Sourcing original historical and contemporary material, Emic/Etic explores the embattled tradition of western ethnographic interpretation poised between scientific objectivity and moralistic storytelling. The title Emic/Etic confronts the complicated nature of ethnographic research. Anthropological in origin, “emic” field research refers to an account of a culture derived from people within the culture, while “etic” field research refers to an outside scientific observer describing a culture’s behaviors or beliefs. In the work, scientific systems of classification drawn from anthropological study such as scale/size indicators, numerical systems and invented maps create a fictional method of ordering disparate material.
Drawing collage material from diverse histories, cultures and populations, including colonial era photographs, archaeological artifacts and contemporary fashion magazines, Emic/Etic creates a fictional culture that oscillates between the real and the imagined. Invented idols, imagined rituals, and reconfigured symbols serve to create new mythologies that collapse internal (emic) and external (etic) orders of classification.