On not knowing one’s place
Goldsmith, M. (2000). On not knowing one’s place. In S. R. Jaarsma & M. A. Rohatynskyj (Eds.), Ethnographic Artifacts: Challenges to a Reflexive Anthropology (pp. 43-60). Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
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Ethnographers have described many cultural worlds of the Pacific with subtlety and energy, but those worlds were and are always more complex than most standard forms of ethnography have recognized. The ASAO model for the presentation of expertise, while an impressive vehicle for demonstrating ethnographic skills and thoroughness, has yet to reform the accepted boundaries of the discipline or the tradition of Pacific societies seen as "social wholes." It has depended on a division of labor that allocates theory and field-work to different roles, it has recognized ethnographic authority as accruing to those with a concretely territorial claim to represent others, and it has encour-aged a static, monocultural sense of its audiences. I hasten to add that ASAO is not unique in this regard; these strictures apply to academic anthropology in general. Moreover, change is always possible as ethnographers strive to reinvent their discipline beyond the boundaries of the possible. But the historically closed and compartmentalized nature of academic knowledge means that challenges to its perceptual boundaries tend to result from the serendipitous recognition of moments where one does not "know one's place."
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This article has been published in the book: Ethnographic Artifacts: Challenges to a Reflexive Anthropology. ©2000 University of Hawai’i Press. Used with Permission.