Tools to Shape Texts: What Creative Nonfiction Can Offer Ethnography

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Abstract

Drawing on the storytelling techniques of fiction to write about real events, creative nonfiction is a flourishing literary movement. This article examines how attention to the craft of creative nonfiction is potentially useful to ethnography. I present a few practical tools that may help ethnographers seeking to shape the materials of fieldwork: story, situation, persona, character, scene, and summary. I also ponder how to include background material without dense expository lumps. To show these tools in action, I offer a segment of my own ethnographic writing set in the Himalayan foothill region of Northwest India and present short selections from the writings of anthropologists who have reached wide interdisciplinary and popular audiences.

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