Decameron Relived

Illustration from a ca. 1492 edition of Il Decameron published in Venice.

As anthropologists we often tell stories in our work to introduce a setting, to illustrate a point, to “try to grasp the fragments of the real world” (Fassin 2014, 41), or to give readers a sense of what it feels to live a life in a particular kind of way. Often, our stories take the form of ethnographic anecdotes and aim to capture the truth with fidelity (Byler and Iversen 2012; Jackson 2017, 46, 48). Decameron Relived is inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s classic collection of stories, set during the outbreak of the Black Death. The framing of the narrative rests on the idea that ten people in isolation tell stories to each other, over the course of ten days, to pass the time. Today, as the news that surrounds us is so often distressing and bleak, the time seems ripe to offer stories as a source of entertainment and solace, but also to provoke a different kind of existential reflection. In March 2020 I invited nine anthropologists to join me in writing, so we could share stories inspired by our ethnographic fieldwork. They were written in April 2020, a time when many places around the world were in strict lockdown and people were advised not to leave their homes. As I hope readers will find out for themselves, stories proved once again to be good and reliable companions.

A new story will be published each weekday through November 2, 2020.

Editors' Note

We would like to thank Steven Gonzales for his invaluable contributions as editorial assistant for Fictions.

References

Byler, Darren, and Shannon Dugan Iverson. 2012. “Literature, Writing, and Anthropology.” Curated Collection, Cultural Anthropology.

Fassin, Didier. 2014. “True Life, Real Lives: Revisiting the Boundaries between Ethnography and Fiction.” American Ethnologist 41, no. 1: 40–55.

Jackson, Michael. 2017. “Writing with Care.” In Crumpled Paper Boat: Experiments in Ethnography, edited by Anand Pandian and Stuart McLean, 45–47. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

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