'The calculus of pain': Violence, anthropological ethics, and the category transgender

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21 Scopus citations


In addressing Nancy Scheper-Hughes's (1995) call for 'the primacy of the ethical' in anthropological research, this paper complicates anthropologists' ethical position by exploring a range of practices seen as harmful or violent by transgender-identified people. I argue that an ethical stance on the violence experienced by one's study participants is deeply complicated by what comes to count for participants as harm and violence. By investigating a range of social contexts and practices - political activism, social service support groups, and ethnographic practices - I argue that detailed ethnography which queries the ontological assumptions of those who claim to have experienced violence is the most effective route to acting ethically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages22
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnographic Practice
  • Gender
  • Grassroots Activism
  • Politics
  • Sexuality


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