The Epistemology of Ethnography: Method in Queer AnthropologyGLQ
AbstractThis essay explores methodological dilemmas in queer anthropology by reviewing three recent queer ethnographies: Mary Gray's Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America; Mark Padilla's Caribbean Pleasure Industry: Tourism, Sexuality, and AIDS in the Dominican Republic; and Gloria Wekker's The Politics of Passion: Women's Sexual Culture in the Afro-Surinamese Diaspora. The essay aims to illuminate the epistemology of queer studies more broadly by focusing on a key paradox of ethnographic method: the binary of theory and data that is simultaneously made and unmade in ethnographic research and writing. In a newly transnational queer studies, ethnography has become a source of knowledge of non-Western, local, or cross-cultural sexual practices and formations. Each of the three ethnographies under review makes an important intervention in transnational queer studies: linking local sexual practice to global capital flows, disrupting static notions of self and sexual subjectivity, and showing the mobile and active processes of queer community production. By critically examining their use of method—not only anthropology's hallmark method of participant observation but also its methods of interpretation, of writing and analysis—the essay queries the epistemological ground of our desires for sexual knowledge (data) that might exceed queer studies' theoretical categories.
Citation InformationMargot D. Weiss. "The Epistemology of Ethnography: Method in Queer Anthropology" GLQ 17.4 (2011): 649-664.