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The Heroic Anthropologist in SF: A Comparison of the Anthropologist-figure in The Left Hand of Darkness and Foreigner
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Anthropological Science Fiction (ASF) usually involves tales of human and alien encounters and frequently employs an anthropologist-figure who tries to make sense of the alien/other through anthropological ideas and methods. But like real anthropologists, the anthropologist-figures must learn to cope with a contradiction inherent to the anthropological discipline, that is, to maintain a scientific objectivity while at the same time getting personally involved and even changed through the interaction with the alien culture. The ASF novels The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula K. Le Guin and Foreigner (1994) by C. J. Cherryh use the anthropologist-figure as main characters and illustrate how the only way for them to succeed as anthropologists and gain any valuable knowledge about the aliens is through abandoning part of their objective stance and embracing the personal nature of the fieldwork experience. The anthropologist-figures must not completely abandon their impartiality however or they risk making generalizations or misinterpretations about the aliens; to manage this, they must still maintain a certain level of self-reflexivity during the course of the narrative. Ultimately, it is the fieldwork experience that becomes the catalyst for a learning process where the anthropologist-figures are tested, matured and led towards a closer and more genuine encounter with the alien. These ASF stories effectively reinvent Susan Sontag's (1963) heroic anthropologist in a new setting in order to demonstrate how one should ideally make contact with the other. The anthropologist-figures go through a personal journey to not only gain deeper insight into the other but also into the self. By submitting to the fieldwork experience and immersing into the alien culture, they learn something about themselves and become better anthropologist-figures.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 18 p.
Keyword [en]
Anthropological Science Fiction, the Anthropologist-figure, Alien encounter, The Left Hand of Darkness, Foreigner
National Category
General Literature Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-131387OAI: diva2:938272
Available from: 2016-06-22 Created: 2016-06-16 Last updated: 2016-06-22Bibliographically approved

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