Harries [Abstract]

(Re)telling a dog story from Newfoundland: Voice, alterity and the art of ethnographic description [Full text]

John Harries [1]

AbstractThis paper addresses the question of how and why we (anthropologists and sociologists) tell stories of real people doing real stuff. It will consider this question by reflecting on three versions of a story that I have carried with me and told in variety of contexts over a couple of decades. The story is not mine but was originally told to me by a man while I was visiting a village on the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. In (re)telling three versions of this story I will be focusing on the problem of “voice” and how the voice of the other is constituted. In answering the question of how and why we tell tales of the field, I will suggest that we do so in part so other people, other voices, come to inhabit our accounts thereby rendering them “ethnographic.” The paper will conclude by arguing that our finely detailed accounts play a crucial role in both constituting the authoritative voice of the anthropologist and troubling this voice with the ghostly whispers of other voices which inhabit our narratives even if, as is the way with ghosts, they can never be wholly conjured into full presence and complete intelligibility.

Keywords: Narrative, voice, ethnography, Newfoundland, description, evocation

[1] School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom,  J.Harries@ed.ac.uk