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Anthropology and the Misery of Writing

Orin Starn
Professor of Cultural Anthropology and History, Duke University
Date and Time: 
Monday, March 9, 2020 - 15:30
Location: 

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)

Abstract: 

We have had much talk about experimental ethnography and the challenges of writing anthropology for several decades now.  Much of what one reads and hears acknowledges the difficulties of putting words to page. But not much has been said about the self-destroying anxiety and misery that can accompany writing in anthropology and across the humanities.  That many of us - from graduate students to tenured professors - have suffered bad, sometimes career-ending writing troubles is a public secret at once widely known and yet seldom openly discussed.  I'll draw on my own experience of writing and depression to try to make some sense why bad feeling related to writing is so relatively commonplace in anthropology today -- and whether there's anything we can do about it.