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
The Investigation of Refugees’ Mental Distress
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Road to Wigan Pier and Down and Out in Paris and London
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.
Materialising the division of Sarajevo
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.
Perspectives on U.K. and Mexican Participatory Artists' Processes for Catalysing Change, and Facilitating Health and Flourishing
This article reports new ethnographic research exploring community-based, participatory arts practice in Northern England and Mexico City. Noting the value of an ethnographic approach, the study investigated whether commonalities discovered in practitioners' approaches are significant enough to constitute a generalisable participatory arts methodology, transcending significant contextual differences, and recognisable across national boundaries.
Shared characteristics emerged in practitioners' modes of engagement with groups, and strategies for catalysing change; clear convergences from which a core methodology in community-based participatory arts for change is distilled. It suggests the opening of liminal spaces in which participants can reflect, rehearsing fresh ways of engaging in transformative dialogues in relation to the world in which they live. This article presents the study findings as a grounded characterisation of 'participatory arts practice': a complex but potentially powerful mechanism, in use within numerous community health projects, and evident in diverse settings, despite little or no exchange of ideas between practitioners.