AAA Annual Meeting Program

AAA Annual Meeting Program Details


View Session Details
Paper Information:
Type: Paper
Paper Title: ETHNOGRAPHIC REALISM
Author: ELLEN LEWIN (University of Iowa)   
Date/Time: Fri., 4:15 PM
Co-Author(s): ELLEN LEWIN (University of Iowa) 
Abstract: Conversations between humanities-based queer and social science approaches to queer/LGBT lives have often been rancorous. In a memorable moment at the 1994 national LGBT studies conference, a queer media specialist referred sneeringly to the empirical inclinations that animate anthropology as a concern with “the so-called real world.” I will use this comment to underscore an element of Esther Newton’s work that has been central to the field her work inspired, what I call “ethnographic realism.” In Mother Camp, we learned about the ways that drag queens of various types understood themselves and put their social worlds in order. A lot of what Newton revealed wasn’t what we might have liked to hear—that professional drag queens looked down on their street fairy sisters, that many queens used their professional status to deny membership in a stigmatized group. Similarly, in Cherry Grove, Fire Island, Newton depicted the Grove’s residents with all their warts—alcoholism, impersonal public sex, racism, misogyny, and class snobbery—and thereby crafted a portrait that firmly depicted the “real” as it appears in the lives of lesbian and gay people. Using examples from my own work and that of others in our field, I argue that Newton’s commitment to ethnographic realism laid the groundwork for anthropological practice grounded in the unvarnished experience of the people we study, even when this experience is politically unpalatable or remote from images of brave subversion central to many queer ideologies.

Program Number: 3-0815
Session Title: THE MOTHER (CAMP) OF US ALL: LGBT ANTHROPOLOGY HONORS ESTHER NEWTON
Session Sponsor: Association for Queer Anthropology
Session Date/Time: Fri., 1:45 PM-5:30 PM
Organizer(s): ELLEN LEWIN (University of Iowa) 
Chair(s): ELLEN LEWIN (University of Iowa)  
View Session Details


Schedule-at-a-Glance

If you have any questions about the program, please contact the AAA Meetings Department at aaameetings@aaanet.org.