New Mandala is currently experimenting with ways of linking blogging with more conventional forms of academic writing. Earlier this week we launched Four Letter Words to encourage guest contributors to write short essays that reflect on their scholarship and experience in mainland Southeast Asia.

Today I am announcing another, much more self-centred, initiative. I want to attempt to write some pieces of ethnography “out loud”. I want to use semi-regular blog posts to build up a body of ethnographic material that will form the basis for a book chapter and/or a journal article.

My ethnographic focus will be the northern Thai village of Baan Tiam, which has featured on New Mandala many times already. My initial thematic focus will be on history – both on the actual history of Baan Tiam and on the way history is selectively remembered and drawn on in contemporary discussions within the village.

I’m not sure exactly where this will lead. It’s an experiment. I have plenty of field notes to draw on and some general ideas about how to link things together. I can also see, vaguely at this stage, how the discussion of history may link to some of the discussions of politics and economic transformation that I have already featured on New Mandala. I expect that some of the “Anthroblog” posts will be relatively well put together. Others will be much more fragmentary. I’ll try to keep it readable and relatively engaging but I don’t want to hide the twists and turns and doubts and false starts (and false middles and false finishes) that are typical of academic writing.

I am hopeful that some New Mandala readers will be drawn into this “writing out loud” process. I hope that readers’ comments open up lines of critique, suggestion, new enquiry and theoretical reflection. Who knows, I may be able to come up with ways of incorporating some readers’ comments into the final text itself.

My plan is to contribute “Anthroblog” posts about once per week. Sometimes they may be more regular, sometimes considerably less. I hope you enjoy my experimental exploration of Baan Tiam’s unreliable past.