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Rhetoric, the Document, and Atmosphere

Rhetoric, the Document, and Atmosphere

(p.67) Chapter Three Rhetoric, the Document, and Atmosphere
Far Afield
Vincent Debaene
University of Chicago Press

When they returned from the field, French anthropologists published both specialized and broadly scientific materials but also texts that were harder to classify, literary and narrative-based renderings of their fieldwork experiences. This trend reflects tensions, outlined by Marcel Mauss, between documentary imperatives and the need to represent the intangible “atmosphere” of a society under investigation in evocative documents. This chapter deals with the ways scholars like Mauss, Griaule, Durkheim, Gustave Lanson, and Alfred Métraux negotiated these tensions, often by producing narrative texts that supplemented more objective, muesum-based attempts at scientific knowledge production by communicating ethnographic knowledge through rhetoric. These and other figures wrestle with the question of narrative evocation and its ties to the potential scientific validity of subjective impressions.

Keywords:   Marcel Mauss, Emile Durkheim, Gustave Lanson, Marcel Griaule, Alfred Métraux, Atmosphere, Fieldwork, Evocative documents, Rhetoric, Museum

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