The field as labyrinth: Exploring ethnographic practices through the works of Jorge Luis Borges


  • Sarah Rae Osterhoudt



The brilliant short stories of the Argentinean author Jorge Louis Borges echo many of the themes raised through the ethnographic encounters of practicing anthropologists. Through the exploration of such questions as identity, memory, language, commensuration and human relationships, the characters invented by Borges continuously navigate new physical and intellectual landscapes. The following paper draws from several of Borges’ short stories, outlining how their themes and characters present useful allegories for scholars interested in exploring ethnographic imaginations. As an “armchair ethnographer,” Borges’ preoccupation with human endeavors towards greater understanding thus provides a unique and creative lens through which to consider the practical and ethical questions of ethnographic enterprises.

Author Biography

Sarah Rae Osterhoudt

Sarah Rae Osterhoudt is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University. She can be contacted at sarah.osterhoudt(AT)