As a political and economic philosophy, neoliberalism has been used to reshape schools and universities, making them far more responsive to the pressures of the market. The principles associated with neoliberalism have also extended to programmes for urban economic development, particularly with respect to the largescale gentrification of neighbourhoods rendering them amenable to investments aimed at creating spaces attractive to white, middle-and-upper class consumers. In this article, I discuss how universities themselves have come to play a significant role as urban developers and investors, promoting commercial retail development and building upscale housing in neighbourhoods adjacent to their campuses. My entry point into this discussion is through describing an ethnographic methods class I taught in 2003, whereby students carried out collaborative research in the African-American neighbourhood surrounding Temple University's main campus in Philadelphia. As a result of their work, we produced a neighbourhood newspaper that sought to disrupt the commonplace assumptions about 'rescuing' the neighbourhood from what was presented as an inexorable spiral of decline; rather, our work showed that actions taken by the university, itself, had helped to produce the very symptoms of decline that the new development project now purported to remedy.
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.
Henry Lord's A Display of Two Foreign Sects in the East Indies (1630)
Amrita Sen and Jyotsna G. Singh
This article examines the politics and rhetorics of early modern ethnography via Henry Lord's famous treatise A Display of Two Foreign Sects in the East Indies (1630). Lord, a chaplain with the East India Company, attempted to classify Indian religious and caste identities—particularly those of the Banians—at a time when England's trading fortunes in India were still tenuous, though promising. Turning to the Shaster which he understands as the Banian Bible, Lord offers his readers a glimpse into Hindu mythologies—stories of genesis and the flood—which result in the creation of the four Indian castes. Understood in terms of humoral, psychological, and moral taxonomies these castes fall within emergent proto-racial hierarchies. Simultaneously, the journeys of the four brothers—Brammon, Cuttery, Shuddery, and Wyse—progenitors of their respective castes reenact familiar tropes of European travel writing combining the logic of profit with the “discovery” of hitherto unclaimed lands and erotic bodies.
Timothy Reese Cain
This concluding contribution to the special issue on the Ethnography of the University Initiative based at the University of Illinois locates the project at the intersections of several of the main currents in modern higher education: the push for undergraduate research, calls for critical inquiry into higher education, an interest in pedagogical communities and excitement over technological innovation. It further identifies the challenges facing EUI as it enters its second decade.
Migrant Experiences in the Quest for Well-Being
Anne Sigfrid Grønseth and Robin Oakley
The articles in this volume reinforce the power of ethnographic humanism, of anthropology in action. The focus is on the relationship between macro political forces and their influence on the varied experiences of health in advanced industrial capitalist contexts. Our approach views migrants as capable agents negotiating new lives for themselves and confronting the challenges they face. We strongly advocate socially informed policy that offers at minimum recognition to migrants as full fledged members of the new society that they have voluntarily or involuntarily migrated to.
This article reports on the multi-year collaboration between the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) at the University of Illinois and the University's Rhetoric Program, a required first-year writing course. I argue that this collaboration was successful in large part because the goals of writing programmes in American higher education settings – teaching the process of research, inviting students to see themselves as producers of knowledge and fostering collaboration between peers – are highly consonant with principles of EUI. Indeed, my own history with EUI reflects the parallel commitment of Writing Studies and the methods and goals of EUI. I suggest that EUI can serve as a powerful model for universities if they seek to place undergraduate student research writing at the core of their mission.
Disentangling Provenance, Provenience, and Context in Vanuatu Assemblages
James L. Flexner
The archaeological value of museum collections is not limited to collections labelled “archaeology.” “Ethnology” or “ethnography” collections can provide useful information for evaluating broadly relevant theoretical and methodological discussions in the discipline. The concepts of provenience (where something was found), provenance (where the materials for an object originated), and context (the ways an object is and was interpreted and used within a cultural milieu) are central to much archaeological interpretation. Archaeologists have often looked to living societies as analogues for better understanding these issues. Museum ethnographic collections from Vanuatu provide a case study offering a complementary approach, in which assemblages of ethnographic objects and associated information allow us to reconstruct complex networks of movement, exchange, and entanglement.
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.
Intimacy, Violence, and Fieldwork Relations in South Africa
It is conventional to point out the disintegrative and dysfunctional effects of violence and relegate it to processes outside the social realm. Yet this study argues that a reflexive approach to ethnography can reveal the integrative potential of violence. It examines the theoretical importance of the ethnographer's anxieties about (a) violence, (b) the precarious dependencies during fieldwork in a violent setting, and (c) concerns about representing violence in academic work. Such a reflexive approach shows why these anxieties can both conceal and reveal the sociality of violence. The study draws on personal fieldwork experiences to show how violence became central to the relationships the author developed with his assistants during research in South Africa.
A critical assessment of a re-internationalized field
Patty Gray, Nikolai Vakhtin and Peter Schweitzer
Although Siberian ethnography was an open and international field at the turn of the twentieth century, from about 1930 until the late 1980s Siberia was for the most part closed to foreigners and therefore to Western ethnographers. This allowed Soviet ethnographers to establish a virtual monopoly on Siberian field sites. Soviet and Western anthropology developed during that period in relative isolation from one another, allowing methodologies and theoretical approaches to diverge. During glasnost' and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Siberian field was reopened and field studies were conducted by several Western ethnographers. The resulting encounter between Western and former Soviet ethnographers in the 1980s and 1990s produced a degree of cultural shock as well as new challenges and opportunities on both sides. This is an experiential account of the mood of these newly reunited colleagues at the turn of the twenty-first century.