I definitely think it’s writing first, anthropology second. That should be required of any discipline. Though disciplines are bad, by and large.
The whole talk about interdisciplinarity and so forth strikes me as complete bullshit. But that’s not really my problem; let’s not get aggressive or antagonistic. I see anthropology — let’s put it this way — as the study of culture. But in studying culture, you remake culture through writing or making a film or whatever other representational mode grabs your fancy.
Writing is… It’s a bit simplistic the way I put it, but I can’t see how you can separate these activities. I wanted to say one thing about storytelling: I say, I think in My Cocaine Museum, in the afterword, that it struck me that most of what anthropologists hear from their so-called “informants” are stories, but the anthropologists don’t recognize them as stories. And they’re very quick to translate them and reduce them into information, through talking to people as “informants.”
Of course, Benjamin (let alone your common sense) might tell you there’s a great deal of difference between the wholeness and strength and glamour — and humor — in a story, and that has nothing much to do with information per se. Information is, you know, the modern reification of all of that. So I thought if anthropologists in general are reducing stories into information, my job — or our job — should be the reverse: recognizing that this is storytelling, what’s being told to me, and to take responsibility for writing my own story.
-Michael Taussig interview with John Cline Los Angeles Review of Books