By R. F. Ellen
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Extra resources for Ethnographic Research: A Guide to General Conduct (Research Methods in Social Anthropology 1)
I like drawing, and in a strange way that I do not understand it settles me into my surroundings even though the act of drawing can be unsettling. This is paradoxical. Is the drawing something like a dialogue with one’s surroundings, I wonder, maybe an argument—in the sense of a dispute but also in the sense of a theory? You are getting to know your surroundings in this strange way and, even stranger, the surroundings are getting to know you. This adds up to an unstable set of interlocking forces, the main one of which is surprise.
It is actually of another universe while pretending to be the reality in front 30 CHAPTER THREE of you. Purely as a picture—as “a work of art”—it has its charms and its lack of charm. Imagination and documentation coexist—as with the watercolor I sketched of Julio Reyes’s phantom boat coming upriver at night, which I heard about on the wharf at Santa Barbara on the Timbiquí River that races down the Andes to the Paciﬁc coast of Colombia. No photograph could capture the phantasm, that’s for sure.
Then there is the question of time that automatically lends to the ﬁeldwork diary a cut-up character. We see this vividly with the juxtaposition Burroughs presents of what is happening, put side by side with what you are thinking. More generally a diary eschews theory and entails an order of time that lies outside of narrative time structured by a beginning, middle, and an end. Precisely because its order is as remorseless as the rising and the setting of the sun, the diary frees up things. Or else it contains sporadic entries “when the moment seizes you,” which form a daisy chain.