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Brody, E.B. Newman, L.F. (1981). Ethnography and Psychoanalysis: Comparative Ways of Knowing. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 9(1):17-32.

(1981). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 9(1):17-32

Ethnography and Psychoanalysis: Comparative Ways of Knowing

Eugene B. Brody, M.D. and Lucile F. Newman, Ph.D.

Isaiah Berlin, describing the ideas of the eighteenth-century philosopher, Giambattista Vico, has written,

… whatever the splendours of the exact sciences, there was a sense in which we could know more about our own and other men's experiences — in which we acted as participants, indeed as authors, and not as mere observers — than we could ever know about non-human nature which we could only observe from outside…. The distinction he draws is between “outer” and “inner” knowledge(1976)

“Inner knowledge” characterizes the humane sciences, the study of human beings in relation to each other, their societies and cultures. We propose that psychoanalytic and ethnological approaches to humane studies, while conducted for differing purposes, have certain pervasive commonalities: one of these is a methodological concurrence, the use of self as research/therapeutic instrument. The other is also a value, the habit of self-scrutiny and analysis of unconscious and conscious life, in person and in role on the part of the participant observer, ethnographer as well as psychoanalyst. The following observations come from the collaboration of the two authors, psychoanalyst and anthropologist-ethnographer. They identify some subjective aspects of knowledge gained through the method of participant-observation.

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