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  • Published: 29 November 2022
  • ISBN: 9780807007136
  • Imprint: Beacon Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $34.99

The Vulnerable Observer

Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart



The 25th-anniversary edition of the groundbreaking book that changed anthropology, asserting that ethnographers needn’t exclude themselves or their vulnerabilities from their work

In a new epilogue to this classic work, renowned ethnographer and storyteller Ruth Behar reflects on the groundbreaking impact The Vulnerable Observer has had on anthropology, sociology, and psychology and on scholarly writing. A pocket companion for writers, journalists, documentarians, and activists alike, this book speaks to the power of including oneself in the story, bringing deeper meaning to the relationship between writer, subject, and reader.

In a move revolutionary for its time, The Vulnerable Observer proposed a new theory and practice for humanistic anthropology. No longer should ethnographers write at a distance, clad in their shroud of “objectivity.” In six luminous essays, Behar calls instead for a fresh approach to ethnography, one that is lived and written more openly. Through this very personal account, readers can travel and relate to other peoples and the world around them.

Eloquently interweaving ethnography and memoir, Behar encourages her readers to be open about their experiences, as open as their subjects are with them. She does so in the hope that this work will lead us toward greater depth of understanding and feeling, not only in anthropology but in all efforts to document the shared vulnerability of the observed and the observer.

  • Published: 29 November 2022
  • ISBN: 9780807007136
  • Imprint: Beacon Press
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 224
  • RRP: $34.99

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Praise for The Vulnerable Observer

“Behar has convinced me that ethnographic empathy will produce an anthropology that has greater meaning than the distanced and detached academic anthropology of the past.“ —Barbara Fisher, The Boston Globe "Her luminous essays build cultural bridges and challenge conventional ways of doing anthropology."—Publishers Weekly "As 'a woman of the border' . . . [Behar] infuses her vision with insight, candor and compassion." —Diane Cole, The New York Times Book Review "A story that engages the emotions. Making the past visible, she preserves it against oblivion." —Stanley Trachtenberg, The Washington Post Book World "Behar's collection of essays assesses the impact of emotion and experience on the process of research and writing, and on the relationship between the observer and the observed. . . . Intensely moving." —L. Beck, Choice "In six strongly emotional essays, Behar makes a compelling case for the importance of revealing 'the self who observes.'" —Anne Valentine Martino, The Ann Arbor News "[Her] insistent looking back is what makes Ruth Behar's vision of anthropology so compelling. Memories do not vanish; they recede and leave traces. The anthropologist who makes herself vulnerable to these indications makes the world a more intelligible and hopeful place." —Judith Bolton-Fasman, The Jerusalem Report "Twenty years since its publication, I’m still recommending The Vulnerable Observer to writers, colleagues, and friends.  Just as brave and profound as it was then, it is now, continuing to offer insights into our shared humanity that are meaningful to scholar, scientist, and poet alike."—Richard Blanco, inaugural poet and author of For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey

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