Memory and Method in Intimate Ethnography: My Father’s Wars
Lunch will be served.
Cosponsored by the Departments of Jewish Studies and Anthropology
My Father’s Wars: Migration, Memory and the Violence of a Century (Routledge Innovative Ethnographies Series) is a personal story that tells a larger, transnational, trans-ethnic, multidimensional and diasporic history. I look squarely at my father’s lived experience of displacement and dispossession, a particular life shaped by violence in its various forms—political, structural, institutional, symbolic, acute and chronic (normalized/everyday). Born in northeastern Poland on the eve of World War I, my father traveled through the multiple violences of the 20th century. In pursuing this project over many years, I have been guided by the assumption that intimate ethnography as a method and as a written document has the potential to bridge story and scholarship, bringing anthropology into the public conversation on critical social issues, past and present. Intimate ethnography has potential to illuminate in a powerful way the relationships between violence, embodied subjectivity and self-historical identity, sensate experience, social memory, power, and history. In this paper, I take stock of this fundamental assumption of my project. I will assess my version of intimate ethnography (how I am doing it; by what means), consider its potential relevance to particular audiences and for specific contemporary issues, and reflect on its value as story, and as historical and theoretical scholarship.