The stories the dogs tell <READ IT>

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 13 Mar 1996 09:40:15 +0900

David Samuels, "These are the stories that the dogs tell":
Discourses of identity and difference in ethnography and science
fiction. Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 11, No. 1, February, 1996.

A fascinating exploration of the literary devices by which which
the authors of science fiction and ethnographies create a
simultaneous sense of alienation and identification with the
persons they describe. Techniques described include the doubled
narrator, with two narrative voices, "one that takes pleasure in
disorienting the reader, the other an editor, a corrective voice
that reassures the reader that the strange is not
incomprehensible"; the use of panoptic views that situate the
action in a totalizing frame; the appeal to pan-human
psychology to offset the oddity of customs that may seem strange
or repugnant; the use of all these techniques to create a
"common space of elaboration," a zone of agreement within
which the alien can be understood; the foregrounding of
"untranslatable" concepts with the tacit implication that
everything else is easy to translate. A thought-provoking article
with lots of great examples.

John McCreery
March 13, 1996