article proposes a “critical ethnography,” in which the practice of “critique” refers to the paying of attention to precisely these social and economic structures. In such a project, ethnographic attention to the concerns and experiences of elite subjects
Navigating a critical ethnography of wealth elites
Field Notes as First Responder Witness Accounts
I position critical ethnographic researcher field notes as an opportunity to document the physical and ideological violence that white settler states and institutions on the school-prison nexus inflict on the lives of girls of color generally and Black girls specifically. By drawing on my own field notes, I argue that critical social science researchers have an ethical duty to move their inquiries beyond conventions of settler colonial empirical science when they are wanting to create knowledges that transcend traditions of body counts and classification systems of human lives. As first responders to the social emergencies in girls’ lives, researchers can make palpable spatialization of institutionalized forms of settler epistemologies to convey more girl-centered ways of speaking against quantifiable hierarchies of human life.
Repatriation Narratives and Ritual Performances
Stein R. Mathisen
The backdrop for the events discussed in this article is the Kautokeino rebellion in 1852, a violent uprising wherein a group of indigenous Sámi attacked and killed representatives of the local Norwegian authorities. This led to death sentences for two Sámi men who participated in the uprising. While their bodies were buried outside the local church, their decapitated heads were sent away, became objects of research, and ended up in scientific collections. Tracing the intricate movements of these skulls, as well as subsequent indigenous struggles for their repatriation and reburial, the focus here is on the ceremonies arranged in the course of these actions. The ceremonies depart from different narratives and myths connected to these historical events. Contextualization is important to understand how a multitude of different interests and strategies are invested, resulting in different understandings and interpretations in these contemporary ceremonies of repatriation and reburial.
On Being In-Between in a Global Health Intervention
Within multi-disciplinary global health interventions, anthropologists find themselves navigating complex relationships of power. In this article, I offer a critical reflection on this negotiated terrain, drawing on my experience as an embedded ethnographer in a four-year adolescent sexual and reproductive health research intervention in Latin America. I critique the notion that the transformative potential of ethnographic work in global health remains unfulfilled. I then go on to argue that an anthropological practice grounded in iterative, inter-subjective and self-reflexive work has the potential to create ‘disturbances’ in the status quo of day-to-day global health practice, which can in turn destabilise some of the problematic hubristic assumptions of health reforms.
Women, inequality, and social reproduction
Introduction: A gendered, critical ethnography of elites This article answers the call of this theme section—for an anthropology of elites that is both ethnographic and attuned to political economic critique—by looking ethnographically at the
Ethnographies of affirmative action
Alpa Shah and Sara Shneiderman
This is the introduction to a special section of Focaal that includes seven articles on the anthropology of affirmative action in South Asia. The section promotes the sustained, critical ethnographic analysis of affirmative action measures adopted to combat historical inequalities around the world. Turning our attention to the social field of affirmative action opens up new fronts in the anthropological effort to understand the state by carefully engaging the relationship between the formation and effects of policies for differentiated citizenship. We explore this relationship in the historical and contemporary context of South Asia, notably India and Nepal. We argue that affirmative action policies always transform society, but not always as expected. The relationship between political and socioeconomic inequality can be contradictory. Socioeconomic inequalities may persist or be refigured in new terms, as policies of affirmative action and their experiential effects are intimately linked to broader processes of economic liberalization and political transformation.
Deference and Influence in the Ethnography of Epistemic Elites
Paul Robert Gilbert
Through his enduring efforts to interrogate the regulative ideals of fieldwork, George Marcus has empowered doctoral students in anthropology to rethink their ethnographic encounters in terms that reflect novel objects and contexts of inquiry. Marcus' work has culminated in a charter for ethnographic research among 'epistemic communities' that requires 'deferral' to these elite modes of knowing. For adherents to this programme of methodological reform, the deliberately staged 'para-site' – an opportunity for ethnographers and their 'epistemic partners' to reflect upon a shared intellectual purpose – is the signature fieldwork encounter. This article draws on doctoral research carried out among the overlapping epistemic communities that comprise London's market for mining finance, and reviews an attempt to carve out a para-site of my own. Troubled by this experience, and by the ascendant style of deferent anthropology, I think through possibilities for more critical ethnographic research among epistemic elites.
Analyzing the Social-Ecological Impacts of Forest Conservation and Management over the Long Term
Daniel C. Miller, Pushpendra Rana and Catherine Benson Wahlén
Citizens, governments, and donors are increasingly demanding better evidence on the effectiveness of development policies and programs. Efforts to ensure such accountability in the forest sector confront the challenge that the results may take years, even decades, to materialize, while forest-related interventions usually last only a short period. This article reviews the broad interdisciplinary literature assessing forest conservation and management impacts on biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and poverty alleviation in developing countries. It emphasizes the importance of indicators and identifies disconnects between a rapidly growing body of research based on quasi-experimental designs and studies taking a more critical, ethnographic approach. The article also highlights a relative lack of attention on longer-term impacts in both of these areas of scholarship. We conclude by exploring research frontiers in the assessment of the impacts of forest-related interventions with long incubation periods, notably the development of predictive proxy indicators (PPIs).
Ethnographic engagements with global elites
Paul Robert Gilbert and Jessica Sklair
interdependent with the dire straits of the lower orders” ( Toscano and Woodcock 2015: 513 ; see also Gilbert, this issue). As the contributors demonstrate, however, a critical ethnographic study of elites throws up a set of challenges. The well
Crafting a ‘Philosophy of Praxis’ into a ‘Community of Resistance’
truths, even the unpleasant ones, and in avoiding the impossible deceptions of the upper class, and even more their own. (Antonio Gramsci, quoted in Peter Thomas 2009: 291 ) My critical ethnography of a governmental health department permitted me to