Dear Friends

I am an indigenous performer of a ritual in Kerala, India called Theyyam. I had been performing this ritual as a cult, religion through out my life even today. I am writing all my memories of the Theyyam performed in the sacred kavus/shrines of north Malabar. Could it be an exercise in auto-ethnography?

warmly
Rajesh Komath



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It is not merely my biography, it explores the culture of Theyyam worship and the changing relationships of various social groups involved in north Malabar social life. To describe what is the organisation of a worship, I thought of narrating my own experiences of Theyyam performance in the villages of Malabar. It explores the culture of Theyyam too. Auto-ethnography involves the part of ethnography. Then it enables us to develop or engage with social theoretical knowledge on these kinds of worship as a social phenomenon.



M Izabel said:
I don't like the idea of autoethnography. Basically, it means you are writing about yourself. It is like autobiography. If you are writing about your culture, using experience and memory, that is a different story.
Hi Rajesh- I suggest you read:

Okely, J. & H. Callaway (eds) 1992. Anthropology and Autobiography (ASA monographs 29. London: Routledge.

Reed-Danahay, D. (ed.) 1997. Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting The Self and The Social. Oxford: Berg.

You'll find a great deal of intellectual support for such an endeavour in existential strands of phenomenology. Whilst there is a danger of navel-gazing, there is nonetheless much to recommend reflexivity in ethnography. For a few examples in which the anthropologist analyses their personal role as an instrument of their own research, see:

Bourgois, P. 1996. Confronting Anthropology, Education, and Inner-City Apartheid. American Anthropologist 98, 249-265.

Moreno, E. 1995. Rape in The Field: Reflections From a Survivor. In Taboo: Sex, Identity and Erotic Subjectivity in Anthropological Fieldwork (eds) D. Kulick & M. Willson. London: Routledge.

Newton, E. 1993. My Best Informant's Dress: The Erotic Equation in Fieldwork. Cultural Anthropology 8, 3-23.

Rubenstein, S.L. 2004. Fieldwork and The Erotic Economy on The Colonial Frontier. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 29, 1041-1071.
Have you come across any good work on auto-ethnography? if so please suggest me the references.


M Izabel said:
Go for it. As long as you will keep in mind that what you are doing is an ethnography on the self not of the self, then your research method is more objective than participant-observation.
Thank you very much...

Piers Locke said:
Hi Rajesh- I suggest you read:
Okely, J. & H. Callaway (eds) 1992. Anthropology and Autobiography (ASA monographs 29. London: Routledge.
Reed-Danahay, D. (ed.) 1997. Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting The Self and The Social. Oxford: Berg.

You'll find a great deal of intellectual support for such an endeavour in existential strands of phenomenology. Whilst there is a danger of navel-gazing, there is nonetheless much to recommend reflexivity in ethnography. For a few examples in which the anthropologist analyses their personal role as an instrument of their own research, see:

Bourgois, P. 1996. Confronting Anthropology, Education, and Inner-City Apartheid. American Anthropologist 98, 249-265.

Moreno, E. 1995. Rape in The Field: Reflections From a Survivor. In Taboo: Sex, Identity and Erotic Subjectivity in Anthropological Fieldwork (eds) D. Kulick & M. Willson. London: Routledge.

Newton, E. 1993. My Best Informant's Dress: The Erotic Equation in Fieldwork. Cultural Anthropology 8, 3-23.

Rubenstein, S.L. 2004. Fieldwork and The Erotic Economy on The Colonial Frontier. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 29, 1041-1071.
Rajesh, I think your suggestion is very important. Beyond the question 'autoethnography/autobiography or participant-observation' Theyyam is an important phenomenon in the framework of research into the structure of religions. It is an important example of a complex type of religion evolving from local rural traditions. I got to know some people who kept up this tradition in their regions when I was in Kerala quite some time ago. The great importance of aesthetics shows its function as a message for the harmonious interpretation of the world, different from other religions based on vertical control. And it shows that the concept of high ontological values is basically not of macrocosmic origins (as Eliade thought!). In view of this latter point: maybe anthropologists and ethnologists should get more interested in the Greek term 'kosmos'. Its etymology is close to 'cosmetics'! The latter - as a concept of aesthetic order - remained on the human face. The former was originally small scale too (aesthetic order on village scale) but during Western history of spatial cognition got into the large dimensions of the universe and thus distorts our understanding of religion.
Hi

if you have some of the soft copies of the suggested articles with you, could you please forward it to my email.
komathrajesh@mail.com

Rajesh Komath said:
Thank you very much...

Piers Locke said:
Hi Rajesh- I suggest you read:
Okely, J. & H. Callaway (eds) 1992. Anthropology and Autobiography (ASA monographs 29. London: Routledge.
Reed-Danahay, D. (ed.) 1997. Auto/Ethnography: Rewriting The Self and The Social. Oxford: Berg.

You'll find a great deal of intellectual support for such an endeavour in existential strands of phenomenology. Whilst there is a danger of navel-gazing, there is nonetheless much to recommend reflexivity in ethnography. For a few examples in which the anthropologist analyses their personal role as an instrument of their own research, see:

Bourgois, P. 1996. Confronting Anthropology, Education, and Inner-City Apartheid. American Anthropologist 98, 249-265.

Moreno, E. 1995. Rape in The Field: Reflections From a Survivor. In Taboo: Sex, Identity and Erotic Subjectivity in Anthropological Fieldwork (eds) D. Kulick & M. Willson. London: Routledge.

Newton, E. 1993. My Best Informant's Dress: The Erotic Equation in Fieldwork. Cultural Anthropology 8, 3-23.

Rubenstein, S.L. 2004. Fieldwork and The Erotic Economy on The Colonial Frontier. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 29, 1041-1071.

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