Ocasião: The Marquis and the Anthropologist, A Collaboration (Alterations)

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9780759107779: Ocasião: The Marquis and the Anthropologist, A Collaboration (Alterations)

Distinguished anthropologist George Marcus and his co-author Fernando Mascarenhas engage in a new experiment in anthropological writing. Ocasião reveals the key relationship between anthropologist and subject through the letters and commentaries exchanged between Marcus and Mascarenhas, Marques of Fronteira and Alorna in Portugal. The authors discuss the persistence and survival of the contemporary Portuguese nobility, who serve as witnesses to important transitions in modern Portuguese history. The epistolary form is the medium of this innovative ethnography, and will stimulate a new critique of ethnographic genres, originating in the work of James Clifford and Marcus in Writing Culture. This new book will appeal to readers concerned with anthropological methods and fieldwork; the anthropology of elites, and a diverse European and American community of scholars interested in Portuguese culture.

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About the Author:

George E. Marcus is Chancellor's Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. From the 1980s, he has been concerned with the study of upper classes and elite institutions in the United States and other Western societies. His major publications include The Nobility and the Chiefly Tradition in the Modern Kingdom of Tonga (1980), Elites: Ethnographic Issues (1983), (with Michael Fischer) Anthropology As Cultural Critique (1986), (with James Clifford) Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (1986), and (with Peter Dobkin Hall) Lives in Trust: The Fortunes of Dynastic Families in Late Twentieth Century America (1992). Fernando Mascarenhas is Marques of Fronteira and Alorna, and lives in Lisboa, Portugal.

Review:

Here is serendipity, with a result both provocative and entertaining. A Portuguese nobleman hosts a scholarly conference at his palace and finds an interesting American among the participants. So begins the story of Marcus and the Marquis, told here as an epistolary ethnography by e-mail, combined with remarkable and surprising autobiography (mostly from Lisbon, some from Houston), an inside account of a developing research project―and isn't there a dash of magical realism as well? In any case, the renewal of anthropology goes on. (Ulf Hannerz, Stockholm University)

George Marcus is truly one of the most interesting anthropologists writing today. His two enduring commitments―to the reform of anthropological practice, and to understanding the inner lives of cultural elites―play off against one another in myriad ways in this fascinating book. Marcus's idea to publish the extensive exchange of e-mails between himself and the Portuguese nobleman Fernando Mascarenhas was a brave move, not least because it gives us a chance to see the 'native' talking back, most articulately, to the anthropologist. (Sherry B. Ortner, University of California, Los Angeles)

This is a work of both virtuosity and virtuality, realized through a modernist 'uncanny': all anthropologists should here find, astonishingly reflected, the gestation of their own affective and intellectual intimacies in fieldwork. Although the protagonists first met at a conference (at which I was also present), their deeper intellectual and affective intimacy emerged, improbably, in e-mail, safe, perhaps, from a sardonic physical presence that might otherwise have impeded their remarkable cumulative insight. (Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University; author of Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation-State)

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