Storytelling and the evocation of the social
Paul Stoller (West Chester University)
Paper short abstract:
In this presentation I discuss how anthropologists can use ethnographic narratives to evoke the themes—love and hate, fidelity and betrayal, courage and fear—to name a few—that define our humanity. No matter the medium, it is the story that empowers an ethnographic construction to connect writers to readers, filmmakers to viewers and artists to audiences.
Paper long abstract:
When I travelled to Paris back in the day, I’d trek over to the Musee de L'Homme to visit Jean Rouch. If our paths crossed, he’d invite his "Yankee Friend" up to his makeshift projection room for screenings. During these informal gatherings, which could last for many hours and include five to ten people, Rouch would lean back on his front row chair, a rather primitive seat fashioned from wood, and patiently watch film after film. During these sessions he would frequently wonder about a film’s story. "If a film doesn’t tell a good story," he would say, "it doesn’t work." How do you tell a good story in prose (ethnographies and memoires) in film (documentaries, ethnofiction, or experimental works) or in multisensorial installations (fusing sound and image)? How can you use narrative to evoke the themes—love and hate, fidelity and betrayal, courage and fear to name a few—that define our humanity? In this short presentation, I tap into more than 35 years of storytelling experience to isolate several elements that—at least for me—evoke powerfully the complexities of the social. I argue that although textual, visual and acoustic media are effective means to the end of social description, it is the story that makes or breaks a representative construction. It is the story that connects writers to readers, filmmakers to viewers, and installation artists to audiences. It is through this palpable connection, I suggest, that our works remain open to the world.
Intimacy, immanence and narratives