My Ethnography of the University (EUI) course 'Muslims in America' introduces undergraduate students to the racialisation of Islam and Muslims in the U.S. at large, and in the University in particular. In this article, I describe how an anti-racist pedagogy coupled with student ethnographic research can yield a rich learning process. Beginning with one of the key debates in the scholarship on Muslims in the United States, I introduce students to the productive ways in which a multiracial history of American Islam can inform their ethnographic research. Additionally, I elaborate the potential for student research to transform university policy. The University offers a valuable ethno- graphic site for the critical study of the history and place of Muslims in U.S. society, politics and culture.
On Reproducing, Destabilizing and Interrupting Majority Memories
Johanna Ahlrichs, Katharina Baier, Barbara Christophe, Felicitas Macgilchrist, Patrick Mielke and Roman Richtera
This article draws on memory studies and media studies to explore how memory practices unfold in schools today. It explores history education as a media- saturated cultural site in which particular social orderings and categorizations emerge as commonsensical and others are contested. Describing vignettes from ethnographic fieldwork in German secondary schools, this article identifies different memory practices as a nexus of pupils, teachers, blackboards, pens, textbooks, and online videos that enacts what counts as worth remembering today: reproduction; destabilization without explicit contestation; and interruption. Exploring mediated memory practices thus highlights an array of (often unintended) ways of making the past present.
The Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) joins a long history of critique, challenge and transformation of higher education. EUI courses are an important site for the creation of non-traditional narratives in which students challenge 'business-as-usual' in higher education. For under-represented students, this includes inquiry and analysis of the racial status quo at the University. In this article, I provide a student's perspective on EUI through my own experiences with EUI research as both an undergraduate and later graduate student investigating race and racism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I). Using ethnographic methods and drawing on critical race theory, I provide two examples of EUI research that critiqued the University's management of race. The first example is a collaborative ethnography of the Brown versus Board of Education Commemoration at U of I – a project that I joined as an undergraduate (Abelmann et al. 2007); and the second is my own dissertation on 'racial risk management', a project that emerged from my encounter with EUI. I discuss both projects as examples of Critical Race Ethnography, namely works based on empirical research that challenge institutions' racial composition, structure and climate.
Ethnographic Anxiety and Its 'Telling' Consequences
Liam D. Murphy
In Belfast, Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, myriad problems of epistemology and research design confront ethnographers entering the field for the first time. While these often remain a permanently taxing wellspring of frustration and anxiety, their apparent resolution through experience can occasionally lull researchers into a false sense of security in the context of social interaction with field respondents. By exploring an instance in which the author neglected to apply his understanding of the important Northern Ireland phenomenon of 'telling', the article shows how method and epistemology should always be borne in mind during fieldwork situations—even those implicitly discounted a priori as nonethnographic. While such relaxation of self-awareness may precipitate various blunders and ethnographic faux-pas, it also opens up spaces of critical inquiry into the collaborative constitution of selves and others in field situations, and refocuses the ethnographer's awareness of his positioning as an outsider in webs of social activity.
Craig San Roque
This article explores the relationship of Central Australian 'Dreaming', or Tjukurrp, to symbol and thought formation in Aboriginal culture. Acknowledgment is given to ethnographic and indigenous descriptions of Tjukurrp and to Aboriginal mythopoeia, but the author is primarily concerned with how thoughts are made and what they are made of. Comparisons are drawn to European myths and cults in order to understand how Tjukurrp and myth might influence intercultural transference. The author suggests that through an anthropological and psychoanalytical analysis of intercultural conversations and an understanding of Tjukurrp's structure and content, non-indigenous people working in health and law might appreciate and comprehend Aboriginal thinking and thus be more effective in various aspects of engagement. In this meditation on thought formation and failure, the author seeks to understand the relationships between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals, so that those who intend to help do not end up destroying.
Spaces for Transdisciplinary Dialogues on the Relationship between Local Communities and Their Environments
The Case of a Rural Community in the Calchaquí Valley (Salta, Argentina)
Martha Crivos, María Rose Martínez, Laura Teves and Carolina Remorini
Our ethnographic research focuses on the perception and use of components of the natural environment in terms of routine activities carried out by the residents of a rural community in the Calchaqui Valley (Salta, Argentina). Life in this community is characterised by the presence of traditional subsistence activities – agriculture, cattle farming, textile manufacturing and ancestral medical practices – coexisting with business ventures focused on monoculture and export, tourism centred on landscape intervention and promotion of native products, and the growing key role of public policies in the areas of health and human development. In this context, a joint reflection on viability and sustainability of local and global practices and resources must be undertaken. Implementing intersectoral forums and focus-group discussions, governmental and non-governmental actors, researchers and local people must work conjointly to achieve a fresh patrimonial awareness of livelihood strategies based on their long interaction with a specific environment.
Anthropology and the EU General Data Protection Regulation
In May 2018, the European Union (EU) introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with the aim of increasing transparency in data processing and enhancing the rights of data subjects. Within anthropology, concerns have been raised about how the new legislation will affect ethnographic fieldwork and whether the laws contradict the discipline’s core tenets. To address these questions, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London hosted an event on 25 May 2018 entitled ‘Is Anthropology Legal?’, bringing together researchers and data managers to begin a dialogue about the future of anthropological work in the context of the GDPR. In this article, I report and reflect on the event and on the possible implications for anthropological research within this climate of increasing governance.
Current scholarly work on mobilities has focused largely on how practices of mobility produce space, place, and landscape through their enactment and representation. There has been significantly less attention to the study of how social practices move, that is, how socially recognized ways of doing are produced through mobility. Although the literature of various disciplines generally agrees that practices are on the move at different scales, the mobilities of practice have yet to be developed explicitly. This article contributes to this emerging area of research by examining the case of music making. Drawing on ethnographic research, it analyzes how son jarocho, a musical tradition from southeast Mexico, is currently diffused and re-created across communities of practitioners in the United States. In doing so, the processes of diffusion, reproduction, and transformation of social practice are dependent on, and reciprocally related to, the movement produced during performances.
This article presents an analysis of the evolution of ethnographic museums in Tunisia, tracing their development from the period of French colonial rule until the present. It documents and interprets the trajectory of museography in the country over nearly a century, demonstrating changes and continuities in role, setting and architecture across shifting ideological landscapes, from the colonial, to the postcolonial to the more recent revolutionary setting. It is argued that Tunisian ethnographic museums, both in their processes of conception behind the scenes and in their scenography itself, have been key sites in which to read debates about national identity. The article excavates the evolution of paradigms in which Tunisian popular identity has been expressed through the ethnographic museum, from the modernist notion of 'indigenous authenticity' to efforts at nation-building after independence, and more recent conceptions of cultural diversity. Based on a combination of archival research, participant observation and interviews with past and present protagonists in the Tunisian museum field, this research brings to light new material on an understudied area.
Place Appreciation and Purposeful Relocation in Later Life
Worldwide, people’s attachments to places are typically ambivalent, and complemented by desires for mobility and scene-changing. So to understand relationships between place and wellbeing, we need to look beyond the simple idea that some kinds of place, local characteristics and place attachments make people’s lives go better. Places matter, but wellbeing is not environmentally determined, it is a complex outcome of lifelong interactions between people and places. Some of these are conscious and deliberate, and some involve deliberate relocation as well as processes of attachment. This article supplements the environmental determinism of ‘good place’ theories, and the social constructionism of ‘healthy place attachment’ theories, with recommendations for a systematic approach to mapping and analysing how wellbeing happens. It pays particular attention to deliberate ‘place appreciation’, which refers to these dynamic interactions through which people actively derive value from places. Ethnographic examples of deliberate ecological self-improvement in later life are explored to highlight three kinds of place-related wellbeing strategies: place-making, local mobility and relocation. A simple analytical system is proposed to highlight the potential relevance to policy and practice of a systematic sociocultural ecology of wellbeing.