What Does Anthropology Sound Like: Poetry

What Does Anthropology Sound Like: Poetry

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This is the second episode in the What Does Anthropology Sound Like series. In it Dr. Darcy Alexandra and Dr. Ather Zia join contributing editor and producer, Cory-Alice André-Johnson, to discuss ethnographic poetry. As the primary focus of the series is to showcase the various forms anthropology takes, in addition to answering a few questions about style and method, both guest also share examples of the ethnographic poetry they've written.

Dr. Alexandra will discuss three poems that were awarded first place in ethnographic poetry by the Society of Humanistic Anthropology in 2018 based on her experiences in El Salvador and the U.S.-Mexico border. Dr. Zia will share poems from her new book, Resisting Disappearances, based on her work in Kashmir.

Guest Bios

Darcy Alexandra is a Swiss National Science Foundation researcher at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern. Her research with asylum seekers, "Visualizing Migrant Voices–Co-Creative Documentary and the Politics of Listening," builds critical pathways for public anthropology and practice-based scholars, in particular those working with stories under threat of erasure and marginalization. Drawing from poetry, creative non-fiction, moving, and still image, she facilitates co-creative ethnographic research as inquiry through practice. Her current project, Against a Virtual Wall: Surveillance and Futurity in the U.S. Mexico Borderlands, examines surveillance technologies in relation to climate change and Indigenous theories of futurity. For more information, please visit Dr. Alexandra's website or her Academia.edu page.

Ather Zia is a political anthropologist, poet, short fiction writer, and a columnist. She teaches at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. Dr. Zia is the author of Resisting Disappearances: Military Occupation and Women’s Activism in Kashmir (University of Washington Press, 2019) and co-editor of Resisting Occupation in Kashmir (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) and A Desolation Called Peace (HarperCollins, 2019). She has published a poetry collection The Frame (1999) and another collection is forthcoming. Dr. Zia’s ethnographic poetry on Kashmir has won an award from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit and is the co-founder of Critical Kashmir Studies Collective, an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on the Kashmir region. For more information, please visit her page on Academia.edu.


This episode was produced by Cory-Alice André-Johnson. Special thanks to Dr. Darcy Alexandra and Dr. Ather Zia for sharing their poetry. Deep gratitude and appreciation to Shelmith Wanjiru, the Associate Producer for this episode.

Intro and outro: All the Colors in the World by Podington Bear.

Logo designed by Janita van Dyk.


De León, Jason. 2015. The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ocean Vuong

Natalie Diaz

Maureen N. McLane

Tin House


Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 0:24

Welcome to Anthropod and to the second episode in the What Does Anthropology Sound Like series. I'm your host Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson and today we'll be discussing poetry with Dr. Darcy Alexandra and Dr. Ather Zia. This is the second installment of a series aimed at showcasing the different forms that anthropology and anthropological writing can take. In each episode, I asked the same three questions about form to two different anthropologist both working within the same medium. If you haven't already, I encourage you to go back and listen to the first episode, in which I talk with Dr. Sophie Chao and Dr. Bianca Williams about activism. Otherwise, let's get started with our first guest, Dr. Alexandra. Dr. Darcy Alexandra is a Swiss National Science Foundation researcher at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern. Her research with asylum seekers visualizing migrant voices, co-creative documentary, and the politics of listening builds critical pathways for public anthropology and practice based scholars. In particular, those working with stories under threat of erasure and marginalization, drawing from poetry, creative nonfiction, moving and still image. She facilitates co-creative ethnographic research as inquiry through practice. Her current project against a virtual wall surveillance and futurity in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands examines surveillance technologies in relation to climate change and indigenous theories of futurity. During our interview, she will discuss her poems that were awarded first place in ethnographic poetry by the Society of Humanistic Anthropology in 2018. Welcome, Dr. Alexandra.

Darcy Alexandra 2:18

Thank you, Cory-Alice. It's great to be here.

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 2:20

So first, I'll ask you the same series of three questions that I asked everyone and then you'll share some of your poetry with us. My first question is why did you choose to write these pieces and why in this way?

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 2:34

I chose to write these pieces through poetry because making the poems gave me new ways of thinking about violence and trauma and migration. It helped me to uncover the silences that had accumulated in the wake of violence and trauma. I learned this while experimenting with poetry in combination with audiovisual anthropology during my fieldwork with asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in Ireland. The poems that are published in Anthropology and Humanism span a period of twenty-five years. They create a kind of triptych that begins in San Salvador in 1991 and ends in Central Europe in 2015. The first poem, "Memorial," is an elegy to a man I never met but whose brutal killing, the aftermath of an extrajudicial killing, I witnessed in 1991. I was working as a human rights activist coordinating solidarity delegations in El Salvador during the war, a war in which the United States sent more than 1.5 billion dollars in primarily military aid. Approximately 75,000 people were killed during that war. Over 8,000 people were disappeared. Hundreds of thousands of people were internally displaced and half a million people fled El Salvador, seeking refuge in other countries, like the U.S. That’s where I first started working with asylum seekers—back in 1987 as a community interpreter in Bellingham, Washington. I met Central Americans who were seeking refugee status, and I met people who were organizing with the sanctuary movement and demanding an end to the war. [4:32] This led me to eventually live in El Salvador and to work with the Salvadoran Association in Search of Disappeared Children, Pro Búsqueda. As an adoptee, this work had tremendous resonance for me and yet there wasn’t much chance to reflect about much of anything during that time; I always felt we were in a kind of permanent emergency mode. In 1998 I made the very difficult decision to leave El Salvador and return to the United States. I moved to Tucson, Arizona and there, in the borderlands, while out for a hike in Sycamore Canyon, near the border with Mexico, I found the memory of Martin Ayala Ramírez, the man who had been killed and whose body I had witnessed. I returned to my notebooks and found the beginnings of the poem that I first had written after witnessing Mr. Ayala’s killing. I began to connect the terror of intervention with what was happening in the borderlands, the Land of Open Graves, as Jason De León has so aptly named the region in relation to the crimes against humanity that have been occurring since the introduction of Prevention through Deterrence. But I set the poem aside. I didn’t start thinking about it again until I was working in Ireland. I was collaborating with asylum seekers—people who were legally present in Ireland under international law, and yet living in tremendous economic, political, and social isolation in the Direct Provision system. Observing how research collaborators engaged with the filmmaking process, developing their storyboards, making images and thinking through their voiceovers, I was very struck by the profound value of making time and space for reflection, and the act of making things together. [6:37] As I began to talk with research participants about the audiovisual, multi-modal process, a number of people spoke about how the act of making things, the process of making an audiovisual story opened up a new kind of relationship to lived experiences. And this was a very different kind of storytelling than what people were used to, it wasn’t the kind of storytelling that takes place in the asylum system—there were no legal or testimonial demands that were made. There were no legal or testimonial expectations and over a period of time, the storyteller could think through what she wanted to emphasize, what she wanted to argue and reveal. This brought me back to why I had first been intrigued by audiovisual storytelling as a research method in the first place. I had considered that maybe it could be a way to enter into complex lived experiences, to trace silences, and surface memories in a way that is more respectful for the storyteller, the survivor, the witness. There’s a very beautiful essay by Ocean Vuong where he talks about the death by suicide of a beloved uncle and how Ocean finds himself wondering through Queens on New Years Eve and he notices the fire escapes—how he sees them as feeble and thin and yet essential and capable structures and he likens the fire escapes to poems. He sees them as a kind of architecture of resistance. He writes that they are “hammered into a structure just wide enough to hold the weight of (his) living.” I love this idea and in my own exploration of making poems, I find it resonant and instructive as I’ve been thinking about the long-term reverberations of terror and violence and the silences that they have created within me.

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 8:50

And can you tell us about a particular stylistic choice you made? And why?

Darcy Alexandra 8:55

Well, I think it's interesting because I was just at the Tin House Summer Writers Conference. And I realized that it's really the first time for me that I'm speaking about stylistic elements of poetry. I've been reading and writing poetry for a very long time. But I think that when you go to then talk about the elements of a poem, something that I'm much more, that's it's a new area for me. So I mean, the stylistic elements of memorial for example, if you think about the first poem that is in memory to Martin Ayala Ramírez, I guess one of the very first elements is simply that it's, it's an elegy. And there's a very long tradition of elegy in poetry. And it raises the question of, you know, who is memorialized? And whose lives do we remember and whose lives are written about in this way? And I think one of the things that I was thinking about in writing the poem was this tension around the fact that I knew so little about him, actually, I only learned of him after he had been killed. And so it's the terror of that as well of learning about someone in the ways in which they were objectified in this case. And so, that was one of the tensions that I was trying to work through in the poem of my decision in that moment to not photograph his body. But then also living with the resonances of that violence, and having experienced his assassination or the aftermath of his assassination, better said, so it is an elegy. And it also opens up space for thinking about the complexities of that. [10:47] And I maybe stylistically, one of the ways that I try to do that is in having the three line break, or the poem is constructed in three lines, and then the break between the three lines, there's quite a bit of enjambment in the lines as well, stylistically, it's also a very visual poem, which is, of course, ironic in that it's a poem against photography in a way, but yet, it's also a poem that is struggling to work outside of that genre. So, those are some of the things I would say about Memorial, stylistically speaking, in Ruta de la Malintzin, it's not entirely a bilingual poem, but it has quite a bit of Spanish in the poem. And I wanted to stylistically appreciate the beauty of the words. So there's exclamatory, I use exclamatory sentences, which is not something I often do. And but I was playing around with that, you know, of just how extraordinary delicious tamarindo is, and how amazing anona is and so just, I think, in a way, there's a playful element of the poem where I'm trying to think about this and soil aspects of these foods. And then, yeah, the relationship between places and movement between spaces. And then the last poem, is it more ordinary to forget or to remember, stylistically, it's in couplets. I like the tightness of that. I think it created a kind of movement. I mean, ideally, you want the poem to move you, you want the poem to move the reader reading the poem, you learn how to read the poem, by being inside it by reading it. [12:39] So ideally, when you're writing the poem, you're moving your reader through it, you're moving your reader through the spaces in the ways that you imagine she or he or they will, will experience it. I can't say why I chose couplets, but it made sense at the time. And then of course, I can go back and, and someone might read it and say, well, that really didn't make sense to me. I don't see why that structure needs to be that way. But I liked the way and just playing with the lines and thinking through both what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it I decided on couplets. And maybe, sometimes we don't want people to move through, we also want to create a sense of breathlessness or, yeah, the whole issue of pacing and timing and the ways in which those experiences are reflected on the page. And of course, it's very difficult to know how the reader will we can determine how the reader will understand or experience the words on the page but that's certainly something we think about as as we're writing an ethnography or a journal article or, or a poem. Yeah.

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 13:50

Lastly, what makes poetry anthropological and anthropology poetic?

Darcy Alexandra 13:55

Well, I think maybe it's easier for me to answer first about how poetry is anthropological. Because I think that to be, to write poetry, to think about poetry, to read poetry, you need to be an excellent observer, you need to, you need to pay attention, you need to listen well, you need to be able to, to be still in a way and experience what it is you're experiencing. And then you also need to be fully engaged. So I think it's really about being alive to the senses, and observant, well listening, sensorial, all of these words, I think, cross the two dimensions or that they're both applicable to poetry and to anthropology. And I think that it's also something that by practicing anthropology, you can potentially sharpen these skills. And also by practicing poetry, you can potentially sharpen these skills, I think I become a better reader, and a better listener by reading poetry and listening to poetry. And I like to think that my more academic writing becomes sharper and more concise and more clear, it helps me to better understand what it is that I want to say and what's at stake and who's involved. And then how anthropology is poetic. I don't know, I think that there's so many different ideas about what poetic is. So that seems a more ambiguous question for me, because what is poetic you know, I, luckily, we have so many diverse voices in poetry, and there's so many different ways of being poetic, that it's hard to, for me to pin it down and say, Okay, this is the way to be poetic. [15:53] So therefore, anthropology is this as well, if that makes sense. Once again, at at the conference, where I was just listening to a number of different readers, there were several times when I was moved to tears. And I don't know that I'm often moved to tears when people are reading journal articles, or when they're giving ponencias, you know, or public lectures, I think that I can be challenged and excited and laugh. Of course, all of the emotions can be evoked through anthropology, anthropological writing, but I found it quite interesting how funny some of the poets were, as well, and I think that maybe, and this was really exciting to see, because I don't know that we often have much humor, or that we are particularly skillful at bringing our humor to the page in anthropology or in ethnographic writing. Of course, now I can think of some ethnography said that and some ethnography that are very skillful at that, but there was one poet in particular that I'm thinking of Maureen McLean, when she was reading her work, she was so wickedly funny. And it was just so delightful to laugh, and to have the experiences of this deeply funny poetry, and then other poets like Natalie Diaz, whose work is so deeply inspiring for me, she also was so funny. And also she made me cry, you know, so it was extraordinary to experience, Yeah, just all that language can do, and all that words can do, whether they're on the page, or they're spoken. That's what's exciting about poetry for me. And it's really wonderful to explore the spaces between different types of writing because I realized that when I'm writing a journal article, for example, I'll also be writing poems. [17:48] And it doesn't really happen the other way, I realized that when I'm focusing on a specific series of poems, I don't move to writing a journal article. But I think that when I go back to do more traditional, let's put it that way, academic writing, I like to think that that writing is enhanced. And then, I always find it exciting that when I'm doing academic writing, the poems will be kind of finding their way out too. And I like that. I think when I first started, I guess maybe thinking myself more seriously as also a poet. I worried about that somehow. I don't know why I would worry about it. But I thought, Oh, you know, obviously, I need to only be a poet or you know, maybe I'm not. What was it? I'm not sure what it was exactly that, that that provoked anxiety. Maybe it's just the normal, everyday anxiety that that happens with life. But I feel much more at ease with that now, I think that and you know, actually in Latin America, there's a very long tradition of this. You know, I think that there are, people are, writers are less divided into genres, you'll, you'll meet many writers who are essayists and poets, and they write articles and they've have a background in journalism, and they've written a novel, you know, that people will cross genres much more fluidly. And maybe it's more a thing in the states where you're a poet or an essayist, or a novelist, and I don't know that either one is bad or good, but I know for myself, I like to be in several genres. So I feel at home and that now and I see the ways in which writing journal articles, writing book chapters, thinking about larger writing projects are in conversation with poetry.

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 19:44

We will now listen to a selection of poetry written and read by Dr. Alexandra. Thank you so much for sharing both your thoughts and work with us.

Darcy Alexandra 19:54


{In memory of Martin Ayala Ramírez)

Walking the border in Sycamore Canyon,
hundreds of miles and years gone,
I find his image

here—beaten from the stem, thrown down,
caught in the knuckles of the cottonwood.
The river willows,

the monsoon winds, the message they left.
I remember the color—circles like paint drops,
and not. A young woman

sobbing inside a young man’s arms.
Cabinets torn from the shoulders
of the room. Typewriters dragged

to the floor. One single phone jack
pulled from its socket. Military boot prints.
That color in circles—like paint drops, and not.

Someone, maybe it is the young woman, tells me,
take a photo.
Captured in the final station of the cross,

a man in his mid-sixties
tied to the pillar for everyone to see.
His eyes

blindfolded, his head
twisting from his neck slashed open,
his empty hands bound swollen,

his feet exposed. My eyes
rush across him. Night watchman.
Who belonged to him?

His body as they destroyed it.
The photograph
I am telling you now

Darcy Alexandra 21:17

Ruta de la Malintzin

Over Mexico
clouds walk thickly. They exhale to disappear.
The Lempa River now, moving earth below,

free to forget or to remember.
When we must go, we learn
to ingest memory.

Our skin culled by the Pacific,
the family who send us,
our provisions against the missing.

The stink of country.
Yes, food again. Peanut butter, mac and cheese

chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken, fruit
candies—crystalized, condensed with milk:
Ay, amber tamarindo!

Fleshy, kind zapote!
Gauze anona, pink essence!

Upon return, we applaud
the plane touching down.
Our bags itching

to rebuild.


Darcy Alexandra 22:09

Is it More Ordinary to Forget or to Remember?

Again we land
and take the same photograph,

beyond shutters
colored sorbet melted to earth,

the Alpine range presses down.
The pluck of scaffolding, workers’ hands,

hope between seasons.
Locals walk their dogs alone,

no need to smile
for strangers. They keep

to their own mountain midline.
Nervous as wind,

goats twitch and munch, sounding bells
that soften worry. The bells

say, not all distance feels far,
you are not too small

to survive. Every day now she runs
toward her daughter, the voice

of her infant son gathering with birds and snow.
Here she forgets what staying will cost

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 23:20

I'm pleased to introduce our next guest, Dr. Ather Zia. Dr. Zia is a political anthropologist, poet, short fiction writer, and a columnist. She teaches at the University of Northern Colorado Greeley. Dr. Zia is the author of Resisting Disappearances: Military Occupation and Women’s Activism in Kashmir and co-editor of Resisting Occupation in Kashmir and A Desolation called Peace. She has published a poetry collection The Frame and another collection is forthcoming. Dr. Zia’s ethnographic poetry on Kashmir has won an award from the Society for Humanistic Anthropology. She is the founder-editor of Kashmir Lit and is the co-founder of Critical Kashmir Studies Collective, an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on the Kashmir region. Welcome, Dr. Zia.

Ather Zia 24:13

Thank you so much for having me.

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 24:15

Thank you for joining us, I'm going to jump right in with the questions. So why did you choose to write these pieces in this way?

Ather Zia 24:23

So I've always been doing poetry and I've been writing poetry and I didn't want to, I mean, I didn't want to stop it after I started doing anthropology. And I also know that there is a niche for ethnographic poetry in anthropology, but it wasn't, it wasn't as big as it is growing as it is now, when I actually started. So the reason I kind of, when I wrote this book, I also wanted to pay obeisance to ethnographic poetry. And you know, kind of like illustrating that what I'd been doing in the field, acknowledging that poetry was as much of a part of my data collection in a way, as much as the, you know, regular field notes, where another ethnographer might do the same project or a similar project, and might not choose to engage with poetry because they don't write poetry. Because I did, I felt like when I was in the field, I felt like that there were a couple of things happening, and one of them was that as an ethnographer, you are witnessing, and you are recording, and you are documenting. But at the same time, if you're used to doing theater writing, like I was, I also felt that there was this suffusion of feelings and I'm also a native anthropologist, when I go to back to Kashmir, I'm also feeling things in a very multidimensional way, because I have seen those situations as a Kashmiri, as a woman. And what actually started happening was that as much as I was doing my regular field notes, I was also very driven to write poetry, it was kind of like, you know, it's just a creative expression that just descends and you just want to sit down and you want to deliver it in the right manner. And when I would do my interviews, when I would go to the sites, which I had to go to, like, you know, like the torture centers, which are strewn across Kashmir, and this is a very tragic political dispute that has produced so much trauma and a humanitarian crisis, that because of what the Indian occupation has done inside Kashmir, these forcible disappearances of competence, non-competence, these human rights violations, and I also thought, [26:22] you know, as I was doing this, I did have this doubt whether I'm doing the right thing, but then, you know, poetry is a genuine expression in and of itself, whether you connect it to ethnography or not, so I kept writing poetry at the same time, it was also a catharsis for me, I was documenting, and I was witnessing, but at the same time, as I was, you know, after everything is said and done, I just sat down to write this, it was what I also call as, it's an ethnographic surfeit, that's how I kind of see this, that there is a surfeit of emotion. And as an anthropologist, as an ethnographer, when you're in the field, you're feeling, you know, there's this super imposition of different registers, that you are kind of witnessing, and for me, it kind of showed up in ethnographic poetry. And as I was recording the interviews, as I was talking to the women, as I was talking to all Kashmiris, what was happening was that they were being produced as field notes, and also the poems. And then once I got to the point, when I was putting it together as a book, I felt like that some of the poems, they really, really spoke to each section of the book, they captured what was being done, they captured the thesis of that section, if I can put it that way. And that really made sense to me. And I kind of began thinking that this might work. And it's also one, you're kind of showing that ethnographic poetry is, can go hand in hand with serious in depth ethnography, so that's what drove me to kind of like use those pieces as starting for each of the sections. And if you read them, you'll see that they have a same thread running, and they kind of handle one thing, one section, the ethos and the essence of one section to the other section.

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 28:12

Could you tell us about a particular stylistic choice you made and why?

Ather Zia 28:17

So I don't think there's a specific technique with the poems because I just let them come the way they wanted to. But there were a couple of instances which became very dominant, where I was kind of just staying true to what was being said, kind of assumed the vantage, or maybe wrote from the vantage of the people that I was interviewing and those poems, some of the poems are, really, they kind of resonate through the vantage of the person who is being interviewed or it is a mother or it's a mother activist or it's a half widow activist, half widow activists are women who, whose husband has disappeared, and they don't know whether they're dead or they're alive. So the local media, they have coined this term for them, which is a half widow. So, some of the poems that you'll see are from that vantage, and, you know, there are questions about representations whether we can do that, but I also think it'd be a good piece of writing. And it does kind of stay true to what I heard and the way it wanted to be sort of rendered to people who will be reading it. So that is a little stylistic element that's very specific in some of the poems, I think the field does call you to deliver it in not just a serious prose or academic prose, but also in different creative ways. I feel like that kind of gives us this multi-sensorialness of our field. And I felt that, I mean, just because I do poetry, I felt it in that manner as well. But just think about this woman, who is, she's passed, but she continues to be in the book. And she continues to be in this very ethnographic sort of space, at the site where she's always keeping a door ajar. When I first met her, it was one of the coldest Himalayan winters in sixteen years, it was a record breaking cold. And when I entered her house, there was a small shanty. When I entered, and I sat down, I thought I'd closed the door behind me. And she refused. And she said, No, don't close the door. [30:12] And I didn't think much of it, I thought, but then she's began talking about how she feels very, she feels a sort of choking if she closes the door. And that day, as I sat interviewing her and talking to her, getting to know her more, and over the years, I knew her, she had this strange connection with keeping the door open, and that became an ethnographic sight, it became very potent for me. And to me, that door became the symbol of the affective law, that is the crux of the book. And then I really began realizing that waiting and the doors were so, they were highlighted in an intense manner in the lives of these women, and in the lives of these activists who are looking for the disappeared, and the disappeared is just disappeared, you know, they can come back, because they're not dead, they're not killed, they haven't seen the bodies. So there is this sense of waiting, that is permeating all levels, their psychic, their intellectual, physical, emotional, social, political levels of their lives. And once I began realizing this, and be and of course, we do in depth ethnography, and that kind of helps us see these and kind of bring these micro resistances to light in face of formal institutions, which might say otherwise, that these are just women, they can't do much, and they show agency, they show a sense of resistance, and I began to see this as an affective law, and that this is a law, even when there's a curfew, and you have to close your doors, she will never close her door. And that, as I began writing that, as you know, as an academic piece, and as part of my dissertation, it also dawned on me that I probably wouldn't be doing a justice to just render it in prose. And that's when I'd already begin, began thinking about the doors and it began to render itself as a poem as well. And I'm sure if someone, I used to make films long back, but I'm sure if I had that kind of time, and I'm sure if someone was doing an ethnographic film, there would be an expression kind of connected to that. So I feel like all of this makes an ethnography rich, rather than take anything away from it. [32:13] And the field sometimes just lends itself to creative expressions, rather than just being, you know, solely serious and academic. And when I say serious, I don't mean that other forms of expression are not serious. What I mean is that purely academic approach. So this vignette that I just rendered to you about the door, it kind of gives us a sense of how this could be multi dimensional, and how one would want to use it in different forms of expression. And it did descend in that manner. So I began to see it that it came so potent, that returned into a poem. And that's the form that kind of introduces that section. So I feel it has a lot to do with an ethnographer like how they want to enter the field. And sometimes the field is also very, very potent with motifs and with different symbols and symbolisms that kind of lend to your thesis, but at the same time can be rendered in different ways.

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 33:07

What is poetic about anthropology? Or anthropological about poetry?

Ather Zia 33:11

So poetry, after everything is said and done is about human experience, but not just human exposure limited to what we see but what is beyond us, and what we can make of a certain situation or some sort of a psychic situation or some situation that is outside in the physical world. And in that sense, anthropology is also about rendering what we see in the outside world. Anthropology is about rendering, you know, most genuinely and in the most bona fide manner, what we see and what we've witnessed so that other people can draw their own conclusions, as well as the conclusions that we try to see. And not, we're not speaking for anyone, and we are giving them the field as it is, and also putting ourselves in the center of it all. Because I think that's the beauty of ethnography that the person who is doing this work is there, they're talking about who they are, the subjectivity is not something that we ignore. And I feel like that's the connection. When I think about poetry, it also renders the human world, but there is this element of miracle to it. And I also feel like anthropology because it reads, society treats cultures, or treats people as text, and then kind of, you know, thinks about them and even thinks about the thoughts that people think. And in that sense, I feel there's this connection, where we are doing some, the same kind of rendering, when I think about ethnographic poetry, even the term sometimes thinking about what is ethnographic in poetry, or should it just be poetry because all poetry is ethnographic. So in that sense, I feel there is a deep connection, because both of them are rendering what we see and what we really don't see, but what we are hearing and what we are trying to put together. So in poetry, we take a lot of license. In anthropology, we might not take a lot of license, because, or maybe not at all, because this is research work. It is there is a certain methodology. But at the same time when I do ethnographic poetry, I feel like I am being most genuine to what I see in the field. [38:08] And I'll give you an example: When I talk about Kashmir in my ethnographic poetry, and it has been so long, the focus of what I've written is ethnographic poetry. When I write Kashmiri poems, I really want to call them ethnographic poems because I feel like I have produced them through a certain training in social science and not necessarily, it doesn't necessarily impinge upon the creative expression or the natural expression it is for me, but there is a way of seeing it. And for me, that becomes very, very important and that becomes very foregrounded, so I want to kind of call it ethnographic poetry.

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 35:45

Thank you so much for this. We will now hear a selection of poems written and read by Dr. Zia, from her latest book, Resisting Disappearances.

Ather Zia 35:54

i, once lost you
in the bazaar
that no more opens
i will find you again,
i promise
only this time
instead of sweets
we will get freedom

Ather Zia 36:08

you are always arriving
in the night,
at dawn,
morning, quiet
during the day
a shadow
a voice
brushing against me

you are always arriving
the door stays open, now -
I am not afraid
of the soldiers or mice

only you arrive
all fear is gone

Ather Zia 36:34

i know
women should not be seen -
should I hide?

i know
women should not be heard-
should I be quiet?

i know
if all i do -
is listen
who will find you?

Ather Zia 36:53

Kashmir only bleeds

in the district, near
what they insist is a border
the dust is still uneasy
on the graves, now only numbered

dead-men’s shirts
hang from the nearby trees
untired flags touched by
kids too young to know poetry

the gash across the verdant body
now even deeper, the glass map
of our country, broken still

i swear Shahid, i picked up where you left
in this long war of learning
our Kashmir only bleeds –

Ather Zia 37:33

the blood-soaked rags
drying in Dilli and Lahore
are fresh in Lal Chowk –

the slaughterhouse is open –

Kashmiri bodies hung
on hooks blinded eyes,
tender tongued radical
meat branded Azadi
is the venison of nations

Ather Zia 37:58

i returned home to broken gutters
spilling onto doorsteps,
bullet-casings, old bones

she had kept the roses
from the garden gutted by grenades,
winter had razed the rest

she never bid him goodbye,
her eyes red from the teargas,
in Kashmir
lovers are suspected of seeking Azadi

Cory-Alice Andre-Johnson 38:30

Thank you for listening to Anthropod, the podcast for the Society of Cultural Anthropology. My name is Cory-Alice André-Johnson, and I've been your host for this episode. Again, I'd like to thank Dr. Alexandra and Dr. Zia for participating in this episode and sharing their work with us. I'd also like to share my deep appreciation for Shelmith Wanjiru, the associate producer for this episode. We hope that you will tune in again to hear more episodes in our new series: What Does Anthropology Sound Like.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai