The sister art of anthropology

Another quick post. I am moved to share this New Year’s statement about What Anthropology Is. Why? As a novelist, seeking to give my readers a lived experience of a culture strange to them (let’s be ‘participant observers’ together), whose main aim, often, is to make the unfamiliar seem familiar, reasonable, and, yes, right: and so to expand our knowledge of ways of being human, our sense of possibilities for the species…  pardon me, but to this historical novelist, anthropology, above other disciplines, I feel to be my sister art. So much of this post is applicable. A novelist about the past cannot do better than contemplate the goals and ethics of anthropology.

Living Anthropologically: What is anthropology? 

Antrosio, Jason. 2017. “What is Anthropology? Critical Inquiry into the Conditions and Potentials of Human Life.” Living Anthropologically website, Posted 12 November 2017. Revised 4 January 2018.

7 thoughts on “The sister art of anthropology

  1. Well put and I agree. Telling a story that intentionally upends assumptions that are the foundation of societal injustice while simultaneously not being preachy or pedantic is a skill that doesn’t appear widely discussed on the blogs I visit. Terribleminds by Chuck Wendig is an exception, and your website is a clear example of how to take responsibility. I can’t dodge that I have an ethical responsibility to discover as best I can how my writing reinforces or undermines societal assumptions. That “activist” stance may not be welcomed by every writer, but it’s how I see it. Call me “sister.”

  2. I’ll happily call you sister.
    I can’t help but be an activist writer, but I guess I’m glad to say that those uninterested in activism in fiction don’t seem to notice its presence (so far).
    Going now to browse Terribleminds.

    • Thanks, in turn, for your review of Voices, which makes writing such a thing feel worthwhile. You understood so well. — Bryn

      • Came across this today, sent by a poet friend. We are not alone.

        Emily Wilson has translated “The Odyssey” and addresses many issues that might interest you, including how she “engages” with an ancient text that has been translated many times. Here’s a teaser related to our writer responsibility discussion above.

        Wilson: “I think we should aim not to be “unbiased,” but to be responsible, and that involves being as conscious as possible about our biases and preferences, as well as being informed as possible about the material at hand (which includes our society and the English language, as well as the Greek text). It’s been unsurprising that many people have asked me about how my gender identity (as a cis-gendered woman) affects my translation of the Odyssey. It’s also unsurprising, but highly problematic, that hardly anyone (except me, so far!) seems to ask male classical translators how their gender affects their work. As I show in that piece on Hesiod, unexamined biases can lead to some seriously problematic and questionable choices (such as, in that instance, translating rape as if it were the same as consensual sex).”


        • Nice.
          I spent years on a translation of _Beowulf_ (abandoned): made me fascinated by translator choices.
          This part reminds me of _The Secret History of the Mongols_, which has shifts of perspective away from (and against) the ‘hero’:

          “The Greek also, at moments, focalizes the narrative through characters who are not Odysseus, such that, for example, we can see how Polyphemus feels, in his rage and pain after the blinding; or feel the shock and pain of the slave women who are hanged by Telemachus; or share Penelope’s sense of confusion, abandonment, curiosity and grief. I felt that many translators had indulged the impulse to simplify the ethics of this poem, by presenting Odysseus as if he were not only a warrior and a protagonist, but a “hero” in the modern sense..”

          I’m convinced to read hers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *