Article Title

American Bardo

Author Biography

Adrie Kusserow is the author of two collections of poetry: Hunting Down the Monk and REFUGE, both published by BOA Editions, Ltd. as part of their New American Poets Series. Her ethnographic fieldwork and humanitarian projects are based in Bhutan (Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy), Ladakh, India, and South Sudan (www.africaeli.org). She is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at St. Michael’s College in Vermont where she teaches courses on refugees, medical anthropology, and anthropology of media. This poem will also be published in Anthropology and Humanism (40): 1, 2015.

Abstract

Ethnographic poetry allows me to describe the often viscous, clumsy, awkward encounters between self and other that leave both parties covered in the complex residues of each Other. This poem came out of a summer of visits I made to the homes of Bhutanese elderly in Burlington, Vermont. I was trying to get a sense of their well-being, levels of isolation, challenges, and hopes. Poetry allows for a kind of ethnographic fabric, woven from the ethnographer and the subjects’ voices, memories, expectations and doubts, which resists more linear, one dimensional descriptions. The Bhutanese elderly so obviously carried their pasts, religious beliefs, and conceptions of self right on into the ethnographic present, just as I came to meet them riddled with my own questions, anticipation, and confusion.

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