Starting by analyzing the theoretical framework of mainstream ethnography, the study identifies the movement of this discipline, influenced by postmodern interpretation, towards more personalized descriptions of fieldwork. Instead of basing their research on applying the depersonalized method of ethnographic questionnaire and developing the canonic system of objective fieldnotes, researchers become more interested in writing personal diaries or they put an emphasis, in the process of writing the scholarly text, on their “headnotes”. These subjective accounts have started to receive conceptual support in American symbolic anthropology starting with the 1980s. They make room also for the personal memories of the investigator, and become therefore close to the discourse of literary memoirs. Bringing personal experience into the ethnographic enterprise would result from the impossibility of keeping the distance between the anthropological self and the observed other. There are many examples in western anthropology when personal impressions were sequestered in a diary, letters, introduction, or interviews.
The transition to this new paradigm is discussed using as examples Romanian ethnographic texts (from the last half of the 19th c. to very recent ones), though Romanian ethnology and sociology did not implement an explicit “reflexive turn” such as western anthropology did. The analysis shows that subjective inserts found in Romanian ethnographic works are part of the strategies the authors employed to validate their status, the extent of their knowledge, or their choice of research methods.
Keywords: traditional ethnography, interpretative anthropology, anthropological memories, I-witnessing, fieldwork, diary, Romanian ethnology.
Cuvinte-cheie: etnografie tradițională, antropologie interpretativă, memorialistică în antropologie, mărturie personală, cercetare de teren, jurnal, etnologie românească.