Accidental Anthropology

Carolyn Nordstrom and Antonius C. G. M. Robben

in Fieldwork Under Fire

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 1996 | ISBN: 9780520089938
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520915718 | DOI:
Accidental Anthropology

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The uncertainty of violent events besets the anthropologist who becomes suddenly enveloped in a situation of violence for which he or she was not prepared. This chapter describes how one ethnographer solved this dilemma. Several Western scholars working in Beijing were irritated when the protests at Tian'anmen Square in May 1989 kept them from visiting the archives and going about their research projects. This chapter notes that the Chinese People's Movement was of historic importance and was begging to be studied. Accidental anthropology is not about emergencies but rather about understanding contingencies in a wider social and cultural context. It demonstrates the versatility and creative potential of anthropological fieldwork and the unexpected ethical dilemmas that may arise when informants turn to us for help and compassion.

Keywords: accidental anthropology; violent events; Tian'anmen Square; ethnography

Chapter.  8543 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Theory and Practice of Anthropology

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