Every love letter is a story: a story of relationships between people (or between people and things or people and other beings, or whatever). Love letters tell stories of intimacy and care, of dreams, expectations, desires and frustrations, stories of encounters and disencounters, affinities and disaffinities, companionships, mismatches, etc. If collected among anthropologists themselves, they may provide access to stories of how this specific sort of people produce their knowledge through relationships that involve this same sort of relational stuff – those are here classified as ‘epistemic’ love letters, in which love, rather than seen as a sideffect of ethnography, is seen as its raw material – there are wonderful stories of epistemic intimacy and epistemic care around, if you look for them in such terms.
Collecting (epistemic) love stories: How to do (self) anthropology through love letters?
1. Provide a letter box.
2. Inscribe “love letters” in it, and other inspirational things you wish to inscribe in it (poems, for example).
3. Install the letter box in a strategic point: mind yourself that you would need a black & decker and screws, or someone to help you with those matters.
4. Create the atmosphere: with music, for example, or images that you would find appropriate; or for example install the letter box in a garden, behind a tree.
5. Collect your love letters regularly.
6. Read these letters carefully.
7. Transcribe them.
8. Analyse/interpret them.
9. Write about them, quoting parts of them.
10. Do never think about being disempassioned about it, or providing a cold, distant account of them: being involved with the love of others as if it was your own is part of the game. So feel yourself free to project yourself in the desires and frustrations of others as if they were yours. Be partial. Be inventive.
Plan B: If all goes wrong and you receive no love letters, write them yourself. It will be a new mode called Epistemic Love Fiction. And that’s OK because love is always a fiction anyway.