Memory and Method in Intimate Ethnography: My Father’s Wars

Alisse Waterston, Professor of Anthropology, John Jay College, City University of New York
Introduction by Fran Mascia-Lees, Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences, SAS
Wednesday, april 2, 2014 at Noon
Bildner Center, 12 College Avenue
Lunch will be served.

Cosponsored by the Departments of Jewish Studies and Anthropology


My Father's WarsMy 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.

Alisse Waterston is Professor of Anthropology, John Jay College, City University of New York. She is the editor of Open Anthropology, the online public journal of the American Anthropological Association and a Soros International Scholar affiliated with Tbilisi State University in Gender Studies. Professor Waterston is President-elect of the American Anthropological Association.

Open to faculty and graduate students only