Tag Article List: ethnography

Halfies, Half-Written Letters, and One-Eyed Gods: Connecting the Dots of Communicative Cultures

Gregory Stephens
University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
Mayagüez, Puerto Rico


This essay distills the theory of communicative cultures as a tool for cultural analysis. Nadine Gordimer’s line about the difficulties of returning to “half-written letters” is used to frame anthropology’s critique of “bounded culture” or “container cultures,” predominat in Cultural Studies. Anthropologists Lila Abu-Lughod and Kirin Narayan have described “halfies” as in-between peoples who can help us understand fluid, processual cultures as normative. Building on this stance, and the work of rhetorical genre scholars, Stephens defines communicative cultures as “a set of shared commitments expressed through cultural means.” This approach to cultural analysis, in which literature is viewed as an “ethnographic resource,” is illustrated through an analysis of Jamaican writer Olive Senior’s story “Country of the One Eye God.” The repeating patterns in Jamaican culture which this approach reveals, it is suggested, point to the wider utility of communicative cultures as an analytical concept.

Keywords: Communicative; cultural analysis; ethnography; repeating patterns; generations; structure of feeling; literature as ethnographic resource

Author Bio

Gregory Stephens is Associate Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, where he has taught Creative Writing to STEM students since 2014. His book Three Birds Sing a New Song: A Puerto Rican Trilogy about Dystopia, Precarity, & Resistance was published by Intermezzo. Short fiction includes “Taming the Mountain: Two Views of Gabriel,” Wild Roof Journal (2021), and “Close to the Bone,” Obelus Journal (2019). Literary nonfictionincludes “Going South,” Barely South Review (Fall 2020), and “Through the Window in St Lucia,” with co-author Janice Cools, Rigorous: A Journal by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (2021).

Suggested References


Walker, Gregory. (2021) Halfies, half-written letters, and one-eyed gods: Connecting the dots of communicative cultures Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 8(3). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/halfies-half-written-letters-and-one-eyed-gods-connecting-the-dots-of-communicative-cultures/


Stephens, Gregory. “Halfies, Half-Written Letters, and One-Eyed Gods: Connecting the Dots of Communicative Cultures.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2021, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v8-issue-3/halfies-half-written-letters-and-one-eyed-gods-connecting-the-dots-of-communicative-cultures/

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