Story and scholarship in intimate ethnography: my father's wars
Alisse Waterston (John Jay College, City University of New York)
Paper short abstract:
My Father’s Wars is an intimate ethnography, a transnational, trans-ethnic, multidimensional, diasporic story. This paper reflects on its power to illuminate inter-relationships between violence, embodied subjectivity, self-historical identity, sensate experience, social memory, power, and history.
Paper long abstract:
My project uses an approach Barbara Rylko-Bauer and I call "intimate ethnography," a method that takes to heart Linda Green's advice to historicize and humanize its subject matter. I look squarely at my father's lived experience of displacement and dispossession, a particular life shaped by violence in its various forms—political, structural, institutional, symbolic, acute and chronic (normalized/everyday). My father traveled through the multiple violences of the 20th century; his story offers a vertical slice of life across continents, countries, cultures, languages, generations and wars. The goal is to capture his story in book and multimedia forms (www.myfatherswars.com), approaching it as an anthropologist who is also a daughter. Thus, My Father's Wars is a personal story that tells a larger, transnational, trans-ethnic, multidimensional and diasporic history. In pursuing this project over many years, I have been guided by the assumption that intimate ethnography as method and as written document has potential to bridge story and scholarship, bringing anthropology into the public conversation on critical social issues, past and present. Also, intimate ethnography may powerfully illuminate the relationships between violence, embodied subjectivity and self-historical identity, sensate experience, social memory, power, and history. In this paper, I take stock of fundamental assumptions of my project. I will assess my version of intimate ethnography (how I am doing it; by what means), consider its potential relevance to particular audiences and for specific contemporary issues, and reflect on its value as story, and as historical and theoretical scholarship.
Intimacy of social memory and the construction of self-identity linked to the Holocaust and forced migrations in the current interconnected world