h e e t h n o g r a p h e r , a s s u m i n g a voice o f a g e , w h o has b r o u g h t a m i r r o r , j u s t as N i s a p r o v i d e s an allegorical m i r r o r w h e n Shostak takes t h e r o l e o f y o u t h . E t h n o g r a p h y gains subjective " d e p t h " t h r o u g h the sorts o f r o l e s , reflections, a n d reversals d r a m a t i z e d h e r e . T h e w r i t e r , a n d h e r r e a d e r s , c a n b e b o t h y o u n g (learning) a n d o l d ( k n o w i n g ) . T h e y c a n s i m u l t a n e o u s l y listen, a n d " g i v e voice to," the other." Nisa's r e a d e r s f o l l o w a n d p r o l o n g t h e play o f a desire. T h e y i m a g i n e , in t h e m i r 7. O n racial and class divisions within feminism, see the rethinking of Rich ( 1979), and the work o f Hull, Scott, and Smith (1982), Hooks (1981), and Moraga (1983). Strong feminist critiques o f essentialism may be found in Wittig (1981) and Haraway (1985)8. Ethnographies often present themselves as fictions of learning, the acquisition of knowledge, and finally of authority to understand and represent another culture. T h e researcher begins in a child's relationship to adult culture, and ends by speaking with the wisdom o f experience. It is interesting to observe how, in the text, an author's enunciative modes may shift back and forth between learning from and speaking for the other. This fictional freedom is crucial to ethnography's allegorical appeal: the simultaneous reconstruction o f a culture and a knowing self, a double "coming o f age in Samoa."

r o r o f t h e o t h e r , a guileless self-possession, an u n c o m p l i c a t e d f e e l i n g o f " a t t r a c t i v e n e s s " that S h o s t a k translates as "I h a v e w o r k , " "I a m p r o d u c t i v e , " "I h a v e w o r t h " (270). A n t h r o p o l o g i c a l fieldwork has b e e n r e p r e s e n t e d as b o t h a s c i e n tific " l a b o r a t o r y " a n d a p e r s o n a l "rite o f p a s s a g e . " T h e t w o m e t a p h o r s c a p t u r e n i c e l y t h e discipline's impossible a t t e m p t to fuse objective a n d subjective practices. U n t i l recently, this impossibility w a s m a s k e d b y m a r g i n a l i z i n g t h e intersubjective f o u n d a t i o n s o f fieldwork, b y e x c l u d i n g t h e m f r o m serious e t h n o g r a p h i c texts, r e l e g a t i n g t h e m to prefaces, m e m o i r s , a n e c d o t e s , confessions, a n d so forth. L a t e l y this set o f d i s c i p l i n a r y r u l e s is g i v i n g way. T h e n e w t e n d e n c y to n a m e a n d q u o t e i n f o r m a n t s m o r e fully a n d to i n t r o d u c e p e r s o n a l e l e m e n t s i n t o t h e t e x t is a l t e r i n g e t h n o g r a p h y ' s discursive strategy a n d m o d e o f a u t h o r ity. M u c h o f o u r k n o w l e d g e a b o u t o t h e r c u l t u r e s m u s t n o w b e s e e n as c o n t i n g e n t , t h e p r o b l e m a t i c o u t c o m e o f intersubjective d i a l o g u e , translation, a n d p r o j e c t i o n . T h i s poses f u n d a m e n t a l p r o b l e m s f o r a n y s c i e n c e t h a t m o v e s p r e d o m i n a n t l y f r o m the particular to t h e g e n e r a l , that c a n m a k e u s e o f p e r s o n a l truths o n l y as e x a m p l e s o f typical p h e n o m e n a o r as e x c e p t i o n s to collective patterns. O n c e t h e e t h n o g r a p h i c process is a c c o r d e d its full c o m p l e x i t y o f h i s t o r i c i z e d d i a l o g i c a l relations, w h a t f o r m e r l y s e e m e d to be e m p i r i c a l / i n t e r p r e t i v e a c c o u n t s o f g e n e r a l i z e d cultural facts (statements a n d attributions c o n c e r n i n g "the !Kung," "the S a m o a n s , " etc.) n o w a p p e a r as j u s t o n e level o f a l l e g o r y . S u c h a c c o u n t s m a y , b e c o m p l e x a n d t r u t h ful; a n d t h e y a r e , in p r i n c i p l e , susceptible to refutation, a s s u m i n g access to the s a m e p o o l o f c u l t u r a l facts. B u t as written v e r s i o n s b a s e d o n fieldwork, these a c c o u n t s a r e clearly n o l o n g e r the story, b u t a story a m o n g o t h e r stories. Nisa's d i s c o r d a n t allegorical r e g i s t e r s t h e b o o k ' s three, never quite manageable, "voices"reflect a troubled, inventive m o m e n t in t h e history o f cross-cultural r e p r e s e n t a t i o n .
AAA

Welcome o f Tears is a beautiful book, combining the stories of a vanishing people and the growth of an anthropologist.
MARGARET MEAD, blurb for the paperback edition

of Charles Wagley's Welcome of Tears

E t h n o g r a p h i c texts are n o t only, o r p r e d o m i n a n t l y , a l l e g o r i e s . I n d e e d , as w e h a v e s e e n , they s t r u g g l e to limit the play o f their " e x t r a " m e a n i n g s , s u b o r d i n a t i n g t h e m to m i m e t i c , r e f e r e n t i a l f u n c t i o n s . T h i s s t r u g g l e ( w h i c h o f t e n i n v o l v e s disputes o v e r w h a t will c o u n t as "scientific" t h e o r y a n d w h a t as "literary" i n v e n t i o n o r " i d e o l o g i c a l " p r o j e c tion) m a i n t a i n s disciplinary a n d g e n e r i c c o n v e n t i o n s . I f e t h n o g r a p h y as a tool for positive science is to be p r e s e r v e d , such c o n v e n t i o n s m u s t

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mask, or direct, multiple allegorical processes. For m a y n o t every ext e n d e d d e s c r i p t i o n , stylistic t u r n , story, o r m e t a p h o r b e r e a d t o m e a n s o m e t h i n g else? ( N e e d w e accept the three explicit levels o f allegory in a b o o k l i k e Nisa} W h a t a b o u t its p h o t o g r a p h s , w h i c h tell t h e i r o w n s t o r y ? ) A r e n o t r e a d i n g s t h e m s e l v e s u n d e c i d a b l e ? Critics l i k e D e M a n (1979) rigorously a d o p t such a position, a r g u i n g that the choice o f a d o m i n a n t r h e t o r i c , figure, o r n a r r a t i v e m o d e i n a t e x t is a l w a y s a n i m perfect attempt to i m p o s e a reading or range o f readings o n a n interp r e t i v e p r o c e s s t h a t is o p e n - e n d e d , a s e r i e s o f d i s p l a c e d " m e a n i n g s " w i t h n o full s t o p . B u t w h e r e a s t h e f r e e play o f r e a d i n g s m a y i n t h e o r y b e i n f i n i t e , t h e r e a r e , at a n y historical m o m e n t , a l i m i t e d r a n g e o f c a n o n i c a l a n d e m e r g e n t a l l e g o r i e s available t o t h e c o m p e t e n t r e a d e r ( t h e r e a d e r w h o s e i n t e r p r e t a t i o n will b e d e e m e d p l a u s i b l e b y a specific c o m m u n i t y ) . T h e s e structures o f m e a n i n g are historically b o u n d e d a n d c o e r c i v e . T h e r e is, i n p r a c t i c e , n o "free play." W i t h i n this h i s t o r i c a l p r e d i c a m e n t , t h e c r i t i q u e o f s t o r i e s a n d p a t terns that persistently i n f o r m cross-cultural accounts r e m a i n s a n i m p o r t a n t political as w e l l a s scientific task. I n t h e r e m a i n d e r o f this e s s a y I e x p l o r e a b r o a d , orienting allegory (or m o r e accurately, a pattern o f p o s s i b l e a l l e g o r i e s ) t h a t h a s r e c e n t l y e m e r g e d as a c o n t e s t e d a r e a a structure o f retrospection that m a y b e called "ethnographic pastoral." Shostak's b o o k a n d the Harvard hunter-gatherer studies, to the e x t e n t t h a t t h e y e n g a g e i n a s e a r c h f o r f u n d a m e n t a l , d e s i r a b l e h u m a n traits, a r e e n m e s h e d i n this s t r u c t u r e . I n a t r e n c h a n t article, " T h e U s e a n d A b u s e o f A n t h r o p o l o g y : R e flections o n Feminism and Cross-Cultural Understanding," Michelle R o s a l d o h a s q u e s t i o n e d a p e r s i s t e n t t e n d e n c y to a p p r o p r i a t e e t h n o g r a p h i c d a t a i n t h e f o r m o f a s e a r c h f o r o r i g i n s . A n a l y s e s o f social " g i v e n s " s u c h as g e n d e r a n d s e x u a l i t y s h o w a n a l m o s t r e f l e x i v e n e e d for anthropological just-so-stories. B e g i n n i n g with S i m o n e d e B e a u v o i r ' s f o u n d i n g q u e s t i o n , " W h a t is w o m a n ? " s c h o l a r l y d i s c u s s i o n s "move . . . to a diagnosis o f contemporary subordination a n d f r o m t h e n o n to t h e q u e r i e s 'Were things always as they are today?' a n d t h e n ' W h e n d i d "it" start?'" ( 1 9 8 0 : 3 9 1 ) . E n t e r e x a m p l e s d r a w n f r o m e t h n o g r a p h y . In a practice n o t essentially different f r o m that o f H e r b e r t S p e n c e r , H e n r y M a i n e , D u r k h e i m , E n g e l s , o r F r e u d , it is a s s u m e d t h a t e v i d e n c e f r o m " s i m p l e " s o c i e t i e s will i l l u m i n a t e t h e o r i g i n s a n d structure o f c o n t e m p o r a r y cultural patterns. Rosaldo notes that m o s t scientific a n t h r o p o l o g i s t s h a v e , s i n c e t h e early t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y , a b a n d o n e d t h e evolutionary search for origins, b u t h e r essay s u g g e s t s t h a t t h e r e f l e x is p e r v a s i v e a n d e n d u r i n g . M o r e o v e r , e v e n s c i e n t i f i c e t h n o g r a p h e r s c a n n o t fully c o n t r o l t h e m e a n i n g s r e a d i n g s p r o v o k e d b y t h e i r a c c o u n t s . T h i s is e s p e c i a l l y t r u e o f r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s that

have n o t historicized their objects, portraying exotic societies in a n " e t h n o g r a p h i c p r e s e n t " ( w h i c h is always, i n fact, a past). T h i s s y n c h r o n i c s u s p e n s i o n effectively textualizes the other, a n d gives t h e s e n s e o f a reality n o t i n t e m p o r a l f l u x , n o t i n t h e s a m e a m b i g u o u s , m o v i n g historical p r e s e n t t h a t i n c l u d e s a n d s i t u a t e s t h e o t h e r , t h e e t h n o g r a p h e r , a n d the reader. "Allochronic" representations, to u s e J o h a n n e s Fabian's t e r m , h a v e b e e n p e r v a s i v e i n t w e n t i e t h - c e n t u r y scientific e t h n o g r a p h y . T h e y invite allegorical a p p r o p r i a t i o n s in t h e mythologizing m o d e Rosaldo repudiates. E v e n t h e m o s t c o o l l y a n a l y t i c a c c o u n t s m a y b e b u i l t o n this r e t r o s p e c t i v e a p p r o p r i a t i o n . E. E. E v a n s - P r i t c h a r d ' s The Nuer (1940) is a c a s e i n p o i n t , f o r it p o r t r a y s a n a p p e a l i n g l y h a r m o n i o u s a n a r c h y , a s o c i e t y u n c o r r u p t e d b y a Fall. H e n r i k a K u k l i c k (1984) h a s a n a l y z e d The Nuer ( i n t h e c o n t e x t o f a b r o a d t r e n d i n B r i t i s h political a n t h r o p o l o g y c o n c e r n e d w i t h a c e p h a l o u s "tribal" s o c i e t i e s ) as a political a l l e g o r y r e i n s c r i b i n g a r e c u r r e n t "folk m o d e l " o f A n g l o - S a x o n d e m o c r a c y . W h e n E v a n s - P r i t c h a r d w r i t e s , " T h e r e is n o m a s t e r a n d n o s e r v a n t i n t h e i r s o c i e t y , b u t o n l y e q u a l s w h o r e g a r d t h e m s e l v e s as G o d ' s n o b l e s t c r e a t i o n , " it is n o t difficult t o h e a r e c h o e s o f a l o n g political t r a d i t i o n o f n o s t a l g i a f o r "an e g a l i t a r i a n , c o n t r a c t u a l u n i o n " o f f r e e i n d i v i d u a l s . E d e n i c o v e r t o n e s a r e o c c a s i o n a l l y u n d e r s c o r e d , as a l w a y s w i t h E v a n s P r i t c h a r d , drily. T h o u g h I have spoken of time and units o f time the N u e r have n o expression equivalent to "time" in our language, and they cannot, therefore, as we can, speak of time as t h o u g h it were something actual, which passes, can be wasted, can be saved, and so forth. I do not think that they ever experience the same feeling of fighting against time or o f having to coordinate activities with an abstract passage of time, because their points o f reference are mainly the activities themselves, which are generally o f a leisurely character. Events follow a logical order, but they are not controlled by an abstract system, there being n o a u t o n o m o u s points o f reference to which activities have to conform with precision. N u e r are fortunate. ( 1 0 3 ) For a r e a d e r s h i p c a u g h t u p in t h e post-Darwinian b o u r g e o i s e x p e r i e n c e o f t i m e a linear, relentless progress leading n o w h e r e certain a n d p e r m i t t i n g n o p a u s e o r cyclic r e t u r n , t h e c u l t u r a l i s l a n d s o u t o f t i m e ( o r " w i t h o u t history") d e s c r i b e d by m a n y e t h n o g r a p h e r s h a v e a persistent prelapsarian appeal. W e note, however, the ironic structure ( w h i c h n e e d n o t i m p l y a n i r o n i c t o n e ) o f s u c h a l l e g o r i e s . For t h e y a r e p r e s e n t e d t h r o u g h t h e d e t o u r o f a n e t h n o g r a p h i c subjectivity w h o s e a t t i t u d e t o w a r d t h e o t h e r is o n e o f p a r t i c i p a n t - o b s e r v a t i o n , o r b e t t e r perhaps, belief-skepticism (See Webster 1982:93). N u e r are fortun a t e . ( W e a r e u n f o r t u n a t e . ) T h e a p p e a l is fictional, t h e t e m p o r a l e a s e

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a n d attractive anarchy o f N u e r society are distant, irretrievable. T h e y are lost qualities, textually recovered. T h i s ironic appeal belongs to a broad ideological pattern that has o r i e n t e d m u c h , p e r h a p s most, twentieth century cross-cultural repres e n t a t i o n . "For u s , p r i m i t i v e s o c i e t i e s [Naturvlker] a r e e p h e m e r a l . . . . A t t h e very instant they b e c o m e k n o w n to us they are d o o m e d . " T h u s , A d o l p h B a s t i a n i n 1881 ( q u o t e d i n Fabian 1 9 8 3 : 1 2 2 ) . I n 1 9 2 1 , B r o n i s l a w M a l i n o w s k i : " E t h n o l o g y is i n t h e s a d l y l u d i c r o u s , n o t t o say t r a g i c p o s i t i o n , t h a t at t h e v e r y m o m e n t w h e n it b e g i n s t o p u t its w o r k s h o p i n o r d e r , t o f o r g e its p r o p e r t o o l s , t o start r e a d y f o r w o r k o n its a p p o i n t e d task, t h e m a t e r i a l o f its s t u d y m e l t s away w i t h h o p e l e s s r a p i d i t y " ( 1 9 6 1 : x v ) . A u t h e n t i c T r o b r i a n d society, h e i m p l i e d , w a s n o t l o n g f o r this w o r l d . Writing in t h e 1950s, C l a u d e Lvi-Strauss saw a g l o b a l p r o c e s s o f e n t r o p y . Tristes Tropiques s a d l y p o r t r a y s d i f f e r e n t i a t e d social structures disintegrating into global h o m o g e n e i t y u n d e r the shock o f contact with a potent monoculture. A Rousseauian quest f o r " e l e m e n t a r y " f o r m s o f h u m a n collectivity l e a d s L v i - S t r a u s s t o t h e N a m b i k w a r a . B u t t h e i r w o r l d is f a l l i n g a p a r t . "I h a d b e e n l o o k i n g f o r a s o c i e t y r e d u c e d t o its s i m p l e s t e x p r e s s i o n . T h a t o f t h e N a m b i k w a r a w a s s o t r u l y s i m p l e t h a t all I c o u l d find i n it w a s i n d i v i d u a l h u m a n beings" (1975:317). T h e t h e m e o f t h e vanishing primitive, o f t h e e n d o f traditional s o c i e t y ( t h e v e r y a c t o f n a m i n g it "traditional" i m p l i e s a r u p t u r e ) , is p e r v a s i v e i n e t h n o g r a p h i c w r i t i n g . It is, i n R a y m o n d Williams's p h r a s e , a " s t r u c t u r e o f f e e l i n g " ( 1 9 7 3 : 1 2 ) . U n d e n i a b l y , w a y s o f life c a n , i n a m e a n i n g f u l s e n s e , "die"; p o p u l a t i o n s a r e r e g u l a r l y v i o l e n t l y d i s r u p t e d , s o m e t i m e s e x t e r m i n a t e d . T r a d i t i o n s a r e c o n s t a n t l y b e i n g lost. B u t t h e persistent a n d repetitious "disappearance" o f social f o r m s at t h e m o m e n t o f their e t h n o g r a p h i c representation d e m a n d s analysis as a n a r r a t i v e s t r u c t u r e . A f e w y e a r s a g o t h e American Ethnologist p r i n t e d a n a r t i c l e b a s e d o n r e c e n t fieldwork a m o n g t h e N a m b i k w a r a w h o a r e still s o m e t h i n g m o r e t h a n " i n d i v i d u a l h u m a n b e i n g s . " A n d l i v i n g T r o b r i a n d c u l t u r e h a s b e e n t h e o b j e c t o f r e c e n t field s t u d y ( W e i n e r 1 9 7 6 ) . T h e n o w - f a m i l i a r film Trobriand Cricket s h o w s a v e r y d i s t i n c t w a y o f life, r e i n v e n t i n g itself u n d e r t h e c o n d i t i o n s o f c o l o nialism a n d early n a t i o n h o o d . E t h n o g r a p h y ' s d i s a p p e a r i n g o b j e c t is, t h e n , i n s i g n i f i c a n t d e g r e e , a r h e t o r i c a l c o n s t r u c t l e g i t i m a t i n g a r e p r e s e n t a t i o n a l p r a c t i c e : "salv a g e " e t h n o g r a p h y i n its w i d e s t s e n s e . T h e o t h e r is lost, i n d i s i n t e g r a t i n g time a n d space, b u t saved in t h e text. T h e rationale f o r f o c u s i n g one's attention o n vanishing lore, for rescuing in writing t h e knowle d g e o f o l d p e o p l e , m a y b e s t r o n g ( t h o u g h it d e p e n d s o n l o c a l c i r c u m stances a n d c a n n o t a n y l o n g e r b e generalized). I d o n o t wish to d e n y

specific cases o f d i s a p p e a r i n g c u s t o m s a n d l a n g u a g e s , or to c h a l l e n g e the value of recording such phenomena. I do, however, question the a s s u m p t i o n t h a t w i t h r a p i d c h a n g e s o m e t h i n g e s s e n t i a l ("culture"), a c o h e r e n t differential identity, vanishes. A n d I question, t o o , t h e m o d e o f scientific a n d m o r a l a u t h o r i t y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h s a l v a g e , o r r e d e m p t i v e , e t h n o g r a p h y . It is a s s u m e d t h a t t h e o t h e r s o c i e t y is w e a k a n d " n e e d s " t o b e r e p r e s e n t e d b y a n o u t s i d e r ( a n d t h a t w h a t m a t t e r s i n its life is its p a s t , n o t p r e s e n t o r f u t u r e ) . T h e r e c o r d e r a n d i n t e r p r e t e r o f f r a g i l e c u s t o m is c u s t o d i a n o f a n e s s e n c e , u n i m p e a c h a b l e w i t n e s s t o a n a u t h e n t i c i t y . ( M o r e o v e r , s i n c e t h e "true" c u l t u r e h a s a l w a y s v a n i s h e d , t h e s a l v a g e d v e r s i o n c a n n o t b e easily r e f u t e d . ) S u c h attitudes, t h o u g h they persist, are d i m i n i s h i n g . Few a n t h r o pologists today would e m b r a c e the logic o f e t h n o g r a p h y in t h e terms i n w h i c h it w a s e n u n c i a t e d i n F r a n z Boas's t i m e , as a l a s t - c h a n c e r e s c u e o p e r a t i o n . B u t t h e a l l e g o r y o f s a l v a g e is d e e p l y i n g r a i n e d . I n d e e d , I s h a l l a r g u e i n a m o m e n t t h a t it is built i n t o t h e c o n c e p t i o n a n d p r a c t i c e o f e t h n o g r a p h y a s a p r o c e s s o f w r i t i n g , specifically o f t e x t u a l i z a t i o n . E v e r y d e s c r i p t i o n o r i n t e r p r e t a t i o n t h a t c o n c e i v e s i t s e l f as "bringing a culture into writing," m o v i n g from oral-discursive experie n c e ( t h e "native's," t h e fieldworker's) t o a w r i t t e n v e r s i o n o f t h a t e x p e r i e n c e ( t h e e t h n o g r a p h i c text) is e n a c t i n g t h e s t r u c t u r e o f " s a l v a g e . " T o t h e e x t e n t t h a t t h e e t h n o g r a p h i c p r o c e s s is s e e n as i n s c r i p t i o n ( r a t h e r t h a n , f o r e x a m p l e , as t r a n s c r i p t i o n , o r d i a l o g u e ) t h e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n will c o n t i n u e t o e n a c t a p o t e n t , a n d q u e s t i o n a b l e , a l l e g o r i c a l structure. T h i s s t r u c t u r e is a p p r o p r i a t e l y l o c a t e d w i t h i n a l o n g W e s t e r n trad i t i o n o f p a s t o r a l (a t o p i c a l s o d e v e l o p e d b y R e n a t o R o s a l d o i n this v o l u m e ) . R a y m o n d Williams's The Country and the City ( 1 9 7 3 ) , w h i l e d r a w i n g o n an established tradition o f scholarship o n pastoral ( E m p s o n 1950, K e r m o d e 1952, Frye 1 9 7 1 , Poggioli 1 9 7 5 , a m o n g others) strains t o w a r d a global scope wide e n o u g h to a c c o m m o d a t e e t h n o g r a p h i c w r i t i n g . H e s h o w s h o w a f u n d a m e n t a l c o n t r a s t b e t w e e n city a n d c o u n t r y a l i g n s itself w i t h o t h e r p e r v a s i v e o p p o s i t i o n s : c i v i l i z e d a n d p r i m i t i v e , W e s t a n d " n o n - W e s t , " f u t u r e a n d past. H e a n a l y z e s a c o m p l e x , i n v e n t i v e , strongly p a t t e r n e d set o f r e s p o n s e s to social dislocation a n d c h a n g e , s t r e t c h i n g f r o m classical a n t i q u i t y t o t h e p r e s e n t . W i l l i a m s traces t h e constant r e e m e r g e n c e o f a conventionalized pattern o f retros p e c t i o n that l a m e n t s the loss o f a " g o o d " country, a place w h e r e a u thentic social a n d natural contacts w e r e o n c e possible. H e s o o n , h o w e v e r , n o t e s a n u n s e t t l i n g r e g r e s s i o n . F o r e a c h t i m e o n e finds a w r i t e r l o o k i n g b a c k t o a h a p p i e r p l a c e , t o a lost, " o r g a n i c " m o m e n t , o n e finds a n o t h e r w r i t e r o f t h a t e a r l i e r p e r i o d l a m e n t i n g a similar, p r e v i o u s d i s a p p e a r a n c e . T h e u l t i m a t e r e f e r e n t is, o f c o u r s e , E d e n (912).

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W i l l i a m s d o e s n o t d i s m i s s this s t r u c t u r e as s i m p l y n o s t a l g i c , w h i c h it m a n i f e s t l y is; b u t r a t h e r f o l l o w s o u t a v e r y c o m p l e x set o f t e m p o r a l , spatial, a n d m o r a l positions. H e notes that pastoral frequently inv o l v e s a critical nostalgia, a w a y (as D i a m o n d [ 1 9 7 4 ] a r g u e s f o r a c o n cept o f t h e primitive) to break with the h e g e m o n i c , corrupt present by a s s e r t i n g t h e r e a l i t y o f a r a d i c a l a l t e r n a t i v e . E d w a r d Sapir's " C u l t u r e , G e n u i n e a n d S p u r i o u s " (1966) r e c a p i t u l a t e s t h e s e critical p a s t o r a l values. A n d i n d e e d every imagined authenticity presupposes, a n d is p r o d u c e d by, a p r e s e n t c i r c u m s t a n c e o f felt i n a u t h e n t i c i t y . B u t Williams's t r e a t m e n t suggests that such projections n e e d n o t be consistently located in t h e past; or, w h a t a m o u n t s to t h e s a m e thing, that t h e " g e n u i n e " e l e m e n t s o f c u l t u r a l life n e e d n o t b e r e p e t i t i o u s l y e n c o d e d as f r a g i l e , t h r e a t e n e d , a n d t r a n s i e n t . T h i s s e n s e o f p e r v a s i v e s o c i a l f r a g m e n t a t i o n , o f a c o n s t a n t d i s r u p t i o n o f "natural" r e l a t i o n s , is c h a r a c t e r i s t i c o f a s u b j e c t i v i t y W i l l i a m s l o o s e l y c o n n e c t s w i t h city l i f e a n d w i t h r o m a n t i c i s m . T h e self, c u t l o o s e f r o m viable c o l l e c t i v e ties, is a n identity in search o f w h o l e n e s s , having internalized loss a n d e m b a r k e d o n an endless search for authenticity. W h o l e n e s s by definition b e c o m e s a t h i n g o f t h e p a s t (rural, p r i m i t i v e , c h i l d l i k e ) a c c e s s i b l e o n l y as a fiction, g r a s p e d f r o m a s t a n c e o f i n c o m p l e t e i n v o l v e m e n t . G e o r g e Eliot's n o v e l s e p i t o m i z e this s i t u a t i o n o f p a r t i c i p a n t - o b s e r v a t i o n i n a " c o m m o n condition . . . a knowable c o m m u n i t y , belong[ing] ideally in t h e past." Middlemarch, f o r e x a m p l e , is p r o j e c t e d a g e n e r a t i o n b a c k f r o m t h e t i m e o f its w r i t i n g t o 1830. A n d this is a p p r o x i m a t e l y t h e t e m p o r a l distance that m a n y conventional e t h n o g r a p h i e s a s s u m e w h e n t h e y d e s c r i b e a p a s s i n g reality, "traditional" life, i n t h e p r e s e n t t e n s e . T h e fiction o f a k n o w a b l e c o m m u n i t y "can b e r e c r e a t e d t h e r e for a widely r a n g i n g moral action. B u t the real step that h a s b e e n t a k e n is w i t h d r a w a l f r o m a n y full r e s p o n s e t o a n e x i s t i n g s o c i e t y . V a l u e is i n t h e p a s t , a s a g e n e r a l r e t r o s p e c t i v e c o n d i t i o n , a n d is i n t h e p r e s e n t o n l y as a p a r t i c u l a r a n d p r i v a t e sensibility, t h e i n d i v i d u a l m o r a l a c t i o n " (180). I n G e o r g e E l i o t w e c a n s e e t h e d e v e l o p m e n t o f a style o f s o c i o l o g i cal w r i t i n g t h a t will d e s c r i b e w h o l e c u l t u r e s ( k n o w a b l e w o r l d s ) f r o m a specific temporal distance a n d with a p r e s u m p t i o n o f their transience. T h i s will b e a c c o m p l i s h e d f r o m a l o v i n g , d e t a i l e d , b u t u l t i m a t e l y d i s e n g a g e d , s t a n d p o i n t . H i s t o r i c a l w o r l d s will b e s a l v a g e d as t e x t u a l f a b rications d i s c o n n e c t e d from o n g o i n g lived milieux a n d suitable for moral, allegorical appropriation by individual readers. I n properly ethnographic p a s t o r a l this t e x t u a l i z i n g s t r u c t u r e is g e n e r a l i z e d b e y o n d t h e d i s s o c i a t i o n s o f n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y E n g l a n d t o a w i d e r capitalist t o p o g r a p h y o f W e s t e r n / n o n - W e s t e r n , city/country oppositions. "Primitive," n o n l i t e r a t e , u n d e r d e v e l o p e d , tribal s o c i e t i e s a r e c o n s t a n t l y y i e l d -

i n g to p r o g r e s s , "losing" their traditions. "In t h e n a m e o f science, w e a n t h r o p o l o g i s t s c o m p o s e r e q u i e m s , " writes Robert M u r p h y (1984). B u t t h e m o s t p r o b l e m a t i c , a n d politically c h a r g e d , a s p e c t o f t h i s " p a s t o r a l " e n c o d a t i o n is its r e l e n t l e s s p l a c e m e n t o f o t h e r s i n a p r e s e n t b e c o m i n g - p a s t . W h a t w o u l d it r e q u i r e , f o r e x a m p l e , c o n s i s t e n t l y t o associate t h e inventive, resilient, e n o r m o u s l y varied societies o f M e l a n e s i a w i t h t h e c u l t u r a l future o f t h e p l a n e t ? H o w m i g h t e t h n o g r a p h i e s b e d i f f e r e n t l y c o n c e i v e d i f this s t a n d p o i n t c o u l d b e s e r i o u s l y a d o p t e d ? P a s t o r a l a l l e g o r i e s o f c u l t u r a l loss a n d t e x t u a l r e s c u e w o u l d , in any event, have to be transformed.
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Pervasive a s s u m p t i o n s about e t h n o g r a p h y as writing w o u l d also have to b e altered. For allegories o f salvage are implied by t h e very p r a c t i c e o f t e x t u a l i z a t i o n t h a t is g e n e r a l l y a s s u m e d t o b e at t h e c o r e o f c u l t u r a l d e s c r i p t i o n . W h a t e v e r e l s e a n e t h n o g r a p h y d o e s , it t r a n s l a t e s e x p e r i e n c e into text. T h e r e are various ways o f effecting this translat i o n , w a y s t h a t h a v e s i g n i f i c a n t e t h i c a l a n d political c o n s e q u e n c e s . O n e c a n "write u p " t h e r e s u l t s o f a n i n d i v i d u a l e x p e r i e n c e o f r e s e a r c h . T h i s m a y g e n e r a t e a realistic a c c o u n t o f t h e u n w r i t t e n e x p e r i e n c e o f a n o t h e r g r o u p o r p e r s o n . O n e c a n p r e s e n t this t e x t u a l i z a t i o n as t h e o u t c o m e o f observation, of interpretation, of dialogue. O n e can construct an e t h n o g r a p h y c o m p o s e d o f dialogues. O n e can feature mult i p l e v o i c e s , o r a s i n g l e v o i c e . O n e c a n p o r t r a y t h e o t h e r as a s t a b l e , e s s e n t i a l w h o l e , o r o n e c a n s h o w it t o b e t h e p r o d u c t o f a n a r r a t i v e o f discovery, in specific historical circumstances. I have d i s c u s s e d s o m e o f t h e s e c h o i c e s e l s e w h e r e ( 1 9 8 3 a ) . W h a t is i r r e d u c i b l e , i n all o f t h e m , is t h e a s s u m p t i o n t h a t e t h n o g r a p h y b r i n g s e x p e r i e n c e a n d d i s c o u r s e into writing. T h o u g h t h i s is m a n i f e s t l y t h e c a s e , a n d i n d e e d r e f l e c t s a k i n d o f c o m m o n s e n s e , it is n o t a n i n n o c e n t c o m m o n s e n s e . S i n c e a n t i q u i t y the story o f a passage from the oral/aural into writing has b e e n a c o m p l e x a n d c h a r g e d o n e . Every ethnography enacts such a m o v e m e n t , a n d t h i s is o n e s o u r c e o f t h e p e c u l i a r a u t h o r i t y t h a t finds b o t h r e s c u e a n d irretrievable l o s s a kind o f death in lifein the m a k i n g o f texts f r o m events a n d dialogues. Words a n d deeds are transient (and au-

| | !

9. I n my reading, the most powerful attempt to unthink this temporal setup, by means of an ethnographic invention of Melanesia, is the work of Roy Wagner (1979, 1980). H e opposes, perhaps too sharply, Western "anticipations of the past" with Melanesian "anticipations of the future." T h e former are associated with the idea of culture as a structuring tradition ( 1 9 7 9 : 1 6 2 ) . H u g h Brody's Maps and Dreams (1982) offers a subtle and precise attempt to portray the hunting life of Beaver Indians in northwest Canada as they confront world-system forces, an oil pipeline, hunting for sport, etc. H e presents his work as a political collaboration. And he is careful to keep the future open, uncertain, walking a fine line between narratives of "survival," "acculturation," and "impact."

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t h e n t i c ) , w r i t i n g e n d u r e s (as s u p p l e m e n t a r i t y a n d artifice). T h e t e x t e m b a l m s t h e e v e n t as it e x t e n d s its " m e a n i n g . " S i n c e S o c r a t e s ' r e f u s a l t o w r i t e , i t s e l f p o w e r f u l l y w r i t t e n by P l a t o , a p r o f o u n d a m b i v a l e n c e t o w a r d t h e p a s s a g e f r o m o r a l to l i t e r a t e h a s c h a r a c t e r i z e d W e s t e r n thinking. A n d m u c h o f the power and pathos of ethnography derives f r o m t h e f a c t t h a t it h a s s i t u a t e d its p r a c t i c e w i t h i n this c r u c i a l t r a n s i tion. T h e fieldworker presides over, a n d controls in s o m e d e g r e e , t h e m a k i n g o f a t e x t o u t o f life. H i s o r h e r d e s c r i p t i o n s a n d i n t e r p r e t a tions b e c o m e part o f t h e "consultable record o f what m a n has said" ( G e e r t z 1 9 7 3 : 3 0 ) . T h e t e x t is a r e c o r d o f s o m e t h i n g e n u n c i a t e d , i n a past. T h e s t r u c t u r e , if n o t t h e t h e m a t i c c o n t e n t , o f p a s t o r a l is repeated. A s m a l l p a r a b l e m a y g i v e a s e n s e o f w h y this a l l e g o r y o f e t h n o g r a p h i c r e s c u e a n d loss h a s r e c e n t l y b e c o m e less s e l f - e v i d e n t . It is a t r u e p a r a b l e . A s t u d e n t o f A f r i c a n e t h n ' o - h i s t o r y is c o n d u c t i n g field r e s e a r c h in G a b o n . H e is c o n c e r n e d w i t h t h e M p o n g w , a c o a s t a l g r o u p w h o , in t h e n i n e t e e n t h century, w e r e active in contacts with E u r o p e a n t r a d e r s a n d c o l o n i s t s . T h e "tribe" still e x i s t s , i n t h e r e g i o n o f Libreville, a n d the ethno-historian has arranged to interview the c u r r e n t M p o n g w c h i e f a b o u t t r a d i t i o n a l life, r e l i g i o u s ritual, a n d s o o n . I n p r e p a r a t i o n f o r his i n t e r v i e w t h e r e s e a r c h e r c o n s u l t s a c o m p e n d i u m o f local c u s t o m c o m p i l e d in t h e early twentieth c e n t u r y by a G a b o n e s e Christian a n d p i o n e e r i n g e t h n o g r a p h e r , t h e A b b R a p o n d a - W a l k e r . B e f o r e m e e t i n g with t h e M p o n g w c h i e f t h e ethn o g r a p h e r c o p i e s o u t a list o f r e l i g i o u s t e r m s , i n s t i t u t i o n s a n d c o n c e p t s , r e c o r d e d a n d d e f i n e d b y R a p o n d a - W a l k e r . T h e i n t e r v i e w will f o l l o w this list, c h e c k i n g w h e t h e r t h e c u s t o m s p e r s i s t , a n d if s o , w i t h w h a t i n n o v a t i o n s . A t first t h i n g s g o s m o o t h l y , w i t h t h e M p o n g w a u thority-providing descriptions a n d interpretations of the terms sugg e s t e d , o r else n o t i n g that a practice has b e e n a b a n d o n e d . After a t i m e , h o w e v e r , w h e n t h e r e s e a r c h e r asks a b o u t a p a r t i c u l a r w o r d , t h e c h i e f s e e m s u n c e r t a i n , knits h i s b r o w s . "Just a m o m e n t , " h e says c h e e r f u l l y , a n d d i s a p p e a r s i n t o his h o u s e to r e t u r n w i t h a c o p y o f R a p o n d a - W a l k e r ' s c o m p e n d i u m . For t h e rest o f t h e i n t e r v i e w t h e b o o k lies o p e n o n his lap.
1 0

i n a s t e r i l e s h o r t c i r c u i t . N o r n e e d o n e , l i k e S o c r a t e s i n t h e Phaedrus, l a m e n t t h e e r o s i o n o f m e m o r y by literacy. T h e i n t e r v i e w h a s n o t , s u d denly, b e c o m e "inauthentic," the data merely i m p o s e d . Rather, w h a t o n e m u s t reckon with are n e w conditions o f ethnographic production. First, it is n o l o n g e r p o s s i b l e t o act as if t h e o u t s i d e r e s e a r c h e r is t h e s o l e , o r p r i m a r y , b r i n g e r o f t h e c u l t u r e i n t o w r i t i n g . T h i s h a s , i n fact, s e l d o m b e e n t h e case. H o w e v e r , there has b e e n a consistent t e n d e n c y a m o n g fieldworkers t o h i d e , d i s c r e d i t , o r m a r g i n a l i z e p r i o r w r i t t e n a c c o u n t s (by m i s s i o n a r i e s , t r a v e l e r s , a d m i n i s t r a t o r s , l o c a l a u t h o r i t i e s , e v e n o t h e r e t h n o g r a p h e r s ) . T h e fieldworker, typically, starts f r o m s c r a t c h , f r o m a r e s e a r c h experience, r a t h e r t h a n f r o m r e a d i n g o r t r a n s c r i b i n g . T h e field is n o t c o n c e i v e d o f a s a l r e a d y filled w i t h t e x t s . Yet t h i s i n t e r t e x t u a l p r e d i c a m e n t is m o r e a n d m o r e t h e c a s e ( L a r c o m 1983). S e c o n d , "informants" increasingly r e a d a n d write. T h e y interp r e t p r i o r v e r s i o n s o f t h e i r c u l t u r e , as w e l l as t h o s e b e i n g w r i t t e n b y e t h n o g r a p h i c scholars. Work with t e x t s t h e process o f inscription, r e w r i t i n g , a n d s o f o r t h i s n o l o n g e r (if it e v e r was) t h e e x c l u s i v e d o main o f outside authorities. "Nonliterate" cultures are already text u a l i z e d ; t h e r e a r e f e w , if a n y , "virgin" l i f e w a y s to b e v i o l a t e d a n d p r e served by writing. T h i r d , a very widespread, e m p o w e r i n g distinction h a s b e e n e r o d e d : t h e d i v i s i o n o f t h e g l o b e i n t o literate a n d n o n l i t e r a t e p e o p l e s . T h i s d i s t i n c t i o n is n o l o n g e r w i d e l y a c c u r a t e , as n o n - W e s t e r n , "tribal" p e o p l e s b e c o m e i n c r e a s i n g l y literate. B u t f u r t h e r m o r e , o n c e o n e begins to d o u b t the ethnographer's m o n o p o l y o n the p o w e r to ins c r i b e , o n e b e g i n s t o s e e t h e "writing" activities that h a v e a l w a y s b e e n p u r s u e d b y n a t i v e c o l l a b o r a t o r s f r o m a n A m b r y m islander's s k e t c h (in a f a m o u s g e s t u r e ) o f a n i n t r i c a t e k i n s h i p s y s t e m i n t h e s a n d f o r A. B. D e a c o n to t h e S i o u x G e o r g e Sword's b o o k - l e n g t h cultural d e scription f o u n d in t h e papers o f J a m e s Walker. (See the I n t r o d u c t i o n o f this v o l u m e , p. 15.) | jj ! !
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V e r s i o n s o f this story, in i n c r e a s i n g n u m b e r s , a r e t o b e h e a r d i n "i the folklore o f e t h n o g r a p h y . S u d d e n l y cultural data cease to m o v e j s m o o t h l y f r o m oral p e r f o r m a n c e into descriptive writing. N o w d a t a ! a l s o m o v e f r o m t e x t to t e x t , i n s c r i p t i o n b e c o m e s t r a n s c r i p t i o n . B o t h i n f o r m a n t a n d r e s e a r c h e r a r e r e a d e r s a n d re-writers o f a c u l t u r a l i n - j v e n t i o n . T h i s is n o t t o say, as s o m e m i g h t , t h a t t h e i n t e r v i e w h a s e n d e d |
10. My thanks to Henry Bucher for this true story. I have told it as a parable, both because it is one, and because I suspect he would tell it somewhat differently, having been there.

B u t the m o s t subversive challenge to the allegory o f textualization I h a v e b e e n d i s c u s s i n g h e r e is f o u n d i n t h e w o r k o f D e r r i d a ( 1 9 7 4 ) . P e r h a p s t h e m o s t e n d u r i n g e f f e c t o f h i s revival o f " g r a m m a t o l o g y " h a s b e e n t o e x p a n d w h a t w a s c o n v e n t i o n a l l y t h o u g h t o f a s w r i t i n g . Alphabetic w r i t i n g , h e a r g u e s , is a r e s t r i c t i v e d e f i n i t i o n t h a t ties t h e b r o a d r a n g e o f m a r k s , spatial articulations, gestures, a n d o t h e r inscriptions at w o r k i n h u m a n c u l t u r e s t o o c l o s e l y to t h e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n o f s p e e c h , t h e o r a l / a u r a l w o r d . I n o p p o s i n g l o g o c e n t r i c r e p r e s e n t a t i o n t o criture, h e r a d i c a l l y e x t e n d s t h e d e f i n i t i o n o f t h e "written," in e f f e c t s m u d g i n g its c l e a r d i s t i n c t i o n f r o m t h e " s p o k e n . " T h e r e is n o n e e d h e r e t o p u r s u e i n d e t a i l a d i s o r i e n t i n g p r o j e c t t h a t is b y n o w w e l l k n o w n . W h a t m a t t e r s for e t h n o g r a p h y is t h e c l a i m t h a t all h u m a n g r o u p s write-if t h e y a r t i c u l a t e , classify, p o s s e s s a n " o r a l - l i t e r a t u r e , " o r i n s c r i b e t h e i r w o r l d in ritual acts. T h e y r e p e a t e d l y " t e x t u a l i z e "

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m e a n i n g s . T h u s , in Derrida's epistemology, t h e writing o f e t h n o g r a p h y c a n n o t b e s e e n as a drastically n e w f o r m o f c u l t u r a l i n s c r i p t i o n , as a n e x t e r i o r i m p o s i t i o n o n a " p u r e , " u n w r i t t e n o r a l / a u r a l u n i v e r s e . T h e l o g o s is n o t p r i m a r y a n d t h e gramme its m e r e s e c o n d a r y representation. S e e n i n this l i g h t , t h e p r o c e s s e s o f e t h n o g r a p h i c w r i t i n g a p p e a r m o r e c o m p l e x . If, as D e r r i d a w o u l d say, t h e c u l t u r e s s t u d i e d b y a n t h r o p o l o g i s t s are always already writing themselves, t h e special status of the fieldworker-scholar w h o "brings t h e c u l t u r e i n t o w r i t i n g " is u n d e r c u t . W h o , i n fact, w r i t e s a m y t h t h a t is r e c i t e d i n t o a t a p e r e c o r d e r , o r c o p i e d d o w n t o b e c o m e p a r t o f field n o t e s ? W h o w r i t e s ( i n a sense g o i n g b e y o n d transcription) a n interpretation o f c u s t o m prod u c e d t h r o u g h i n t e n s e c o n v e r s a t i o n s w i t h k n o w l e d g e a b l e n a t i v e coll a b o r a t o r s ? I h a v e a r g u e d that s u c h q u e s t i o n s c a n , a n d s h o u l d , g e n e r ate a r e t h i n k i n g o f e t h n o g r a p h i c authority (Clifford 1983a). I n t h e p r e s e n t c o n t e x t I want merely to u n d e r l i n e t h e pervasive c h a l l e n g e , b o t h h i s t o r i c a l a n d t h e o r e t i c a l i n o r i g i n , that p r e s e n t l y c o n f r o n t s t h e allegory o f e t h n o g r a p h i c practice as textualization. It is i m p o r t a n t t o k e e p t h e a l l e g o r i c a l d i m e n s i o n s i n m i n d . F o r i n t h e W e s t t h e p a s s a g e f r o m o r a l t o l i t e r a t e is a p o t e n t r e c u r r i n g story o f p o w e r , c o r r u p t i o n , a n d loss. It r e p l i c a t e s ( a n d t o a n e x t e n t p r o d u c e s ) t h e structure o f pastoral that h a s b e e n pervasive in t w e n t i e t h c e n t u r y e t h n o g r a p h y . L o g o c e n t r i c w r i t i n g is c o n v e n t i o n a l l y c o n c e i v e d t o b e a representation o f a u t h e n t i c s p e e c h . P r e - l i t e r a t e ( t h e p h r a s e c o n t a i n s a s t o r y ) s o c i e t i e s a r e oral s o c i e t i e s ; w r i t i n g c o m e s t o t h e m f r o m "outside," a n intrusion from a wider world. W h e t h e r b r o u g h t by miss i o n a r y , t r a d e r , o r e t h n o g r a p h e r , w r i t i n g is b o t h e m p o w e r i n g (a n e c essary, effective way o f storing a n d m a n i p u l a t i n g k n o w l e d g e ) a n d c o r r u p t i n g (a l o s s o f i m m e d i a c y , o f t h e f a c e - t o - f a c e c o m m u n i c a t i o n Socrates cherished, o f the presence a n d intimacy o f speech). A c o m p l e x a n d fertile r e c e n t debate has circled a r o u n d t h e valorization, hist o r i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e , a n d e p i s t e m o l o g i c a l status o f w r i t i n g . " W h a t e v e r m a y o r m a y n o t h a v e b e e n s e t t l e d i n t h e d e b a t e , t h e r e is n o d o u b t o f w h a t h a s b e c o m e unsettled: t h e s h a r p distinction o f t h e world's cul- i tures into literate a n d pre-literate; t h e notion that e t h n o g r a p h i c text u a l i z a t i o n is a p r o c e s s t h a t e n a c t s a f u n d a m e n t a l t r a n s i t i o n f r o m o r a l e x p e r i e n c e to written representation; the assumption that s o m e t h i n g e s s e n t i a l is l o s t w h e n a c u l t u r e b e c o m e s " e t h n o g r a p h i c " ; t h e s t r a n g e l y a m b i v a l e n t a u t h o r i t y o f a p r a c t i c e t h a t s a l v a g e s as t e x t a c u l t u r a l life b e c o m i n g past. T h e s e c o m p o n e n t s o f what I have called e t h n o g r a p h i c pastoral n o
1 1 . T h e "debate" centers on the confrontation of Ong (1967, 1977, 1982) and Derrida (1973, 1974). Tyler (1978, 1984b) tries to work past the opposition. Goody (1977) and Eisenstein (1979) have made important recent contributions.

l o n g e r a p p e a r as c o m m o n s e n s e . R e a d i n g a n d w r i t i n g a r e g e n e r a l i z e d . I f t h e e t h n o g r a p h e r r e a d s c u l t u r e o v e r t h e native's s h o u l d e r , t h e n a t i v e a l s o r e a d s o v e r t h e e t h n o g r a p h e r ' s s h o u l d e r as h e o r s h e w r i t e s each cultural description. Fieldworkers are increasingly constrained i n w h a t t h e y p u b l i s h b y t h e r e a c t i o n s o f t h o s e p r e v i o u s l y classified as nonliterate. Novels by a Samoan (Alfred Wendt) can challenge t h e portrait o f his p e o p l e by a distinguished anthropologist. T h e notion t h a t w r i t i n g is a c o r r u p t i o n , t h a t s o m e t h i n g i r r e t r i e v a b l y p u r e is lost w h e n a c u l t u r a l w o r l d is t e x t u a l i z e d is, a f t e r D e r r i d a , s e e n t o b e a p e r vasive, contestable, Western allegory. Walter O n g a n d o t h e r s h a v e s h o w n t h a t s o m e t h i n g is, i n d e e d , lost w i t h t h e g e n e r a l i z a t i o n o f writi n g . B u t a u t h e n t i c c u l t u r e is n o t t h a t s o m e t h i n g t o b e g a t h e r e d u p i n its f r a g i l e , final t r u t h b y a n e t h n o g r a p h e r o r b y a n y o n e e l s e . M o d e r n a l l e g o r y , W a l t e r B e n j a m i n ( 1 9 7 7 ) tells u s , is b a s e d o n a s e n s e o f t h e w o r l d as t r a n s i e n t a n d f r a g m e n t a r y . " H i s t o r y " is g r a s p e d as a p r o c e s s , n o t o f i n v e n t i v e life, b u t o f "irresistible d e c a y . " T h e m a t e r i a l a n a l o g u e o f a l l e g o r y is t h u s t h e "ruin" ( 1 7 8 ) , a n a l w a y s d i s a p p e a r i n g structure that invites imaginative r e c o n s t r u c t i o n . B e n j a m i n observes that "appreciation o f the transience o f things, a n d the c o n c e r n t o r e d e e m t h e m f o r e t e r n i t y , is o n e o f t h e s t r o n g e s t i m p u l s e s i n a l l e g o r y " ( q u o t e d b y W o l i n 1982 : 7 1 ) . M y a c c o u n t o f e t h n o g r a p h i c p a s t o r a l s u g g e s t s t h a t this " i m p u l s e " is t o b e r e s i s t e d , n o t b y a b a n d o n i n g a l l e g o r y a n impossible a i m b u t by o p e n i n g ourselves to different histories.

AAA

Allegories are secured . . . by teaching people to read in certain ways.


TALAL ASAD (comment on this essay at the Santa Fe seminar)

I h a v e e x p l o r e d s o m e i m p o r t a n t allegorical f o r m s that e x press "cosmological" patterns o f o r d e r a n d disorder, fables o f personal ( g e n d e r e d ) identity, a n d politicized m o d e l s o f temporality. T h e f u t u r e o f t h e s e f o r m s is u n c e r t a i n ; t h e y a r e b e i n g r e w r i t t e n a n d critic i z e d i n c u r r e n t p r a c t i c e . A f e w c o n c l u s i o n s , o r at least a s s e r t i o n s , m a y b e d r a w n f r o m this e x p l o r a t i o n . T h e r e is n o w a y d e f i n i t e l y , s u r g i c a l l y , t o s e p a r a t e t h e f a c t u a l f r o m the allegorical in cultural accounts. T h e data o f e t h n o g r a p h y m a k e sense only within patterned arrangements a n d narratives, a n d t h e s e a r e c o n v e n t i o n a l , political, a n d m e a n i n g f u l i n a m o r e t h a n r e f e r e n t i a l s e n s e . C u l t u r a l facts a r e n o t t r u e a n d c u l t u r a l all e g o r i e s f a l s e . I n t h e h u m a n s c i e n c e s t h e r e l a t i o n o f fact t o alleg o r y is a d o m a i n o f s t r u g g l e a n d i n s t i t u t i o n a l d i s c i p l i n e .

120

JAMES CLIFFORD

O n Ethnographic Allegory e t h n o g r a p h y to be a hierarchical structure o f p o w e r f u l that translate, encounter, a n d recontextualize other

121 stories

T h e m e a n i n g s of an ethnographic account are uncontrollable. N e i t h e r a n author's intention, n o r disciplinary training, n o r the r u l e s o f g e n r e c a n l i m i t t h e r e a d i n g s o f a t e x t t h a t will e m e r g e w i t h n e w h i s t o r i c a l , scientific, o r political p r o j e c t s . B u t i f e t h n o g raphies are susceptible to multiple interpretations, these are n o t at a n y g i v e n m o m e n t i n f i n i t e , o r m e r e l y " s u b j e c t i v e " ( i n t h e p e j o r a t i v e s e n s e ) . R e a d i n g is i n d e t e r m i n a t e o n l y t o t h e e x t e n t t h a t h i s t o r y i t s e l f is o p e n - e n d e d . I f t h e r e is a c o m m o n r e s i s t a n c e t o t h e r e c o g n i t i o n o f a l l e g o r y , a f e a r t h a t it l e a d s t o a n i h i l i s m o f r e a d i n g , t h i s is n o t a realistic f e a r . It c o n f u s e s c o n t e s t s f o r m e a n i n g w i t h d i s o r d e r . A n d o f t e n it reflects a w i s h t o p r e s e r v e a n " o b j e c t i v e " r h e t o r i c , r e f u s i n g t o l o c a t e its o w n m o d e o f p r o d u c t i o n w i t h i n i n ventive culture a n d historical c h a n g e . A r e c o g n i t i o n o f a l l e g o r y inescapably p o s e s t h e political a n d ethical d i m e n s i o n s o f e t h n o g r a p h i c w r i t i n g . It s u g g e s t s t h a t t h e s e b e m a n i f e s t e d , n o t h i d d e n . I n this l i g h t , t h e o p e n a l l e g o r i z i n g o f a M e a d or a Benedict enacts a certain probityproperly e x p o s i n g i t s e l f t o t h e a c c u s a t i o n o f h a v i n g used tribal s o c i e t i e s f o r p e d a g o g i cal p u r p o s e s . ( L e t t h o s e f r e e o f s u c h p u r p o s e s cast t h e first s t o n e ! ) O n e n e e d not, o f course, purvey heavy-handed "messages," or twist c u l t u r a l facts (as p r e s e n t l y k n o w n ) t o a p o l i t i c a l p u r p o s e . I w o u l d s u g g e s t as a m o d e l o f a l l e g o r i c a l tact M a r c e l M a u s s ' s The Gift. N o o n e w o u l d d e n y its scientific i m p o r t a n c e o r s c h o l a r l y c o m m i t m e n t . Y e t f r o m t h e o u t s e t , a n d e s p e c i a l l y i n its c o n c l u d i n g c h a p t e r , t h e w o r k ' s a i m is p a t e n t : "to d r a w c o n c l u s i o n s o f a m o r a l n a t u r e a b o u t s o m e o f t h e p r o b l e m s c o n f r o n t i n g us in o u r p r e s e n t e c o n o m i c crisis" ( 1 9 6 7 : 2 ) . T h e b o o k w a s w r i t t e n i n r e s p o n s e t o t h e b r e a k d o w n o f E u r o p e a n r e c i p r o c i t y i n W o r l d W a r I. T h e t r o u b l i n g p r o x i m i t y it s h o w s b e t w e e n e x c h a n g e a n d w a r f a r e , t h e i m a g e o f t h e r o u n d t a b l e e v o k e d at t h e e n d , t h e s e a n d o t h e r u r g e n t r e s o n a n c e s m a r k t h e w o r k as a s o c i a l i s t - h u m a n i s t a l l e g o r y a d d r e s s e d t o t h e p o l i t i c a l w o r l d o f t h e twenties.. T h i s is n o t t h e w o r k ' s o n l y " c o n t e n t . " T h e m a n y r e r e a d i n g s The Gift h a s g e n e r a t e d t e s tify t o its p r o d u c t i v i t y as a t e x t . It c a n e v e n b e r e a d i n c e r t a i n g r a d u a t e s e m i n a r s a s a classic c o m p a r a t i v e s t u d y o f e x c h a n g e , w i t h a d m o n i t i o n s t o s k i m o v e r t h e final c h a p t e r . T h i s is a s a d m i s t a k e . F o r it m i s s e s t h e o p p o r t u n i t y t o l e a r n f r o m a n a d m i r a b l e e x a m p l e o f s c i e n c e d e p l o y i n g i t s e l f in h i s t o r y . A recognition of allegory complicates the writing a n d reading of e t h n o g r a p h i e s in potentially fruitful ways. A t e n d e n c y e m e r g e s to specify a n d separate different allegorical registers within t h e text. T h e marking off o f extended indigenous discourses shows the

powerful

s t o r i e s . I t is a p a l i m p s e s t ( O w e n s 1980). M o r e o v e r , a n a w a r e n e s s o f allegory h e i g h t e n s awareness o f the narratives, a n d o t h e r t e m p o r a l s e t u p s , i m p l i c i t l y o r e x p l i c i t l y at w o r k . Is t h e r e d e m p t i v e structure o f salvage-textualization being replaced? By what n e w a l l e g o r i e s ? O f conflict? O f e m e r g e n c e ? O f s y n c r e t i s m ?
1 2

F i n a l l y , a r e c o g n i t i o n o f a l l e g o r y r e q u i r e s t h a t as r e a d e r s a n d w r i t ers o f e t h n o g r a p h i e s , w e struggle to confront a n d take responsibility f o r o u r s y s t e m a t i c c o n s t r u c t i o n s o f o t h e r s a n d o f o u r s e l v e s t h r o u g h others. This recognition n e e d not ultimately lead to a n i r o n i c p o s i t i o n t h o u g h it m u s t c o n t e n d w i t h p r o f o u n d i r o n i e s . I f w e a r e c o n d e m n e d t o tell s t o r i e s w e c a n n o t c o n t r o l , m a y w e n o t , at l e a s t , tell s t o r i e s w e b e l i e v e t o b e t r u e .
12. For recent changes in these underlying stories, see note 9, above, and Bruner 1985. See also James Boon's 1983 exploration of anthropology's satiric dimensions. A partial way out can perhaps be envisioned in the pre-modern current that Harry Berger has called "strong" or "metapastoral"a tradition he finds in the writing o f Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Milton, Marvell, and Pope. "Such pastoral constructs within itself an image of its generic traditions in order to criticize them and, in the process, performs a critique on the limits of its own enterprise even as it ironically displays its delight in the activity it criticizes" (1984: 2). Modern ethnographic examples are rare, although much of Lvi-Strauss's Tristes Tropiques certainly qualifies.

For helpful criticisms of this paper I would like to thank Richard Handler, Susan Gevirtz, David Schneider, Harry Berger, and the Santa Fe seminar participants, especially Michael Fischer.