Crazy-Ass Ethnography

Here is a question for the SM community that I’ll turn into a bit of an ‘open thread’: I’m teaching a large intro course in the fall complete (as regular readers may remember) with a textbook and a few intro ethnographies. Most of the ethnographies I’ll be teaching deal with pretty standard stuff — Hawai’i, college life, etc. I feel like the course may be missing an ‘exotic’ or ‘weird’ ethnography which… is what I’m supposed to be doing, right? So: can anyone recommend a short, easy ethnography that is on some totally crazy-ass subject that will blow students’ minds? Please note that out here in Hawai’i at lot of people are Asian so The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down and other ethnographies of that ilk will strike students as being ‘close to home’ and not ‘exotic’. Maybe something from Africa or Latin America, which are not really on the radar over here?

p.s. I’m officially burned out on The Sambia and don’t have the strength to battle through In Search of Respect. So no recs for those, please.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

50 thoughts on “Crazy-Ass Ethnography

  1. In Search of Respect is the most popular ethnography I’ve ever used. A close second is Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn by Karen McCarthy Brown. Not that short – but can you get more exotic than Vodou? Brown brings it down to earth, gives it a very personal, human face. A nice simple, straight-forward ethnography for beginners is The Parish Behind God’s Back, on rural Barbados, by George and Sharon Gmelch. Cheap too.

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