This paper traces the epistemic practices and ideologies that Stasi (East Germany's former secret police) used to construct the GDR peace and civil rights movements during the 1980s as one of the GDR's key enemies. In particular, the paper addresses the question of how communications in organized social encounters that are hierarchized by a cultivation of secrecy (legitimized by a Manichaean worldview) and corresponding myths about the distribution of knowledge and the proximity to an absolute social good have shaped interpretive processes. The particular epistemic style of Stasi is analyzed as a peculiar conflation of ethics and epistemology which was, ironically, profoundly undialectic, that is monothetic, and thus unable to react constructively to interpretive failures in response to a fast changing environment.
Epistemic Practices and Ideologies of the Secret Police in Former East Germany
Extending the Extended-Case Method
The central concern of this article is the relationship between ethnography and social theory. With the help of 'consequent processualism', a social ontology that centers on the co-constitution of people, cultural forms, social relations, and the built environment, this essay makes an argument for what should be at the core of social theorizing: the principles underpinning the dynamics of processes in the nexus between actions and reactions, igniting social formation in webbed flows of effects across time and space. The article shows how consequent processualism is able to implode time-honored, reifying conceptual dichotomies, such as micro-macro, event-structure, agency-social structure, to open new vistas on the social. Building on consequent processualism, the essay argues on the one hand for the significance of theory for the practice of ethnography in identifying and delimiting fruitful field sites. Conversely, it advocates ethnography as the method of choice for developing social theory.
Ferid Agani, Kalman Applbaum, Rohan Bastin, Daniel Breslau, Joshua Breslau, Ralph Cintron, Richard Daly, Andrew Davidson, Elissa Dresden, Andreas Glaeser, Van Griffith, Georg Henriksen, Michael Humphrey, Craig R. Janes, Ingrid Jordt, Roland Kapferer, Thomas M. Malaby, Barry Morris, June Nash, Alcida Rita Ramos, Steven Robins, Janine R. Wedel and Stevan Weine
Notes on Contributors