I assigned myself a reference question that I have, ultimately, little to do with. This is because I am a dork, and also because I am a little nosy. OMC is writing a syllabus for a year-long ethnography course and is trying to pick the books he would teach in it. I, naturally, flipped out at the chance to help (although it must be said, he didn’t technically ask for my help). I live for questions like this on the reference desk. A question like this gives me the chance to play with my beloved Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH). Subject headings can be positively joyous to use in a reference interview, although simultaneously problematic in that they are historically kind of racist, sexist and homophobic, but that is not the focus of this blog entry, although ought to be in the future (also, really great catalogers are working to remedy this every single day).
I had a few books off the top of my head that I would consider ethnographic, and that I would teach if I were OMC:
Marjorie Shostak’s Nisa: the life and words of a !Kung Woman (I want OMC to teach this because that ! is pronounced as a tongue cluck, and sitting in on this lecture would crack my shit up because he has an unbelievable amount of trouble doing the cluck. Also this is, like, standard issue cultural anthropology 101. I don’t know anything at all about anthropology but I know that this book is incredible, and that it taught me a ton about PMS in places other than America/western countries. It also taught me about having a baby in the bush. Which I don’t want to do.)
Telipit Ole Saitoti’s World’s of a Masai Warrior: an autobiography (I hesitate to put this on my booklist because that already means there will be two ethnographic books about African countries, and I don’t want the focus of this course to be too heavily skewed towards any one demographic, but alas, this book is equally great, and also horrified the shit out of 17 year-old me when Telipit gets circumcised and writes about it in terrifying detail.)
Philippe Bourgois’ In Search of Respect: Selling crack in El Barrio. (Sometimes in my brain I make a list of the people that I would write letters to if I had the time. These are people that I would write letters to simply because I admire them, and think that they’re doing wonderful, admirable things, and also that I want to grow up and be a little like them. I would give my foot to study with Bourgois at Penn. I am that impressed by him. This book changed my life. I don’t say this lightly. It has to be on an ethnographic syllabus. Also, Bourgois has a 26-page long CV. My CV is maybe a paragraph long. I need to write him a letter. And learn to be an anthropologist so I can study with him at Penn. Which leads me to wonder if I can convince OMC to shrug off his morals to let me take his classes so I can get credit in Anthropology. He won’t.)
So those are the books that I am POSITIVE have to be on the syllabus. I’m having some trouble weeding out ethnography/enthnology titles via LCSH. There are 1008 titles that are probably really great JUST AT MY LIBRARY. Imagine what we don’t have that’s amazing. Oh my god. My brain is exploding a little bit. I want to write a syllabus so badly.
I am convinced (by table of contents, LCSH, etc) that the following titles must also be on the syllabus:
Dangerous encounters : genealogy and ethnography, edited by Maria Tamboukou & Stephen J. Ball (this book has a chapter on drug treatment clinics! Neat!!!)
Gray areas : ethnographic encounters with nursing home culture, edited by Philip B. Stafford (unusual! Weird! Fun! Depressing.)
Frank Schaap’s The words that took us there : ethnography in a virtual reality (this is about gamers, and Dungeons & Dragons, and if you know OMC, you know that this book will be taught in DISGUSTING DETAIL)
I have about 600 additional titles (literally) to weed through, but if you have any suggestions, lay ‘em on me. I am writing the best syllabus ever that is not my responsibility to write.