My research seeks out muted narratives that struggle to be heard in the contested city of Belfast. My dog is one of my ethnographic methods: dog-walking is rarely a direct journey from A to B and she can 'authenticate' my lingering presence in unfamiliar places; she is a gateway to dog-focused communal activities; and her categorisation of people is based on smell, not politics, religion or country of origin. When encountering random strangers with an attractive and friendly dog, her role is obvious: introduction enacted, anthropologist takes over. But does she simply mediate the encounter or does she shape what happens? The relationship between dog and person is reciprocal and the extent to which each actor responds to the other prolongs and moulds the encounter. Can she elicit stories that may not otherwise be told, do more than 'only connect'? This article draws on actor-network theory and cosmopolitanism.
Fieldwork with a Dog as Research Assistant
A Discursive Analysis of a Century of Anthropological Writings on Missionary Ethnographers
Travis Warren Cooper
departure from the missionary compound and founding of the modern ethnographic method. I then work up to the present, not moving in perfect synchronicity with the timeline of anthropological development, but reviewing and analyzing studies in the history of
Ethnographic methods and `Hottentot' travel accounts
This paper has two broad objectives. In section I, I identify several ways that widely accepted criteria in anthropology for adequate ethnographic data collection, analysis and representation can be usefully applied to the study of text-based discourses on Europe’s Others. In particular, I suggest that the more consistent application of fieldwork- derived methodological standards and practice to travel literature could help analysts approach levels of validity and reliability now routinely demanded in ethnographic research. Their use might also lead to ethnographies of text that are more consistent with long-term anthropological research paradigms than works employing methods derived from other fields of inquiry.
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.
Cristina Clopot and María Dolores Fernandes del Pozo
Akagawa, Natsuko (2015), Heritage Conservation and Japan’s Cultural Diplomacy: Heritage, National Identity and National Interest (London: Routledge), 227 pp., Hb: €112, ISBN: 9780415707626
Okely, Judith (2012), Anthropological Practice: Fieldwork and the Ethnographic Method (London: Berg), 224 pp., Pb: £18.99 ISBN: 9781845206031
George E. Marcus
This article engages the current challenges that the ecology of designing and implementing ethnographic research today presents to the still powerful culture of method in anthropology, especially as it is manifested in the production of apprentice graduate dissertation research by anthropologists in the making. The Anthropology of Public Policy defines a recent and emerging terrain of anthropological research that challenges the culture of fieldwork/ethnographic method at the core of anthropology's practice and identity. Thus, what might emerge, in the author's view, is not a new or adjusted handbook of method, but a more far-reaching discussion of how the very function of ethnographic research shifts in response to this challenge in terms of collaboration and pedagogy.
Anthropological knowledge production in question
This article draws out some of the implications of the fact that what anthropologists claim to know, or want to say, is unavoidably and in complicated ways bound by the ethics of involvement, detachment, and institutional location. I will first consider the increasingly common practice of circulating the output of anthropological research within the social context of its fieldwork, among the various research participants and interlocutors. Second, I will try to account for the sometimes negative reception of ethnographic accounts, especially where the research has focused on organizations (e.g., NGOs), activists, or others professionally concerned with public representations of their work. Third, I will reconsider the notion of “speaking truth to power” by pointing to the unacknowledged power of ethnographic description. Finally, I will suggest that ethical concerns are generated as much by the theoretical framing of research as by fieldwork practice, and that these are matters of choice rather than inherent in the ethnographic method.
Capturing the impress of boredom and inactivity
Outside the main railway station in Bucharest, Romania, otherwise unemployed day laborers hustle for small change as informal parking lot attendants (parcagii). While their efforts yield numerous ethnographic observations of entrepreneurial activity, these attendants report “doing nothing” day in and day out. This article explores the tension between etic observations and emic feelings in order to ask a methodological question: how can “not doing” and “absent activity” be captured within an ethnographic method primed to observe activity constantly? In response, this article takes inspiration from photography to develop “the negative” as a technique for bringing the impress of absent activity on social worlds into ethnographic view. The intent of this methodological intervention is to open new theoretical lines of flight into the politics of inactivity.
Douglas R. Holmes
In my work with George Marcus we have sought to develop a particular design of and for anthropological projects that allows ethnography to operate as a means to engage analytical perspectives in the making, perspectives that take form prospectively, perspectives that seek to shape contingencies in, of, and about the future. What this demands is that we build our ethnographic project within pre-existing and/or emerging experiments pursued by our subjects. It further requires that we draw on a range of intellectual modalities that intersect, overlap, or are entirely indistinguishable from “ethnographic” method operating within technocratic and scientific settings. In other words, we seek to enter settings in which the “subjects” themselves experiment creatively with the intellectual exigencies of ethnography.
Th e diversity of methodologies, theoretical orientations, geographical settings, and disciplinary perspectives in this special issue of Transfers testifi es to a dual arrival—that of race as a key category of inquiry in mobility studies, and of mobility as a crucial practice in analyses of what scholars in the humanities and social sciences call the social construction of race. Drawing on poststructuralist and critical race theory, refl exive ethnographic methods, and scholarship in literary studies, sociology, and the history of technology, these essays illustrate the versatility of the mobility optic as well as its massive potential for the formation of new knowledge and the eff ecting of egalitarian policy. Th e scholars here make the case for mobility as central to everything from the structured inequalities of the contemporary city to the formation of the raced and gendered modern subject; and their interventions range from the reformist to the ontological. Maybe the infl uential cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz (and the other Western sahibs who recounted the story before him) misunderstood the structure of the world as the fabled Hindu interlocutor conveyed it; perhaps the infi nitely regressing turtles on which the universe rested were never simply standing, but crawling.