Truth and Intentionality: An Ethnographic Critique

Peer Reviewed

Essay Excerpt

...I attempt to begin rethinking here two very basic and essential notions in the study of human actions and their interpretation: truth and intentionality. Before engaging in such a critique, we must recognize that the rethinking of notions like truth and intentionality might not have come about without some other rethinkings in anthropology. In the last decade, the very practice of ethnography, the building block of the entire discipline, has been deconstructed. Articles, monographs, and collections on the process of observing, participating, taking field notes, writing them up, and then using them blossomed in this climate (cf. Clifford 1988; Clifford and Marcus 1986; DeVita 1990; Rabinow 1977; Sanjek 1990), while the practitioners tried to recover from an overdose of negative criticism that made some feel defensive and others simply alienated from their own discipline. We have witnessed an analytical revolution: the observers have tried to switch roles and play observed, the very process of analyzing others has become the object of inquiry, and the goals of the enterprise -  an objective comparison of different ways of being "human" - have come under attack (R. Rosaldo 1989). Whether or not one agrees with the meta-statements and epistemological reflections brought about or inspired by this new wave of critical anthropology, at this point it is hard for anyone just to go back and do it the old way (215).

Duranti, A. "Truth and Intentionality: An Ethnographic Critique." Cultural Anthropology 8.2(1993): 214–245.

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