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How Did It Feel for You? Emotion, Narrative, and the Limits of Ethnography



ABSTRACT  In this article, I present the case for a narrative approach to emotion, identifying conceptual and presentational weaknesses in standard ethnographic approaches. First-person and confessional accounts, increasingly offered as a corrective to the distancing and typifying effects of cultural analysis, are shown to be unreliable; shared experience turns out to be an illusion. Instead, I suggest we look to literary examples for lessons in how to capture the full significance of emotion in action. Here, however, we reach the limits of ethnography.

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