the case for Deathnography


After the Death of Ethnography by Dan Rose

“Go native. The people of the entire planet are merely a variant of your own identity as a human–or something very close to that.”

These words contain a virus that can infect you.
..It enters through the eyes.
..If you continue to read, you may be irreversibly affected and may never be able to think about the practice of ethnography the same way again.
..From this sentence on, read at your own peril.

After the death of ethnography as we know it, the new ethnographer becomes an amoral opportunist and enters the lives of people whenever and wherever it fits with one’s madness or desire.

To become, as a new ethnographer, profoundly involved in people’s lives, one must go native and disappear in order to act only as a covert operator.
..This leads to an irreversible immorality,
..the unethical, madness,
..the estranged,
..the hopelessly difficult,
..coldness and heat,
..extreme psychic distress,
..advancing schizophrenia,
..a sense of boundless adventure,
..lack of certitude,
..desire for fiction,
..endless anxiety,
..intellectual excitement.
..smuggled motives, eros,
..despair alternating unpredictably with euphoria (controlled only by human-processed substances),
..incessant breaking of unspoken contracts,
..a kind of freedom,
..and a lack of fixed co-ordinates


..Above all the ethnographer becomes an agent provocateur.

Covertness is absolutely necessitated by the evil inherent in “gathering data, information, or ‘the truth'” about one another anyway when indeed all of life teeters on the edge of the abyss of mystery and all knowledge conceals itself.

In leaving behind the descriptive-analytical and the hermaneutic-critical practices as a substitute for ethnography as ethnography, one enters the world beyond the prison of the text. It begins beyond writing, outside the book, anterior to author-ity with the (re-)configuration of one’s life, with disguised observation from slightly mistaken assumptions, sidelong glances, and is manipulative, imperious, hopelessly ambitious and derives its energy from the perverse.

We accept readily the worst side effects of the positivist agenda and push through them as through a crumbling doorway to the other side.

..There is no turning back.

Above all the new ethnographers resolve in advance and renew their resolve from day to day so as to greedily suffer the consequences of their mutable choices, decisions, opportunisms, bald calculations, unethicalness, despair, desperation, and guilt in order to freely and with abandon engage and contend.

Risk your life,
your rank,
your future,
your marriage,
your children’s health,
your literature review,
your footnotes,
your reading habits,
your paycheck (sic),
your choice of geographic location.

Your effects on those you live among: they will become extremely angry or may bless you with admiration for your audacity or eventual wisdom, or, they may do neither;

they can avoid you,
excoriate you,
venerate you,
embrace you,
denounce you,
ignore you, lie to you,
poison you,
ruin your career and damage your most intimate relationships,
spitefully and cynically use you,
deploy you for their own selfish ends to serve their maddest pretensions or neurotic interests,
swamp you,
reduce you,
fondle you,
provide false knowledge,
laugh at you,
ridicule you,
jest about you and say all manner of evils about you behind your back,
test you,
reward you,
shower money and favors on you,
make you stay late and miss your flight, or defer to you.
They may seek to bond with you forever and ever,
employ you,
treat you pornographically as objects for uncontained lust,
viciously fossip and slander you,
use rumor and scapegoating,
or veneration to deal with you.


One response to “the case for Deathnography

  1. hmm, seems to me that these possible outcomes are likely to just about any human interaction. especially the first list of the new ethnographer – most boxes would be checked if this were to be a questionnaire, but then again a “desire for fiction” and “lying” are involved here, so who really knows what could happen? (truth: i’m just pulling this out of my ass)

    never trust a man in an abstract rainbow tie. or is it never trust a cop in a raincoat?

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