‘The Disease will Come!’ Contingency, Irony, and Challenging Closures in Ethnographic Writing
Schlagworte:Contingency, ethnographic writing, irony, Khmu, Laos, narrative
Drawing on a brief ethnographic encounter in north-western Laos, this paper argues that fleeting encounters in the field can bring unforeseen topics and phenomena to the fieldworker’s attention – in this case rumours circulating about an antidote to the impending coronavirus disease. The paper explores the resonances of this rumour with experiences from previous fieldwork and discusses a variety of local reactions, including mockery and self-deprecating gestures. Reflecting on narrative choices in ethnographic writing, the paper argues that the inclusion of contingent encounters in ethnographic writing, how they unfolded in the field and were grounded in sociality, can allow the illumination of how ethnographic knowledge is produced. Finally, this contribution argues that sensitivity to contingency and irony allows for ethnographic writing that challenges epistemic closure.
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