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Towards an Ethnography of Crisis

The Investigation of Refugees’ Mental Distress

Francesca Morra

This article examines how ethnographic practice can be applied to, and is altered by, the study of uncertain and not fully accessible experiences ( Stevenson 2014 ). The analysis focusses on issues of positionality and intersubjectivity in the

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A gendered ethnography of elites

Women, inequality, and social reproduction

Luna Glucksberg

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

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The ethnographic turn – and after

A critical approach towards the realignment of art and anthropology

Anna Grimshaw and Amanda Ravetz

The ethnographic turn has been the focus of recent debate between artists and anthropologists. Crucial to it has been an expansive notion of the ethnographic. No longer considered a specialised technique, the essays of Clifford and others have proposed a broader and more eclectic interpretation of ethnography – an approach long considered to be the exclusive preserve of academic anthropology. In this essay, we look more critically at what the ethnographic turn has meant for artists and anthropologists. To what extent does it describe a convergence of perspectives? Or does it elide significant differences in practice?

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Janet Carsten

This essay considers the intersection of biography and ethnography through an anthropology of the house. It focuses on the multiple entanglements between houses, lives lived within them and the social contexts within which houses are shaped. If ‘good ethnography’ is the outcome, at least in part, of long‐term familiarity with the people and places that are its subject, the sense of being in a proper house rests on a comparable feeling of familiarity. Both of these rely on long‐term engagement, and are in this sense inherently biographical. To unpack the entanglements of personhood, kinship, temporality and the state that houses illuminate, I begin with my own engagement with Malay houses over several decades before discussing houses as ‘biographical objects’ and also as persons. I then examine connections and disconnections between houses and biography through a consideration of some less obviously ‘house‐like’ houses. Pursuing the analogy between ethnography and houses further, in the final part of the article I suggest that, if houses provide a productive opening for ethnography, they might also offer a starting point for a particularly anthropological kind of (auto)biography.

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An Ethnography of Change in Northeastern Siberia

Whither an Interdisciplinary Role?

Susan A. Crate

Using longitudinal ethnographic material, anthropologists are skilled to discern how change, in its many forms, interacts with the livelihoods of affected communities. Furthermore, multi-sited ethnography can show how local change is both a result of global to local phenomena and of origins affecting similar local contexts. Ethnographic material is therefore critical to interdisciplinary understandings of change. Through case study in native villages in north-eastern Siberia, Russia, this article argues for ethnography's unique capacity to understand change. In addition, it argues for ethnography's much-needed contribution in interdisciplinary efforts to account for attributes of global change both highly local and human.

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Retrospective ethnography on 20th‐century Portugal

Fieldwork encounters and its complicities

Sónia Ferreira and Sónia Vespeira De Almeida

The present article seeks to promote an epistemological, but also a methodological, discussion around the importance of the dialogical moments stimulated by a ‘retrospective ethnography’ (Almeida , ) in two different studies on 20th‐century pre‐ and post‐revolutionary Portugal. The first of these explores the memories of resistance amongst Portuguese working women in the Lisbon south banks during the 1930s and 1940s (Ferreira ); the second (Almeida ) deals with discourses on national identity in the post‐revolutionary period, following the so‐called ‘Carnation Revolution’ that occurred on 25 April 1974, taking the Cultural Dynamisation Campaigns (Campanhas de Dinamização Cultural do MFA) as its field research. We aim on the one hand to identify proximities and distances between remembrance processes that are anchored in different historical and political moments but are both penetrated by a moment of historical acceleration, and on the other hand to explore the methodological demands and difficulties of working in a ubiquitous ethnographic arena, between past and present, memory and history, underexposure and overexposure in the last 50 years of Portuguese history.

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Ethnography's Blind Spot

Intimacy, Violence, and Fieldwork Relations in South Africa

Erik Bähre

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.

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George Orwell’s Ethnographies of Experience

The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London

Michael Amundsen

George Orwell is most widely known as the teller of dystopian tales of oppression. A closer look at his oeuvre reveals a courageous truth seeker who frequently lived and worked with his literary subjects. In his fieldwork he used the methods of classic ethnography including participant observation, semi-structured interviews and field notes. This article argues that Orwell was an ethnographer in his research methods and that both Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road to Wigan Pier are ethnographic texts with valuable insights into marginal groups in the early to mid-twentieth century in Europe. The writer’s clear-sighted and humane depiction of ‘otherness’ shows his skill as an ethnographer. His personal investment with his subject matter, reflexivity and attention to broader social and political phenomena in his narratives mark Orwell as an autoethnographer.

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People and things in the ethnography of borders

Materialising the division of Sarajevo

Stef Jansen

This article addresses the contrasting pull of two tendencies in anthropology: (a) calls to redress the purification of human from non‐human actants and (b) calls to denaturalise notions of borders as things, foregrounding borderwork. The resulting dilemma – do we treat people and things as equivalent actants on a ‘flat’ plane or not?– is explored through an ethnographic exercise on the border that divides Sarajevo. This case study crystallises methodological possibilities, implications for critique and matters of accountability presented by either path. Ultimately, I argue, a focus on things is productive insofar as it functions within a focus on human practice.

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Abigail Baim-Lance and Cecilia Vindrola-Padros

Academic funding bodies are increasingly measuring research impact using accountability and reward assessments. Scholars have argued that frameworks attempting to measure the use-value of knowledge production could end up influencing the selection of research topics, limiting research agendas, and privileging linear over complex research designs. Our article responds to these concerns by calling upon insights from anthropology to reconceptualise impact. We argue that, to conduct socially beneficial studies, impact needs to be turned from a product to an inclusive process of engagement. Anthropology's epistemologically and methodologically rich tradition of ethnography offers a particularly apposite set of tools to achieve this goal. We present three concrete examples of how we have used ethnography to impact on the work we carry out, particularly in shaping multidisciplinary team-based research approaches.