This article seeks to complicate the rhetoric of "the cultural insider" that surrounds Chinua Achebe and to interrogate readings of Things Fall Apart (TFA) that assume the novel provides an unmediated ethnographic perspective on a traditional African culture. It argues that Achebe's self-professed position at the "cultural crossroads" is manifest in the narrative voice of TFA, as the narrator oscillates from situating himself as a participant in Igbo culture to an observer, looking at the culture from the outside. In this way, this article shows that Achebe's position vis-Ã -vis the Igbo does exemplify many of the dilemmas of ethnographic observation—if we understand the relationship between the observer and the observed to be more complicated, and sometimes fraught, than most anthropological readings of the novel assume. By exploring the complexities inherent in the ethnographic relationship, this reading sheds light on the unappreciated dynamism of the narrative voice of TFA.


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pp. 154-174
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