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I. Reflexivity and Its Relatives (1)
There is a thick tangle of terms clustered around the central idea explored in these essays: reflexivity.' Such confusion often accompanies a technical term used in many disciplines and in everyday language as well. In this case it is worsened by the very nature of the activity indicated by the term: consciousness about being conscious; thinking about thinking. Reflexivity generates heightened awareness and vertigo, the creative intensity of a possibility that loosens us from habit and custom and turns us back to contemplate ourselves just as we may be beginning to realize that we have no clear idea of what we are doing. The experience may be exhilarating or frightening or both, but it is
(1) Portions of this essay were published elsewhere (Ruby 1980).
generally irreversible. We can never return to our former easy terms with a world that carried on quite well without our administrations. We may find ourselves like Humpty-Dumpty, shattered wrecks unable to recapture a smooth, seamless innocence, or like the paralyzed centipede who never walked again once he was asked to consider the difficulty in manipulating all those legs. Once we take into account our role in our own productions, we may be led into new possibilities that compensate for this loss. We may achieve a greater originality and responsibility than before, a deeper understanding at once of ourselves and of our subjects.
Though reflexivity takes on different shades of meaning in various disciplines and contexts, a core is detectable. Reflexive, as we use it, describes the capacity of any system of signification to turn back upon itself, to make itself its own object by referring to itself: subject and object fuse. A long tradition exists in which thought has been distinguished from unconsidered experience: where life is not merely lived naively without being pondered but regarded with detachment, creating an awareness that finally separates the one who lives from his history, society, from other people. Within the self, detachment occurs between self and experience, self and other, witness and actor, hero and hero's story. We become at once both subject and object. Reflexive knowledge, then, contains not only messages, but also information as to how it came into being, the process by which it was obtained. It demonstrates the human capacity to generate second-order symbols or metalevels-significations about signification. The withdrawal from the world, a bending back toward thought process itself, is necessary for what we consider a fully reflexive mode of thought. To paraphrase Babcock (1980), in order to know itself, to constitute itself as an object for itself, the self must be absent from itself: it must be a sign. Once this operation of consciousness has been made, consciousness itself is altered; a person or society thinks about itself differently merely by seeing itself in this light.
Reflexivity can be individual or collective, private or public, and may appear in any form of human communication: arts, natural science, the science of humanity or any other contrived uses of, or comments on, experience. Though it may seem modish and new, the idea of reflexivity is indeed very old, existing in the natural as well as the social world. As an example, consider storytelling, an ancient and apparently universal human occupation. In all cultures and times we find embedded
tales, stories about storytelling. Scherezade's 1001 Nights is a famous example; Sinbad's version of Scherezade's exploits is a story about a storyteller telling stories. And usually there is a satisfying replication between stories and their frames; we learn about Sinbad by observing Scherezade and vice versa. Lest one is inclined to regard reflexivity as confined to the intelligentsia, it should be noted that Norman Rockwell a popular artist, was fond of using this technique. One of his Saturday Evening Post covers shows him painting the cover in which the magazine itself appears with a picture of him painting the cover.
Reflexivity is found in the universal activity of dreaming, a story the unconscious tells to the conscious mind. (Among the Dinka of Africa the word dreaming is translated as a story the self tells to itself.) It is not unusual to dream about dreaming; we awaken wondering not only what the dream meant to say but also what it says about dreaming itself.
"Reflective" is a related but distinguishable term, referring also to a kind of thinking about ourselves, showing ourselves to ourselves, but without the requirement of explicit awareness of the implications of our display. Without the acute understanding, the detachment from the process in which one is engaged, reflexivity does not occur. Merely holding up a single mirror is not adequate to achieve this attitude. The mirrors must be doubled, creating the endless regress of possibilities, opening out into infinity, dissolving the clear boundaries of a "real world." Babcock refers to this as "identity with a difference" (ibid.: 2):
Narcissus' tragedy then is that he is not narcissistic enough, or rather that he does not reflect long enough to effect a transformation. He is reflective, but he ~s not reflexive-that is, he is conscious of himself as an other, but he is not conscious of being self-conscious of himself as an other and hence not able to detach himself from, understand, survive, or even laugh at this initial experience of alienation.
All societies have created occasions for reflecting upon themselves: regularly engineered crises, collective ceremonies, celebrations, rites of passage, rituals, public performances, and the like; times when the society tells itself who it is (or how it would like to be or should have been) But these interpretations do not necessarily call attention to themselves as interpretations. Often they parade as other versions of "reality," no matter how fabulous. They masquerade as different versions of truth into which individuals may come and go without realizing how contrived it all is. Rituals in particular may generate sentiments that mostly
discourage reflexivity, requiring a mindless and frenetic, repetitive activity that keeps the body too busy to allow the mind to criticize. This occurs even while the event may be precariously fiddling with the frames, mirrors, masks, reversals, screens, clowns, transvestites, and all the other commentators that threaten the sanctity of the order of things being presented. Precariously, a ritual may march along the edge of discovery of its own contrivances, producing not reflexiveness but reflections. These two ideas are capable of coexisting without penetration. The sleep of the unexamined life is one extreme, the achingly clear realization of the nature and process of understanding the other. No doubt most people and events range in between. For both attitudes the devices we call metacommunication are necessary. Markers, frames, keys, clues, and disruptions remind us not to be content with how things seem; something more important is going on. 'The world as it is being presented is not to be taken at face value.
The term reflexivity is in need of many fine distinctions. We have touched on the fact that it may be public or private, collective or individual, displayed openly or pondered introspectively. Cultures have moments of self-commentary as do people; these moments may be performed in a fully exposed fashion or quietly noted almost sotto voce. The commentary may be sustained or abbreviated, mere moments or protracted examinations. When in a film, conventions of realism are mocked, as, for example, when the main character is a film director making a film (Francois 'I'ruffaut's Day for Night or Mike Rubio's documentary on Viet Nam, Sad Song of Yellow Skin), we are thus reminded that we are seeing a film, not reality or even a pretend version of reality. But this can be merely an aside, read as a comment on the film's character and the director's work. We can proceed to forget that illusion and reality have been severed and return to the conventional suspension of disbelief, enjoying the film as if we had not been told it was not what it pretended to be, or was pretending not to be what it, in fact, turns out to be.
In more protracted reflexive works, we are not allowed to slip back into the everyday attitude that claims we can naively trust our senses. We are brought into a different reality because the interplay between illusion and reality continues. The frame is repeatedly violated, and the two stories, commenting on each other, travel alongside, simultaneously commanding our attention and creating a different world than either represents by itself.
In this collection of essays, these distinctions are not always maintained; they are logical possibilities but not (or perhaps not yet) the conventional devices used in discussions of the topic. That is, readers will not always find the authors of these essays being reflexive while discussing reflexivity.
Since reflexivity is a term used by many people to stand for a variety of concepts, it is essential that we attempt a formulation that includes the various usages which are both implicit and explicit among the authors in this book. Let us examine the idea from a communications viewpoint using terms borrowed from Fabian (1971)-PRODUCER, PROCESS, and PRODUCT. We chose general terms applicable to a range of phenomena because the issues raised here are general ones not confined to anthropology. By producer, we mean the sender of the message, the creator of the sign. Process is the means, methods, channel, mode, code and the like, whereby the message is shaped, encoded, and sent. The product is, of course, the text-what the receiver or consumer gets. To be reflexive is to conceive of the production of communicative statements as interconnecting the three components thusly:
PRODUCER PROCESS PRODUCT
and to suggest that knowledge of all three is essential for a critical and sophisticated understanding.
Furthermore, we argue that a reflexive producer must be aware that the conditions of consumption predispose audiences/readers to infer particular meanings from a product (Sekula 1975; Ruby 1977). It therefore becomes incumbent upon producers to control the conditions and contexts in which the product appears if a specific meaning or signification to be implied.
Significant distinctions exist between reflexiveness and related attitudes such as self-regard, self-absorption, solipsism, self-reference, self-consciousness, and autobiography. Reflexiveness does not leave the subject lost in its own concerns; it pulls one toward the Other and away from isolated attentiveness toward oneself. Reflexiveness requires subject and object, breaking the thrall of self-concern by its very drive toward self-knowledge that inevitably takes into account a surrounding world of events, people, and places.
In an autobiography the producer-the self-is the center of the work. Obviously the author has had to be self-conscious in the process
of making the product, but it is possible to keep that knowledge private and to simply follow the established conventions of the genre. In fact, few autobiographies are truly reflexive. To be reflexive is to be self-conscious and also aware of the aspects of self necessary to reveal to an audience so that it can understand both the process employed and the resultant product and know that the revelation itself is purposive, intentional, and not merely narcissistic or accidentally revealing.
Self-reference, on the other hand, is neither autobiographical nor reflexive. It is the allegorical or metaphorical use of self as in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories or Janis Ian's song "Stars." The maker's life in these works becomes symbolic of some sort of collective Everyman -all filmmakers, all pop stars, for example. It is popularly assumed that self-reference occurs in virtually all art forms; an artist uses personal experience as the basis of his or her art. The devotees of a particular artist try to ferret out biographical tidbits in order to discover the hidden meaning in the artist's work. Again, there is the cultural fact that we believe it is quite common for producers to be self-referential. What we wish to stress is that self-reference is distinct from reflexivity; one does not necessarily lead to the other.
Being self-conscious has become a full-time occupation among many Americans. However, it is possible, and indeed common, for this kind of awareness to remain the producer's private knowledge, or at least to be so detached from the product that all but the most devoted are discouraged from exploring the relationship between the maker and the work. Only if a producer makes awareness of self a public matter and conveys that knowledge to an audience is it possible to regard the product as reflexive. Otherwise, audiences will not know whether they are reading into the product more or other than what was meant (Worth and Gross 1974).
Being reflexive is structuring communicative products so that the audience assumes the producer, process, and product are a coherent whole. To be more formal, we would argue that being reflexive means the producer deliberately, intentionally reveals to an audience the underlying epistemological assumptions that caused the formulation of a set of questions in a particular way, the seeking of answers to those questions in a particular way, and finally the presentation of the findings in a particular way.
Until recently it was thought inappropriate, tasteless, unscientific, overly personal, and trivial to include information about process and
producer in a product. Moreover, it confused the audience and kept it off balance by destroying illusion and rupturing the suspension of disbelief assumed to be vital. Of late, we have grown to recognize our science, and indeed, ourselves, as imaginative works and have become less threatened by the dissolution of barriers between works of imagination and reality. Disbelief is not so often suspended, and backstage (to use Erving Goffman's term) proves to be considerably more alive and full of possibilities than the domains of well-engineered, cosmetic front regions to which we were previously confined.
II. Reflexivity as a Cultural Phenomenon
In contemporary America, the public examination of the self and its relationship to the ways in which meaning is constructed is becoming so commonplace as to be modish, ironically conventional. To many this is cause for concern. The distinction between true reflexiveness and self-centeredness is not always maintained by social critics who sometimes decry the "Me Generation"-a degenerate society wallowing narcissistically in empty self-preoccupation (Lasch 1978). Mark Sennett locates the demise of public responsibility in this turning inward toward private realms of personal experience. Other social critics remark that we have become a hedonistic, indulgent, and solipsistic lot, escaping self-consciousness by turning to gurus, authoritarian religious cults, and the simplifications of extreme right- or left-wing politics. There is perhaps an area where reflexivity and self-centeredness touch, possibly the point from which they both originated: the restoration of subjectivity as a serious attitude, a basis for gaining knowledge and evaluating it, a ground for making decisions and taking action.
When Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, he recognized scientific knowledge as the product of a particular paradigm and argued that science changes through the process of discovery of the inadequacy of previous paradigms and the subsequent construction of a new one. Kuhn's argument detached science from reality. Like Berger and Luckmann's Social Construction of Reality (1966), it drew attention to the sociological and cultural bases of all knowledge. Science was no longer privileged or pure. This recognition has deeply penetrated everyday consciousness (though not as a direct result of public interest in the writings of the likes of Kuhn,
Berger, and Luckmann). The secularization of science has been evident for some time. The collapse of yet another authoritative ideology seemed to encourage the turning away from an idealized realm of facts and objectivity toward the recognition that the individual was in it alone. Personal experience seemed to be all that was left to throw into the breach where fixed ideological structures had once been. As we have shown, alienation and self-knowledge are tightly linked, if not causally connected, and reflection, introspection, hedonism, anomie, reflexiveness are all likely to occur under these conditions. A Kuhnian-like change in paradigm has occurred in the popular taste and has appeared in general cultural products, going far beyond the scope of a scientific revolution.
It is now a commonplace to recognize the relativity of experience. Students have heard of "cultural relativity" before they take anthropology courses! That positivism in science buckled close in time to the collapse of confidence in the authority of government augmented the sense that the world was not what it seemed to be. Added to this was the slow democratization of access to the engines of truth: every citizen could afford tape recorders, still and movie cameras, then videotape equipment. Reality could be fooled with: speeded up, played backward, stopped, excised, and rearranged. The truth values once imparted to these aloof and utterly neutral records, "the really out-there," were shown to be mere imaginative products. Slowly, then, it became apparent that we do not dwell in a world that continues without our attention or active participation. As a socially-made arrangement, it is a story in which citizens find themselves to be among the chief actors. Inevitably subjectivity in such circumstances must return to favor.
Examples of reflexivity abound in all of the arts, sciences, and humanities. Often they are associated with what Clifford Geertz calls "blurred genres" (1980), a confusion about what were once discrete categories for making statements. As examples of blurred genres, he cites "Harry Houdini and Richard Nixon turning up as characters in novels, . . . documentaries that read like true confessions (Mailer), parables posing as ethnographies (Castenada), theoretical treatises set out as travelogues (Levi-Strauss); . . . one waits only for quantum theory in verse or biography in algebra. We cannot tell literature from criticism, treatise from apologetic.... Something is happening to the way we think about the way we think." This, he points out, is a redrawing of the cultural map, wherein we see fewer fixed types divided by sharp
boundaries. "We more and more see ourselves as surrounded by a vast almost continuous field of variously intended and diversely constructed works we can order only practically, relationally, and as our purposes prompt us" (ibid.). Social science turns out to be built on models taken more from aesthetics, gaming, theater, literature, play, and the like than the earlier principles, laws, and facts of science (Schechner, this volume).
Geertz sees the major branches of social science as falling into three groups: those which see social life as a game (Erving Goffman); as social drama (Victor Turner); and as "texts" (Geertz and others). All have in common an emphasis on interpretation, a view of the world as basically constructed and symbolic. Reality is not discovered by scientific tools and methods but is understood and deciphered through a Hermeneutic method. A profoundly different world view is implied, "a refiguration of social thought."
In the arts reflexiveness and its relatives may describe the literary characteristic that is apparent in the Odyssey, in figures such as Cervantes and Wordsworth, and in modern writers such as Gide, Joyce Proust, Mailer, Updike, Barth, and gorges. Autobiography has been perhaps the strongest mode for postwar minority expression in the United States (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Coming of Age in Mississippi). Increasingly writers have turned to autobiography as an avenue for self-expression (Margaret Mead's Blackberry Winter), as a technique for inquiry, and as material for study (the popular books by Oscar Lewis, Erik Erikson's study of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries); and psychiatrists report that narcissism has become a familiar presenting symptom. We find recurring films about filmmakers, prints of printmakers making prints, photographs of photographers and their equipment, plays about playwrights.
Scientists, philosophers, and social scientists have also been engaged in reflexive activities. Psychoanalysts have been concerned with the ways in which the act of observation affects the results of the doctor-patient relationship, philosophers with the necessity of thinking about thinking, sociologists with the ways in which the investigator's culture alters the methodological process itself. Historians have applied the techniques of historical analysis to examine and revise the historical method, and scientists continuously test their own assumptions and procedures Computers are used to check computers, and systems analysis is applied to systems analysis.
The phenomenon of the process of creation as the subject of creation, the mode and meaning of research as the subject of research, thought as the subject of thinking-in short, the inalienability of the self in cognitive and creative acts-may become, in turn, the subject of study.
To chronicle and describe these manifestations-modern and historical-would require a book-length treatment. We have merely cited a few examples in order to suggest that anthropological reflexivity is not unique nor is the interest in it merely the newest fad.
Self-consciousness, self-reference, autobiography, and reflexiveness appear in the Lyrics of popular songs and in performances, recorded and live. (The remarks that follow reflect personal interest in and knowledge about popular music and jazz. Similar examples undoubtedly exist in other musical forms.)
It is popularly assumed that composers and performers, like most Western artists, write and sing about their own personal experiences and convictions. Hence most popular song Lyrics are thought to be by definition autobiographical or at least self-referential. The Lyrics are regarded as a symbolic system, and young people spend much time trying to ferret out the true meaning of a song's Lyrics: was "Mr. Tambourine Man" Bob Dylan's connection? Who was Carly Simon singing about in "You're So Vain"? Some of the personal references in Lyrics are so arcane and obtuse (such as Bob Dylan's "Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands") they resemble South American myths and require a Levi-Strauss to untangle them. Others are self-referential, like Janis Ian's "Stars," and still others overtly autobiographical, such as Dylan's "Sara."
The balladeer tradition of telling stories through song is an old Anglo-American musical form. At least since the emergence of rock music in the sixties, audiences have held composer/singers personally responsible for the content of their Lyrics. Audiences expect these artists to believe in the personal, social, and political implications of their songs. It's very much like the song gospel singer Mahalia Jackson used to sing:
"I'm Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Songs." The personal lives of artists are critically examined by their fans to see to what degree they match the sentiments expressed in their work.
While autobiographical and self-referential statements abound, Lyrics which are truly reflexive are rare. One clear exception is to be found in Carole King's song "So Far Away" (Tapestry): "One more song about moving along the highway / Can't say much of anything that's new...." These lines clearly acknowledge that the song is an example of a song type (actually the reference is much more complicated, but for our purposes we can leave it there).
Performances and Records.
If any act that deliberately attempts to test an audience's assumptions about the parameters of an art form is a reflexive act, all of John Cage's performances are reflexive. Most recordings are from a realist tradition that seeks to provide audiences with the illusion of firsthand experience. However, backstage moments, when the performer reminds the audience it is listening to a recording and not participating in a live performance, are reflexive. For example, Dylan, in the John Wesley Harding album, begins one song by asking the engineer/producer Bob Johnson if he is ready to record: "Are you rolling, Bob?" This type of patter exists on the heads and tails of all studio tapes. It wasn't planned. The only explanation for the inclusion being intentional is the assumption that Dylan or someone connected with the release of the record (the problem of authorship with records is a complex one) decided to include that which is normally excluded. In the album We're Only in It for the Money, one hears Frank Zappa musing about the engineer and his activities in the sound booth. These musings are not part of the normal backstage of recording. They constitute a deliberate attempt by Zappa to remind audiences they are listening to a recording.
Zappa's reflexive concerns are also found in the liner notes of his albums. "This is an album of greasy love songs and cretin simplicity. We made it because we really like this kind of music (just a bunch of old men with rock and roll clothes on sitting around a studio, mumbling about the good old days). Ten years from now you'll be sitting around with your friends someplace doing the same thing if there's anything left to sit on" (Ruben and the Jets, Bizarre Records, V6 505S-X, 1971).
And, "Note: All the music heard on this album was composed,
arranged, and scientifically mutilated by Frank Zappa (with the exception of a little bit of surf music). None of the sounds are generated electronically . . . they are all the product of electronically altering the sounds of NORMAL instruments. The orchestral segments were conducted by SID SHARPE under the supervision of the composer" (We're Only in It for the Money, Bizarre Records, V/V6 5045X,1967).
And, "The music on this album was recorded over a period of about five months from October 1967 to February 1968. Things that sound like a full orchestra were carefully assembled track by track through a procedure known as overdubbing . . ." (Uncle Meat, Reprise Records, 2024,1968).
Self-portraits and self-reference in painting make their appearance by at least the fifteenth century. Jan Van Eyck's Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride (1434) may be one of the earliest paintings to carry these ideas into a reflexive stance. In the middle of the canvas Van Eyck painted a mirror with the reflections of three people peering into the room-one of them being Van Eyck. Lest anyone not know his face, he wrote "Van Eyck was here" over the mirror.
One can easily characterize the entire Modernist movement as having a reflexive concern. The Dadaists, Surrealists, Pop, Funk, Conceptual, and Minimal artists, as well as those involved in Happenings and Performance art, all ask their audience/viewers to become self-aware about their definitions and expectations about art. (The Photorealists belong in this category and indeed the entire recent return to realism in painting, but that argument is too long and tangential to be useful here.) Among the more obvious artists whose works abound in reflexivity are DuChamp, Magritte, and Warhol.
Leo Steinberg, in his brilliant introductory essay to a catalog on "Art about Art" (1978), has examined the concepts of borrowing, citing, referencing, commenting, and other means whereby one artist will explore another's work. As Steinberg points out, the primary message of these paintings and indeed of many paintings is a comment about art, that is, a reflexive communication.
In attempting to explain his Neon art, Annson Kenny, a Philadelphia artist, said, "Let me make an analogy. If I were an architect, I guess I would insist on exposed beams, and maybe I carry this sensibility too
far. For if there were no beams I would insist they be installed. And if that were impossible then I would insist we construct artificial beams so that we have something to expose."
"New Journalism," according to one of its chief practitioners, Tom Wolfe, is the writing of "accurate non-fiction with techniques usually associated with novels and short stories" (Wolfe and Johnson 1973:15) Wolfe suggests that new journalism is the direct descendent of the realist novel and the chief proponent of literary realism in the sixties and seventies.
While Wolfe looks to reporting and novel writing as the major sources of new journalism, there are two he overlooked-movies and social science, particularly anthropology and sociology. Scene by scene construction and realistic dialogue, as Wolfe points out, are found more frequently in films than in novels, particularly in the last twenty-five years. Secondly, it is possible to argue that the recognition of the need for detailed descriptions of the cultural settings and artifacts comes as much from anthropology and sociology as it does from the novel. The new journalism can be viewed as a popular manifestation of the same set of ideas that spawned the work of Erving Goffman (1959), the ethnomethodologists, and the phenomenologists, that is, a concern with accurate, realistic descriptions of the everyday life of ordinary people. Viewed from this perspective, new journalism is perhaps the widest spread of the concept of culture as a means of understanding human existence. In addition, new journalists, like ethnographers, are more concerned with "common" folk than with super stars. This interest clearly separates new journalists from their more traditional brethren.
While the new journalists have been influenced by social science, the reverse is less true. Few anthropologists have experimented by attempting to incorporate stylistic features borrowed from journalists or novelists Oscar Lewis is a rare exception. Compare his book, Five Families (1959) with chapter one of Albert Goldman's Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce (1974). Both employ the composite "day-in-the-life" construction.
Without doing violence to the connotation of the term, it is possible to see new journalists as "folk" or naive ethnographers. We call them this (although it is hard to imagine Tom Wolfe in his ice cream suits
belonging to any folk) for several related reasons: they seem to lack a self-awareness of the implicit epistemological basis for their activities; they do not appear to understand the folk models of description and explanation they employ in their writings; they have no desire or ability to go beyond their intuition and become rigorous, that is, social scientific. Wolfe and others like him are behaving like ethnographers and producing writings that clearly resemble ethnography, but we are not suggesting that they are ethnographers doing ethnography.
Their need to understand the scenes, dialogs, characters, artifacts, and settings of human activities forces them to become participant-observers and, like the ethnographer, to actually hang out with the people they are writing about. "They developed the habit of staying with the people they were writing about for days at a time, weeks in some cases" (Wolfe and Johnson, 1973:21). The new journalists methods are quite unlike the "literary gentlemen with a seat in the grandstand" school of journalism and the "wham-bam-thank-you-Ma'am" approach to interviews by reporters.
So-called "investigative" reporting made popular by Woodward and Bernstein of the Washington Post is obviously related to new journalism in the sense that both employed participant-observation as part of their methodology and fiction devices in their presentational styles. Wolfe would like to disassociate new journalism from investigative reporting on the basis that investigative reporting comes from the tradition of politically motivated advocate reporting, and new journalism has no such overt political tradition (ibid.:42-43).
Regardless of how these two are related historically, it IS clear the a large number of people who call themselves journalists, non-fiction writers, and reporters have discovered the need for participant observation and employ styles of presentation that make their written resemble ethnographies.
Pop sociology and anthropology have come of age. Unfortunate when one examines new journalism more closely, one discovers a naive concept of realism. Wolfe describes new journalism as an amalgam several devices: "The result is a form that is not merely like a novel. consumes devices that happen to have originated with the novel al mixes them with every other device known to prose. And all the while, beyond matters of technique, it enjoys an advantage so obvious, built-in, one almost forgets what a power it has: the simple fact the reader knows all this actually happened. The disclaimers have be
erased. The screen is gone. The writer is one step closer to the absolute involvement of the reader that Henry James and James Joyce dreamed of and never achieved" (ibid.:34).
Wolfe seems to be saying that the literary conventions of social realism, originated by nineteenth-century novelists such as Dickens Balzac, and Zola and now employed by the new journalists to deal with "real life" situations (as opposed to their original intended use, which was to create a fiction of verisimilitude), are not merely conventions with socially agreed upon significance and meaning but devices that provide readers with "what actually happened."
Novelists have made a disastrous miscalculation over the past twenty years about the nature of realism. Their view of the matter is pretty well summed up by the editor of the Partisan Review, William Phillips "In fact, realism is just another formal device, not a permanent method for dealing with experience." I suspect that precisely the opposite is true. If our friends the cognitive psychologists ever r each the point of knowing for sure, I think they will fell us something on this order. the introduction of realism into literature by people like Richardson Fielding and Smollett was like the introduction of electricity into machine technology. It was not just another device. It raised the state of the art to a new magnitude (ibid.).
This naive belief in realism serves to perpetuate several unfortunate folk beliefs that must be destroyed or at least discredited in order for any social science purporting to be reflexive to achieve general acceptance or even comprehension. Wolfe's simple faith in realism has to be based on the discredited idea that "the world is as it appears to be" (called phenomenal absolutism by Segall, Campbell, and Herskovitz 1966:45). The logical corollary of this idea is that it is possible to make bias-free value-free descriptions of the world that are accurate and realistic.
If one shares Wolfe's view, it is logical to posit a particular role for the new journalist. If the world is objectively describable, the journalist's ethical and professional responsibility is to become as transparent as possible, that is, to allow the reality of the situation to predominate. From this point of view (one shared by many social scientists and filmmakers), opinions, characterizations, views of the world are never the property of the author. The author is merely the vehicle for the people he or she writes about.
In some respects new journalism is antithetical to a reflexive social science. However, its popularity helps to create a useful tension and ambivalence among readers-to confuse and confound audiences in
ways similar to the confusion experienced with all blurred genres. The neat and simplistic division into fiction and nonfiction or reality and fantasy clearly cannot be used to evaluate these works.
This creative confusion is obviously not confined to the printed word. There is a similar tradition in documentary film. Jim McBride's David Holzman's Diary and Mitchell Block's No Lies follow the conventions of documentary realism. They are in fact fiction films. There is a major difference between these films and the writings of new journalists. Once the credits appear, members of the audience know they have seen a fiction film that merely fooled them into thinking it was a documentary. With new journalism one can never know which is which. The fiction film disguised as a documentary makes one aware of the conventions of documentary realism and therefore establishes the possibility of one being "fooled" by films that are not what they purport to be. This filmic confusion has reached an apex with the so-called docudramas, which follow the conventions of fiction yet apparently cause some people to believe they are documentaries because they deal with recent history.
New journalism can make one aware that the entire system dividing mediated messages into nonfiction or documentary or real versus fiction or fantasy is misleading and not particularly useful. To read something that is concerned with real people engaged in actual behavior and discover that it reads like a novel can cause readers to question their assumptions about narrativity, fiction, documentary, and even the conceptual basis of their version of reality. It can also lead them to ponder the role and responsibility of the authors/creators of mediated messages.
Some contemporary fiction writers, as we have already suggested, are expressing reflexiveness in their works. We think it is significant that such different sorts of writers as John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, and John Irving have been writing fiction in which the writer confronts himself in the act of writing or in his role as an author. If in some ways this can be seen as a throwback to the eighteenth century self-conscious narrator of Fielding, it is also a very modern reaction against the well-known dehumanization of art in this century.
The novel has had an interesting history, which in many respects parallels the development of ethnography (Edgerton and Langness 1974; Rabinow, Marcus, and Parssinen, this volume). It is therefore not surprising to discover that novelists and anthropologists are both con-
cerned with the implications of reflexiveness. To further complicate the relationship between these two forms, one can find novelists such as Vonnegut and Saul Bellow trained in anthropology.
One formal feature separating the novel from the ethnography is the fact that realistic novels, at least, employ a narrative form, while ethnographies are seldom, if ever, written as narratives. Narratives particularly in the first person, are considered by most anthropologists and social science writers to be too personal and too subjective to be vehicles for scientific communication. It is ironic and also symptomatic of the set of problems fundamentally related to this book that first-person narrative is perhaps the most natural way of describing experience-including the experience of doing fieldwork (Jay 1969). It is difficult to express your self-awareness and reflexiveness to others without employing some first-person narrative. Once the need to be reflexive is more widely recognized, narrative form will become more acceptable as the rhetorical form most logical for the communication of anthropology.
We have only touched on the range of examples of reflexive consciousness in our culture. Its fadishness may pass, but the consequences of being reflexive are permanent. Once you enter into the process, it is not possible to return to the naive assumptions of the past.
III: Reflexivity as Anthropological Praxis
Reflexivity is used in anthropology in a number of different ways. It can be a means of examining a field problem, that is, to refer to the study of the "Natives'" reflexive acts, those events wherein, as Victor Turner puts it, "The community . . . seeks to understand, portray, and then act on itself, in thought, word and deed . . . public reflexivity takes on the shape of a performance." This is what happens when a group formally steps out of itself, so to speak, to see itself, and is aware of so doing. Clifford Geertz's explication of a Balinese cockfight is a classic case, in which we clearly see the Balinese playing with their most serious conceptions. They are performing a story about their society intentionally and, it might be said, literally, rather than metaphorically, since they enact rather than merely refer to the interpretation involved.
Reflexivity is also a means of examining anthropology itself. Anthropology, as a branch of science, is required to be explicit about its
methods. Science is reflexive insofar as its findings refer back to the system in which they are explained, making clear the means by which they were assembled. Labrot (1977) puts it this way:
Science is not static. Its development is determined to a great extent by the body of science as it stands at any given moment. This determination is not one of a natural progression to a greater and greater number of known facts built on those previously discovered. It is rather one in which the fundamental principles, the structures in a broad sense, determine the nature of search for the facts and finally to some extent, the facts themselves. So science, which describes the world, also determined the world which it described.
This interpretation is becoming, as we indicated, widespread in all branches of knowledge. The radical objective/subjective dichotomization of experience disturbed many scientists long before reflexivity became popular. Gunnar Myrdal warned against the trap of believing in a "disinterested social science," which he insisted for logical reasons could never exist. It could only confuse and leave the researcher unaware of the operations of his or her biases.
All social sciences deal with human beings as subjects of study, but in anthropology special problems arise because of the complex relationship between the ethnographer and the subject of study. It is through the understanding of self-to-other that the investigator comes to examine culture. Often the collective, impersonal portrait of a culture is penetrated. Key informants may jump out, however briefly, standing apart from the generalized picture of the group-truly idiosyncratic people-ones who demand to be reckoned with on their own terms. Because the ethnographer is enjoined to use immediate experience to "verstehen"
(borrowing Weber's term), that is, intuitively understand and empathize, he or she must project and identify. These are invaluable but not universally shared abilities that can only be employed by an individual with a finely honed sense of self. It was not mere partisan ideology that caused the early theorists in Freudian anthropology to recommend that ethnographers' studies would be improved if they undertook to be psychoanalyzed. These days we are more ecumenical; we would recommend not five years on the analyst's couch but any personal study that develops the anthropologist's self-awareness of his or her own culture. With increased self-awareness, studies can be not only more penetrating but also more reliable.
The anthropologist, as a data-generating instrument who must also
make explicit the process by which he or she gathers data, is an integral part of the final product: the ethnography. I he anthropologist must take his or her behavior into account as data. To quote Levi-Strauss (1976), participant-observation, the basis of fieldwork methodology, makes this essential.
To Rousseau we owe the discovery of this principle, the only one on which to base the sciences of man.... In ethnographic experience, the observer apprehends himself as his own instrument of observation. Clearly he must learn to know himself, to obtain from a self who reveals himself as another to the I who uses him, an evaluation which will become an integral part of the observation of other selves.
Thus the public examination of the anthropologist's response to the field situation, the inclusion of methodology, and participation in constructing the final report is reflexive in anthropology. The examination of the form in which ethnographic data are reported also becomes a reflexive act, that is, creating an ethnography of anthropology, as some of the authors in this book have done.
To refer to our earlier paradigm, producer, process, and product may be fully included. The process or methodology is made overt, the investigator portrayed. But in anthropology another layer may be entered into this equation: the effect of the anthropologist looking at the native looking at the anthropologist (cf. Michaels, this volume). We enter the hall of mirrors, the infinite regress, yet it is undeniably necessary. The subject changes by being observed, and we must observe our impact on him or her and the resultant impact on ourselves and.... To refer again to the Balinese cockfight, we first see the anthropologists looking at the Balinese, and the Balinese looking back at them; then a change occurs as the Balinese alter their attitudes toward the anthropologists, who in turn begin to see the Balinese differently.
Ethnographer-filmmaker Jean Rouch has some thought-provoking comments on this matter. Borrowing Vertov's term "cinema-eye" (used to describe a way of seeing with the camera eye that is different from seeing with the human eye), it can be said that the ethnographer also alters his ordinary modes of perception in the field.
In the field the observer modifies himself; in doing his work he is no longer simply someone who greets the elders at the edge of the village but-to go back to Vertovian terminology-he "ethno-looks" "ethno-observes" "ethno-thinks,' And those he deals with are similarly modified in giving their confi-
dence to this habitual foreign visitor they "ethno-show," "ethno-speak," "ethno-think."
It is this permanent ethno-dialogue which appears to me to be one of the most interesting angles in the current progress of ethnography. Knowledge is no longer a stolen secret, devoured in the Western temples of knowledge; it is the result of an endless quest where ethnographers and those they study meet on a path which some of us now call "shared anthropology" (1978:8).
Rouch does not go to the extreme of calling his native subject an ethno-person, but it would not be unreasonable to do so. The anthropologist and the subject of study together construct an interpretation of a cultural feature, an understanding of the interpreter, that would not have come into existence naturally. The study is an artifice and resembles nothing but itself, a collusion of two viewpoints meeting m a middle terrain, created by the artificial circumstances of the foreigner's visit and project, disappearing when the foreigner departs. Both the portrait of self at work in the field (if it includes the impact of the natives' vision of self) and, equally, the impact of the native on the ethnographer are constructions arising out of the ethnographic enterprise, studies of ethno-persons.
The human scientist has had to learn how to relate self-knowledge of him- or herself as a multisensory being with a unique personal history as a member of a specific culture at a specific period to ongoing experience and how to include as far as possible this disciplined self-awareness in observation on other lives and in other cultures (Mead 1976:907).
We now wish to explore an apparent paradox within anthropology, which both reveals the need for a reflexive anthropology and explains its absence. It can be expressed as follows: Why do most anthropologists identify themselves as scientists and their work as scientific yet often fail to describe adequately the methods employed in their research and to account for the possible effects of the researcher on the research? Why is Malinowski's fifty-year-old-admonition so seldom followed (1922: 2-3)?
The results of scientific research in any branch of learning ought to be presented in a manner absolutely candid and above board. No one would dream of making an experimental contribution to physical or chemical science, without giving a detailed account of all the arrangements of the experiments; an exact description of the apparatus used, of their number; of the length of time devoted to them; and of the degree of approximation with which each measurement was made. . . in Ethnography, where a candid account of such data is perhaps even more
necessary, it has unfortunately in the past not always been supplied with sufficient generosity, and many writers do not ply the full searchlight of methodic sincerity, as they move among their facts, but produce them before us out of complete obscurity.
A general examination of ethnographic literature reveals a fairly consistent lack of systematic, rigorous statements on method and discussions of the relationship between research and the researcher. Recently this trend has shifted with the publication of works like Berreman's Behind Many Masks (1962). While this and other books may signal a change, Bellah is unfortunately still accurate when he states that "Rarely have anthropologists regarded fieldwork as a serious object of study, it is tacitly accepted as their major activity" (Rabinow 1977:ix).
In an unpublished study of reflexive elements in written ethnography, Miller (1977) has suggested two places where they are most likely to be found outside of the work, one of them being in introductory remarks or prefaces or postscripts. The tradition appears to have begun with Malinowski (1922). Yet in spite of his admonition to others, Malinowski's own methodological statements were rather perfunctory. As Young (1979: 11) points out,
Despite his incorrigible self-dramatization and his claim that "the facts of anthropology attract me mainly as the best means of knowing myself," (Malinowski 1932:xxv), Malinowski did not propose any theory which included the observer in its frame of reference.... He mentions the "personal equation" of the investigator only to caution against selectivity in observation and recording, and he counsels the keeping of an "ethnographic diary" of events as a corrective measure (1922:20-21). Paradoxically, however, the field diaries which Malinowski himself kept (1969) constitute an entirely different form of document-one which, in laying bare his prejudices, gives the lie to his public image and puts his sincerity severely to the test.
Other examples of "reflexive" instructions in ethnographies include Bateson's Naven (1936), in which the work is bracketed with reflexive statements in the preface and postscript (cf. Marcus, this volume).
The other location of reflexive elements Miller found was in travelogue-like popularized or anthropological accounts of fieldwork. For example, Maybury-Lewis in his introduction to The Savage and the Innocent states that,
This hook is an account of our experiences, it is not an essay in anthropology (emphasis ours). Indeed I have tried to put down many of those things which
never get told in technical anthropological writings-our impressions of Central Brazil, our personal reactions to the various situations in which we found ourselves, and above all, our feelings about the day-to-day business which is mysteriously known as "doing fieldwork" (1965:9).
Other examples of this form of reflexivity would include Levi-Strauss's memoir, Tristes Tropiques, Alex Alland's account of his fieldwork in Africa (1975), and Hortense Powdermaker's professional autobiography, Stranger and Friend (1966).
Perhaps the most extreme form of separation of reflexive elements from the ethnography is to be found in the writing of a novel about fieldwork under a pseudonym (Bowen 1954). While we have not systematically examined the question, it is our impression that more anthropologists than any other social scientists write novels, plays, poems, and science fiction. We believe they do so because of the strictures imposed by traditional science on the reporting of experience. They cannot do it in their ethnographies so they seek other outlets.
Further, anthropologists who want to be reflexive and still report on their fieldwork in a "scientific" manner have found it difficult to locate an acceptable form. "The Jungle People has a plot because the life of the Kaingang has one. Yet, since behavioral science views life as plotless, The Jungle People violates an underlying premise. Moreover, in behavioral science, to state that life not only has a plot but must be described as if it did is like spitting in Church" (Henry 1964:xvii). Hymes states the conflict between the reporting of experience in ethnography and the scientifically acceptable communicative forms quite well (cf. Parssinen, this volume): "There is an inescapable tension in ethnography between the forms, the rhetorical and literary forms, considered necessary for presentation (and persuasion of colleagues), and the narrative form natural to the experience of the work, and natural to the meaningful report of it in other than monographic contexts. I would even suggest that the scientific styles often imposed on ethnographic writing may produce, not objectivity, but distortion" (1973:199-200)
In addition to an anti-narrative tradition within the canons of scientific communication, there are two additional strictures that further conflict with reflexivity. Scientists are supposed to use the passive voice and the third person-for example, to say, "The Bushman makes bow and arrows," not, "I saw some Bushmen make a few bows and arrows. Both literary devices cause statements to appear to be authorless, authoritarian, objective, and hence in keeping with the prevailing positivist empiricist philosophies of science.
As Marcus (this volume) argues, ethnography is virtually an unanalyzed literary genre. The art and craft of producing an acceptable ethnography is learned indirectly and accidentally. The question of the relationship between ethnography and other literary forms is seldom discussed. Langness (in Honigman 1976:254) points out that ". . . the whole question of the relationship of ethnography to poetry and playwrighting, as well as to the short story and the novel, has never been carefully examined. What, for example, are the similarities and differences between ethnography and literary 'realism?' What is the relation of the novelist's quest for verisimilitude and the task of the ethnographer? Could an ethnography be both anthropologically acceptable and at the same time a work of art?"
The following statements constitute the paradox we have been discussing:
1) Most anthropologists consider themselves social scientists and their work as being scientific;
2) To be scientific means the scientist is obligated to systematically reveal research methods and any other factors which might affect the outcome of the investigation;
3) .Most ethnographies lack an adequate and integrated methodological statement; and
4) Those methodological statements that do exist are most frequently attached to the ethnography.
Some social scientists do not see the situation as being paradoxical. They feel that being reflexive is actually counterproductive to their goals. Honigman, while advocating the acceptance of a "personal" approach in anthropological research, states that
Critics demanding a high degree of self-awareness of investigators using the personal approach are unrealistic. It is chimerical to expect that a person will be able to report the details of how he learned manifold types of information through various sensory channels and processed it through a brain that can typically bind many more associations far more rapidly than the most advanced well-stocked computer.... Some of the individual factors operating in description can be brought into awareness and controlled, but a high degree of self-conscious attention to the process of description can only be maintained by scaling down the number and range of events that are to be studied, thereby possibly impoverishing the results while gaining a comparatively explicit account of how information was collected (1976:243 46).
We would agree that excessive concern with either the producer or the process will obviously cause the focus of the product to turn inward; total attention to the producers creates autobiography, not ethnography. However, anthropologists have largely denied the need for reflexivity and ignored the scientific necessity for revealing their methods. As a consequence, perhaps we need a brief period of overcompensation. We need several extensive attempts to explore the implications of doing reflexive anthropology before we can establish conventions for "how much is enough." Questions of narcissism, of turning oneself into an object of contemplation, of becoming a character in your own ethnography are very fundamental and complex. Until we have a tradition, albeit a minor one, of the ethnography of anthropology (Scholte 1972), we think that a concern over excesses is a bit premature.
What anthropology has to offer is primarily a systematic way of understanding humanity-ours as well as everyone else's. Therefore, the processes we evolve to accomplish that task may be our most significant contribution, that is, teaching others to see human beings from an anthropological perspective. Geertz has said it well (1973a:16):
Anthropologists have not always been as aware as they might be of this fact: that although culture exists in the trading post, the hill fort, or the sheep run, anthropology exists in the book, the article, the lecture, the museum display, or sometimes nowadays, the film. To become aware of it is to realize that the line between mode of representation and substantive content is undrawable in cultural analysis as it is in painting; and that fact in turn seems to threaten the objective status of anthropological knowledge by suggesting that its source is not social reality but scholarly artifice.
It does threaten us, but the threat is hollow. The claim to attention of an ethnographic account does not rest on its authors' ability to capture primitive facts in faraway places and carry them home like a mask or a carving, but on the degree to which he is able to clarify what goes on in such places, to reduce the puzzlement-what manner of men are these?-to which unfamiliar acts emerging out of unknown backgrounds naturally give rise. This raises some serious problems of verification, all right-or if "verification" is too strong a word for so soft a science (I, myself, would prefer "appraisal"), of how you can tell a better account from a worse one. But that is precisely the virtue of it. If ethnography is thick description and ethnographers those who are doing the describing, then the determining question for any given example of it, whether a field journal squib or a Malinowski-sized monograph, is whether it sorts winks from twitches and real winks from mimicked ones. It is not against a body of uninterpreted data, radically thinned descriptions, that we must measure the cogency of our explications, but against the power of the scientific imagination to bring us into touch with the lives of strangers. It is not worth it, as Thoreau said, to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.
Anthropology has too long suffered from the popular assumption that it is "the study of oddments by eccentrics." As such we are, at best sources of trivial information and cocktail-party conversations like, "Do the Eskimos really live in igloos?" The concept of culture as a means of understanding our humanness is a powerful idea. Too bad we haven't conveyed it to more people in a form that they can apply to their own lives. To hide our personas and our procedures from the public clearly lessens our impact.
Regardless of whether or not one is convinced by arguments pro or con for a full reflexive statement in every ethnography, there can be little argument that anthropologists tend to be remiss in fulfilling their scientific obligation to specify their methods. We believe the reasons for this apparent self-contradictory behavior are to be found in the implicit, taken-for-granted philosophical position of many American anthropologists, which we would characterize as naive empiricism and/or positivism/pragmatism. By naive empiricism we simply mean someone who "tends to believe that the world 'out there' is isomorphic in every respect with the image the detached observer will form of it" (Nash and Wintrob 1972:529). By positivism, we mean the idea "that, since experience is the sole source of knowledge, the methods of empirical science are the only means by which the world can be understood" (Stent 1975:1052).
Joined together into a philosophy of science, one that dominated the development of social science, they produce the major cause of the paradox. This point of view causes the social scientist to strive to be detached, neutral, unbiased, and objective toward the object of study; to withhold value judgments; to disavow political, economic, and even moral positions. In other words, the social scientist must attempt to negate or lose all traces of his or her culture so that someone else's culture can be studied. As Nash and Wintrob put it, "to turn the field worker into a self-effacing creature without any reactions other than those of a recording machine" (1972:527).
The procedures developed to insure the neutrality of the observer and the control necessary for this type of research were evolved in a science of subject/object relations and not an anthropological science of subject/subject relations. Setting aside any political or ethical considerations, one cannot make another human being into an object of study in the same way that one can control animals or inanimate objects.
This conceptualization of science may be possible if one assumes that researchers exclusively use quantitative methods in controlled ex-
perimental settings. While anthropologists do employ quantitative methods (although seldom in labs), our chief claim to methodological fame and the primary method for doing ethnography is the most involved, nonstandardized, personal version of qualitative methods: participant-observation. We recognized quite early that, "The first means to the proper knowledge of the savages is to become after a fashion like one of them . . ." (Degerando 1800:70). While anthropologists seldom talk about it publicly, all fieldworkers know that, "In the field the researcher becomes trapped in the role of power broker, economic agent, status symbol, healer, voyeur, advocate of special interest, manipulator, critic, secret agent, friend or foe" (Konrad 1977:920).
Anthropologists who subscribe to a naive empiricist/positivist view of science and practice participant-observation in their fieldwork find themselves in a bind. "Since participant observation causes the researcher to become the primary instrument of data generation, his own behavior, his basic assumptions, the interactional settings where research is conducted, etc., all now become data to be analyzed and reported upon" (Honigman 1976:259). One is almost forced to conclude that ". . . an ethnography is the reflective product of an individual's extended experience in (usually) an exotic society mediated by other experiences, beliefs, theories, techniques (including objective procedures when they are used), personal ideology, and the historical moment in which the work was done" (ibid.).
The more the ethnographer attempts to fulfill a scientific obligation to report on methods, the more he or she must acknowledge that his or her own behavior and persona in the field are data. Statements on method then begin to appear to be more personal, subjective, biased, involved, and culture bound; in other words, the more scientific anthropologists try to be by revealing their methods, the less scientific they appear to be.
Given that dilemma, it is not too difficult to see why most anthropologists have been less than candid about their methods. They are justifiably concerned that their audience will realize that, as Sue-Ellen Jacobs has said, "Perhaps the best thing we learn from anthropological writings is how people who call themselves anthropologists see the world of others (whoever the others may be)" (in Chilungu 1976:469). It is asking anthropologists to reverse their traditional assumption about the ultimate goals of anthropology, and to suggest instead that what anthropology has to offer is a chance to see the native through the eyes of the anthropologist. Hence, most anthropologists would rather
live with the dilemma than explore the implications of being reflexive. Some anthropologists retreat behind slogans like, "Anthropology is a soft science," or "Anthropology is actually a humanities with scientific pretensions." Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., has summed up the position nicely in a recollection of his own graduate student days at the University of Chicago (1974:176):
I began with physical anthropology. I was taught how to measure the size of a brain of a human being who had been dead a long time, who was all dried out. l bored a hole in his skull, and I filled it with grains of polished rice. J hen I emptied the rice into a graduated cylinder. I found this tedious. I switched to archaeology, and I learned something I already knew; that man had been a maker and smasher of crockery since the dawn of time. And I went to my faculty advisor, and I confessed that science did not charm me, that I longed for poetry instead. I was depressed. I knew my wife and father would want to kill me, if I went into poetry. My adviser smiled. "How would you like to study poetry which pretends to be scientific?" he asked me. "Is such a thing possible;" I said. He shook my hand. "Welcome to the field of social or cultural anthropology,' he said. He told me that Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead were already in it-and some sensitive gentlemen as well.
Some anthropologists, particularly in the last fifteen years, have begun to seek a solution to the problem (e.g., Honigman 1976, and Nash and Wintrob 1972, represent two recent attempts to survey the literature). The reasons for this renewed interest (renewed in the sense that Mead and others actually started in the 1930s, but the interest died out) are complex and probably have their origins outside of anthropology in the culture at large. Nash and Wintrob list four factors for the emergence of what they call "self-consciousness" in anthropology: 1) An increasing personal involvement of ethnographers with their subjects; 2) the democratization of anthropology (a polite way of saying that in the sixties some lower-middle-class students who didn't share some of the "gentlemanly" assumptions of the older anthropologists got Ph.D.s; 3) multiple field studies of the same culture; and 4) assertions of independence by native peoples (1972:529). To that we would like to add: 1) The influence of other disciplines, particularly the effect of phenomenological and symbolic interactional sociology, ethnomethodology, and structural linguistics; 2) the development of Marxist criticism of anthropology in the United States-a criticism aimed at an examination of anthropology as an ideology; and 3) the rise of an urban anthropology concerned with doing ethnography in the United States, the complexity of the subject matter having caused some researchers to question such fundamental ideas as culture.
We have articulated a view of reflexivity as it pertains to anthropological praxis. To summarize what should be obvious now, we have argued that anthropologists behave like scientists to the degree that they publicly acknowledge the role of the producer and the process in the construction of the product, or, simply, that being reflexive is virtually synonymous with being scientific. Moreover, we have suggested that the lack of reflexive statements on methods is a consequence of a particular view of science espoused by many anthropologists.
In some ways we have said nothing novel. Social scientists have been discussing these problems and ideas for a long time. Because of the domination of participant-observation field methods, anthropologists have been particularly occupied with creating a science that allows for both quantitative and qualitative methods that can justify qualitative procedures as being scientific.
For a variety of reasons discussed earlier, the elements are now present for the emergence of a new paradigm for anthropology and perhaps for science in general. Margaret Mead in her 1976 presidential address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science noted this development (1976:905):
Both the methods of science and the conflict of views about their more general applicability were developed within Euro-American culture, and it is never easy to break out of such deeply felt but culturally bound conceptions. Because of the clarity which has been achieved I believe we can move from conflict toward a new kind of integration. As a first step in this direction I suggest that it is necessary to recognize that our knowledge of ourselves and of the universe within which we live comes not from a single source but, instead from two sources-from our capacity to explore human resources to events in which we and others participate through introspection and empathy, as well as from our capacity to make objective observations on physical and animate nature.
The problem stated in its simplest form is to find a way to be scientific, reflexive, and do anthropology-to resolve the conflict between what anthropologists say and what they do. Most of the authors in this book address themselves to the resolution of this conflict.
IV: The Editors' Confessions
To be consistent with the position espoused in this introduction, we should reveal ourselves as producers and discuss the process employed
in the construction of this work, that is, be reflexive about our ideas of reflexivity. What follows is a brief confessional aside.
My interest in these ideas stems from what began as an elitist fascination with "backstage" (Goffman 1959). I was convinced that if I could understand how someone made something and I knew who they were that that knowledge would make me an "insider." In time the interest broadened and became more sophisticated. It caused me to admire the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and Tom Robbins, the music of Frank Zappa, the photography of Lee Friedlander and Duane Michaels, the films of Jean-Luc Godard and Woody Allen, the paintings of Rene Magritte, and the comedy of the Firesign Theatre and Monty Python. Whatever else these people were doing, they were trying to raise the critical consciousness of their audiences by being publicly, explicitly and openly self-aware or reflexive. "I have become an enthusiast for the printed word again. I have to be that, I now understand, because I want to be a character in all my works. I can do that in print. In a movie, somehow, the author always vanishes. Everything of mine which has been filmed so far has been one character short, and the character is me" (Vonnegut 1972:xv).
Two other factors figured in the development of my interest. For the past fourteen years I have been engaged in exploring the theoretical possibility of an anthropological cinema (Ruby, this volume). In this process I discovered an apparent conflict between the scientific necessity for the anthropologist to reveal his or her methodology and the conventions of documentary film, which until recently have virtually prohibited such a revelation. In seeking a solution to this dilemma, I was drawn to the literature on reflexivity. In 1974 during the Conference on Visual Anthropology at Temple University in Philadelphia, I organized a series of film screenings and discussions on autobiographical, personal, and self-referential films. In doing so, I began in a more formal and systematic way to explore the relationship between what I am now calling reflexive film and reflexive anthropology.
Finally, like many anthropologists, I have felt a progressively widening ethical, political, and conceptual gap between the anthropology I learned in graduate school and the world as I have come to know it.
Among the wedges, I would note the publication of Malinowski's diary (1967) and the public disclosure of the clandestine use of social scientists in Latin America and Southeast Asia. These revelations produced a crisis of conscience and loss of innocence for many of us and gave our personal dilemmas about the role of the researcher a moral and political perspective (Hymes 1969). It should be difficult if not impossible for us now to continue to defend our naive assumptions about our responsibilities toward the people we study and toward the intended audiences for our work. We should stop being "shamans of objectivity." After the involvement of anthropologists in Viet Nam, it is an obscene and dishonest position.
It should be obvious by now that I am partisan. I strongly believe that anthropologists have ethical, aesthetic, and scientific obligations to be reflexive and self-critical about their work. I would, in fact, expand that mandate to include anyone who uses a symbolic system for any reason.
Lest the reader be led to believe that what follows are some hackneyed political and moralizing sermons on the sins of objectivity and value-free science, I wish to assure you that having exposed myself sufficiently to make you aware of my motivations, a more reasoned exploration of these ideas follows.
In 1977 I became aware that reflexivity was being used to explore the social construction of self and those social rituals designed for people to be reflective and reflexive. Through the works of Barbara Myerhoff, Victor Turner, Richard Schechner, Barbara Babcock, and others, I saw how social dramas, ceremonies, rituals, and fieldwork could be reflexive moments in an individual's life.
One of the functions of these performances is to give definition to self by seeing the self alongside or in opposition to "the other." Then the act of doing anthropology provides our collective self-culture- with a chance to examine itself through the other that exotic cultures represent. We are able to see ourselves anew when we experience other vicariously through the experience of being an ethnographer. The ethnographer becomes audience for a performance so that he or she can be a performer for us, the audience. Furthermore, fieldwork can be a reflexive experience, because ethnographers are trying to acquire social identities not their own. In one sense the success of ethnographers is measured by how well they can become not themselves while at the same time retaining their original identity.
My interests in reflexivity go far back into my childhood, though, of course, I had no such term to apply to them. The fascinating play with alternate realities came naturally out of an unhappy childhood in which books were a great consolation, providing an alternative world, more real and better in every way than the one in which most mortals spent their time. But even before reading, I recall some of my earliest moments of private play occurred as I lay in bed during a long illness and stared at the ceiling, which I found I could make into the floor. I then entered a realm of space and privacy all my own, where strange appurtances that others called lamps jutted abruptly into the air, asking to be used in surprising ways, as tables, chairs. I looked pityingly at the upside down mortals (all adults) living mindlessly in an unreal world below me, a Platonic shadow of the true world that I inhabited.
The play with the notion of the "real" versus the "pretend" shadow world, one actual, the other an upside-down reflection, was a theme that continued to haunt me. Many years later, I understood that this fascination was more than an idiosyncrasy, that it had religious counterparts. Working among the Huichol Indians, I participated in their experience of visiting their sacred land, a kind of Paradise, in which everything was reversed. Sacredness was the obverse of the normal or mundane, and as many actions as possible were done backwards. I he suggestion of an alternative opposite realm that somehow exchanges attributes with its counterpart, blurring the clear lines between actual and imagined, was a source of continuing fascination, which I fully understood during a camping trip in 1977 when I witnessed a perfect reflection of the scene I inhabited in a still mountain lake that lay before me. So clear was the reflection that the two images were indistinguishable save that one was upside down. It was not necessary to choose between them. The image and reflection were fused, completing a reality between them, a totality that achieved a unification and state of perfection. Dream and the waking life, unconscious and conscious, the above and the below, the hidden sacred domain and the palpable ordinary one were the same. l he mending of those splits was a numinous experience that told me clearly, for the first time, why I had always been so attracted to and disturbed by the problem of reflected realities.
When I grew into the world of words, my life was dominated by a storytelling grandmother, an illiterate woman of European origin,
whose passion for storytelling transformed my life. Each day she told me a different story about one of the houses on the hill behind our house. We imaginatively entered each in turn, making their stories into a commentary on our own lives. One day I wept because the kitchen window was covered with frost. I thought there would be no story since we could not see out. My grandmother laughed, warmed a penny in her palm, pressed it against the glass to make a peephole in the frost, then informed me that I had all I needed there. An opening big enough to glimpse the street outside, transformed by this frame, this tiny aperture, providing the sharpest possible focus; the ordinary scene without became a spectacle, separated from the ebb and flow of mundane life around it. It was the first time I clearly understood that something magic happened when a piece of nature was isolated and framed. It was the beginning of some comprehension of the seriousness of paying attention to a selected aspect of one's life or surroundings.
Alienation came naturally to an unhappy, not too healthy child who happened, as well, to be raised in a neighborhood and time when children of immigrants were not fully human beings. Alienation is on/ precondition for a reflexive attitude, but is not reflexivity itself. This private sense of separateness was transformed into a useful sensibility when I began to study the social sciences. I recall being immensely amused and reassured by encountering a Feiffer cartoon. A small boy was not allowed to play baseball with his friends. He stood on the sidelines, excluded, and, for lack of anything better to do, began to observe the rules of the game. He discovered "baseball" as a code, and in the last square was shown somewhat smugly commenting, "It's good thing the other kids wouldn't let me play. Otherwise I never would have noticed (the rules of the game)."
An extended period of travel also paved the way for my interest reflexivity. I recall being confused and fascinated by the sense of somehow being a totally different person as I traveled from country country. Something about how people saw me clearly altered the way I saw myself.
These vague interests and proclivities came into sharp focus during my first fieldwork, when I had an extreme sense of being a strange. It was clear that I was more a nonperson to the Indians than they were to me. This was brought home to me painfully and dramatically when my key informant visited my home. With pride I showed him the things he and others from his group had given me, displayed in my home. Then I showed him pictures of my family, assuming he would be as
interested in my mother's brother's son as I was in his. Nothing of the kind. The relationship between us, though strong and deep, was not symmetrical. It was not friendship, therefore, what was it? Neither of our cultures provided a suitable category. Enforced thought about how we saw each other ensued, though a term to call what we meant to each other never did appear.
Another significant experience that encouraged reflexive thinking occurred when I began to turn my dissertation into a book. I had the good fortune of working with an excellent editor who required that I specify at every point how I knew what I was reporting. She deleted all the impersonal forms, the third person, the passive voice, the editorial "we," and insisted on responsibility. "How did you know this?" "Who saw that?" "What was seen?', "Who is 'one?'" Her insistence on an active and personal voice was extremely difficult but eventually invaluable. By requiring me to insert myself and my verified observations into the manuscript, the editor was requiring the methodological rigor that we are simultaneously trained to value and avoid. After this bout with the editor, I found I had written a book I trusted more, that was clearer and more reliable (and, I think, more readable as well), and I had received a lesson in anthropological methods better than many I had been offered in the course of my formal training.
The last, clearest experience of reflexivity occurred in my more recent fieldwork among my own people. Required by political and personal circumstances to work at home, and among my own people (Eastern European Jews who were also very old), I found myself doing a complex enterprise that involved ceaseless evaluation of the effects of membership on my conclusions. I have written about this at some length elsewhere (1979) and will only adumbrate the high points here. It was soon evident that I knew more than I needed to, or sometimes wanted to, about the people I was studying, that at every juncture, I was looking at my own grandmother, which was to say a variation of myself-as-her, and as I would be in the future. We even looked alike. I responded with embarrassing fullness to my subjects' uses of personal mechanisms of control and interpersonal manipulation, such as guilt and tacit obligatedness, spontaneously (even involuntarily) acknowledging over and over that indeed we were one. In time I began to realize that identification and projection were enormously rich sources of information but often painful and often misleading, requiring my constant monitoring.
Another push toward reflexivity occurred when I made a film about this group. I began to understand the impact on them of being seen and
saw eventually how my view of them, and my production of this view in the form of a film, affected them, and in turn affected the world in which they lived, that is, how they were seen by others (who, by the way, had previously largely ignored them). The group, it must be added, was a naturally performative one, always enacting an interpretation of themselves on which the outside world did not agree. They persisted and ultimately succeeded in convincing themselves-and anyone they managed to corral as an audience-that this was a true picture. It became that by virtue of being performed. As Geertz put it in another context, their self-interpretation came into being as it was formulated. It did not exist clearly or in a coherent fashion until it had been publicly demonstrated. "Subjectivity does not properly exist until it is thus organized, art forms generate and regenerate the very subjectivity they pretend only to display. Performances are not merely reflections of a pre-existing sensibility analogically represented; they are positive agents in the creation and maintenance of such a sensibility" (Geertz 1980). A consummate, self-commenting and self-conscious people (as pariah people often are' the group I studied completed my conversion to reflexivity as one of the most interesting and generative attitudes possible.
In 1977 we began to discover our mutual interest in reflexivity and to exchange drafts of papers and ideas. We decided it would be a good idea to organize a symposium bringing together some of the people who were working out their views of reflexive anthropology. So, in 1978 we organized a day-long symposium for the American Anthropological Association meetings entitled, "Portrayal of Self, Profession, and Culture: Reflexive Perspectives in Anthropology."(2) This book grew out that symposium.
(2) The original symposium consisted of the following participants and papers: Stephen Lansing (University of Southern California), "An island in the liminal zone"; Paul Rabinow (University of California, Berkeley), "Observer and observed: New form of anthropological presentation"; Dennis Tedlock (University of Massachusetts), "Between text and interpretation: Toward a dialogical anthropology"; John Szwed (University of Pennsylvania), "Ethnography-a meditation"; Denise O'Brien (Temple University "Images of women in the South Seas"; Carol Ann Parssinen (Institute for the Study of Human Issues), "Social explorers and social scientists: The dark continent of Victorian ethnography", Barbara Babcock (University of Arizona), "The dangers of 'delight making' and the difficulties of describing it"; Victor Turner (University of Virginia "Performative and reflexive anthropology"; Jay Ruby (Temple University), "Ethnography as trompe l'oeil: Film and anthropology"; Ira Abrams (University of Southern California), "A reflexive view of anthropology through its film"; Richard Chalfen (Temple University), "Ethnofilm and docudrama: Constructing and interpreting ambiguous realities", Eric Michaels (University of Texas), "Looking at us looking at the Yanomamo looking at us"; Dan Rose (University of Pennsylvania), discussant.
A Crack in the Mirror is a collection of essays that explores the relationship between reflexivity and anthropological theory and practice. Some essays will concentrate on the question of how the form of an anthropological presentation (publication) might shape, influence, or create content. Anthropology contains a dominant ideology (and several contra-ideologies) with appropriate or accepted forms through which Its concepts are communicated. Those forms, once acknowledged, can be examined for the ways in which they regulate the messages. Taking a cue from cross-cultural studies, we suggest that a crossmodal comparison might be productive. By trying to communicate anthropology using nontraditional forms, such as film, one becomes aware of the ideology of anthropology. These ideas are explored in essays that deal with life history as performance (Myerhoff); anthropological cinema (Ruby and Michaels); the relationship between the novel and ethnography (Parssinen, Babcock, and Rabinow); the ethnography as a literary form (Marcus); ethnography as theater (Turner and Schechner); the written transmission of oral tradition (Tedlock), and ethnography as autobiography (Rose). We seek to join together in this book the concepts of performative and communicative reflexivity; to explore cultural and methodological self-awareness.
Looked at another way, this book is about ethnography from the "inside" as the primary means of anthropological expression; from the "outside" in comparison to other written forms such as the novel and as an entity performed as theater, seen as a film, or heard as a poem. The book challenges the alphacentric bias of ethnography. It disputes the Idea that ethnography as a written form is adequate by itself to deal with the varieties of human experience. Our goal is to renew ethnography by going outside its traditional boundaries to discover essences and limitations.
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