The Anthropological Gaze is discussed by Hoesterey in “The Adventures of Mark and Olly” both in the Reality TV/Pop anthropology gaze of a camera lens but also as the ethnographic participant observer lens. His discussion of this british Reality Television and its associations with Anthropology and its imperial/colonial roots (and practice) drew in my experiences with a few other anthropology classes I’ve taken.
The first of these is Anthropology 101. In that class we had a mini ethnography wherein we were supposed to observe and participate in some group or activity and then write up a 14 page paper. My project was on the party culture and my experiences felt more akin to a spy. I was clever and outwitting my fellow partiers by “texting” my notes. I blended in. I asked questions. I disappeared into the night. This project felt heavy on the observation, but with no consciousness of my own gaze on the subjects of my study.
Another was Anthropology of Religion where we had another ethnography, but this time it was comparative. I was much more conscious of my gaze because it was a much more liminal space, and I was not necessarily a welcome addition. This time I was the opposite of my first experience, being a shy observer – perhaps too conscious of my gaze.
A final project is the one I did in Anthropology of the Senses where I joined a musical group on campus that met regularly to sing folk music. This project was the most fluid participant observation because I was actually trying to learn to play the ukulele and learn who these people were. I became a participant in more than just presence. I did not solely use my gaze to document the experience and observed myself in addition to my new friends.
I have experienced the gaze as an “ethnographer” in many ways. It is always present, it is always meaningful, but when taken seriously but not stiflingly it can foster worthwhile commentary.