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Other research product . Other ORP type . 2021

Writing Anthropology

Wulff, Helena;
Open Access
Published: 01 Jan 2021
Publisher: Stockholms universitet, Socialantropologiska institutionen
Country: Sweden

Writing is key in anthropology, as one of its main modes of communication. Teaching, research, publications, and outreach all build on, or consist of, writing. This entry traces how anthropological writing styles have evolved over time according to changing politics in the discipline. It starts out in the late nineteenth century, showing how early writings in the discipline aimed to be objective. While writing anthropology in a literary mode goes a long way back, it was not until the 1970s that writing began to be collectively acknowledged as a craft to be cultivated in the discipline. This led to a boom of experimental ethnographic writing from the 1980s, as part of the ‘writing culture’ debate. The idea behind experimental narratives was that they might convey social life more accurately than conventional academic writing. Today, literary production and culture continue to be a source of inspiration for anthropologists, as well as a topic of study. Anthropological writing ranges from creative nonfiction to memoirs, journalism, and travel writing. Writing in such non-academic genres can be a way to make anthropological approaches and findings more widely known, and can inspire academic writing to become more accessible. Recent developments in anthropological writings include collaborative text production with interlocutors and artists. However, the tendency for experimentation is also held in check, as publishing in academic publication formats and featuring in citation indices is crucial for anthropologists’ careers. Still, as our writing moves increasingly online, there is a growth of flexible formats for publishing, including online books, essays on current affairs, and conversations in journals. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology (CEA) is an open-access teaching and learning resource.


writing anthropology, ethnographic writing, literary anthropology, anthropological writing genres, Sociology, Sociologi

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