Anthropology, Culture, Writing
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M.C. Escher, Drawing Hands, Rijksmuseum Collection, Amsterdam

Today scholars of all disciplines have realized that how their research is presented is at least as important as what is presented.

Questions of voice, style and audience – the classic issues of rhetoric – have taken the front scene in matters of writing a report.

Writing is intended as a communicative act between author and reader. Thus, when a text is released and goes public,  meanings writers may think they have frozen into certain words, may melt before the eyes of active readers.

“Meanings are not permanently embedded by an author in the text at the moment of creation. They are woven from the symbolic capacity of a piece of writing and the social context of its reception. Most crucially, different categories of readers will display systematic differences in their perceptions and interpretations of the same writing”, says Van Maanen in his reflections on writing ethnography.

Thus writing combines elements of the real, in a certain world, at a certain time and from a certain position, and reaches out for a meaning in relation to what has been chosen to represent.

 © Melissa Pignatelli 2012
John Van Maanen, Tales of the Field, On Writing Ethnography, The University of Chicago Press, 1988.
Picture of Drawing Hands, M.C. Escher, Rijksmuseum Collection, Amsterdam.

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