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Walking the Walk: On the Epistemological Merits of Literary Ethnography



This article argues that anthropological theories and strategies can inform the production of an ethnographic text without being or becoming the primary foci of the text. By considering the unorthodox discursive strategies of three ethnographies and one ethnographic novel—Amitav Ghosh's In an Antique Land (1992), Robert Murphy's The Body Silent (1990), Paul Rabinow's Making PCR (1996), and Laura Bohannan's Return to Laughter (1964)—I suggest that ethnographers need not always explicitly articulate their theoretical constructs to deploy those constructs in their work, and that the rhetorical mode of narration may be uniquely serviceable to this aim. [narrative, rhetorical modes, literary ethnography, critical pedagogy, situated epistemologies, philosophy of social science]