At the heart of this collection's theme is the issue, first,of the intermingling of theoretical discourse and ethnographic narrative, and secondly, of how the relationships between these two shift and often become decoupled in their reception among professional readerships. To understand how apparently autonomous theoretical concepts in anthropology arise from ethnographic concerns, one has to pay close attention to how both are implicated in the textualization of monographs and essays that have been especially compelling. So, as a prologue to discussing the specific case of Marshall Sahlins's development of an apparently detachable theoretical statement about the possibilities of structuralist history expressed within a recent series of essays on Polynesian, primarily Hawaiian, culture in the throes of early contacts with Europeans (1982, 1985a), I want to develop some general ideas about the relationship of theory to ethnography. (Marcus, 68)
About the Author
George Marcus is a Professor at University of California, Irvine.
"My projects continue to be explicitly collaborative and therefore I have become interested generally in the nature of collaborations at the core of the contemporary practice of diverse ethnographic research. I am interested in participating with others in the systematic rearticulation, and in some sense, reinvention, of the norms and forms of the classic modality of research in social/cultural anthropology: fieldwork with the writing of ethnography as outcome.
And I am interested in this project specifically in the pedagogical framework of producing graduate dissertations in newer topical arenas.
I am interested in how the marginal, incomplete, and belated specialty of the cultural/ethnographic study of elites in anthropology (subsuming the early projects of my career, in Tonga, on capitalist dynasties etc.) has become the means of pursuing an anthropology of contemporary change in most topical arenas. It is the necessity of working with experts and counterparts of various kinds as an orientation to fieldwork along with an abiding interest in the conditions of ordinary ,often subatlern life that generates the complexities of multi-sited research about which I have written.
Thus, my older interest in elites has become reinvigorated by asking what kinds of knowledge and what kinds of active participations from particular elites a project of critical ethnography that exceeds this orienting focus wants. In recent collaborations, I have pursued this interest in inquiries involving Portuguese nobles, European politicians, Latin american artists, U.S. bankers, and Brazilian intellectuals."