Field trips play a significant role in the building of expert knowledge of numerous institutions. So why is their nature and significance for knowledge production rarely discussed in the anthropology of expertise? In this paper, I draw on the particular instance of an expert field trip undertaken by a disaster management organization in the Indian state of Odisha in the aftermath of Cyclone Phailin in 2013. I show that field trips are contingent practices defined by their sequential logic, relationships, interests, and by the personal perceptions of people who undertake them. The choice of personnel to carry out this field exercise is fundamental and depends on institutional views of aims and understandings of what constitutes expertise. In line with E. Summerson Carr’s argument that expertise is something people “do” rather than “hold”, I show that enacting expert status serves to assert power and to enable its holder to achieve their aims.
Anthropocene as Science Fiction and Scholarship-in-the-Making
Heather Anne Swanson, Nils Bubandt and Anna Tsing
How might one responsibly review a field just coming into being—such as that provoked by the term Anthropocene? In this article, we argue for two strategies. First, working from the premise that the Anthropocene field is best understood within its emergence, we review conferences rather than publications. In conference performances, we glimpse the themes and tensions of a field-to-come. Second, we interpret Anthropocene as a science-fiction concept, that is, one that pulls us out of familiar space and time to view our predicaments differently. This allows us to explore emergent figurations, genres, and practices for the transdisciplinary study of real and imagined worlds framed by human disturbance. In the interplay and variation across modes for constructing this field, Anthropocene scholarship finds its shape.
Compliance and Transformation in the Asia-Pacific Region
Capacity building in biomedical research ethics review has been a European priority since the early 2000s. Prompted by the increase in data originating in internationally sponsored trials in emerging economies, a range of capacity building initiatives were put in place in the field of ethical review to ensure the protection of human subjects participating in research. Drawing on fieldwork with the Forum for Ethical Review Committees in the Asian and Western Pacific Region, I explore two distinct forms taken by capacity building within that organization to support and train members of ethics review committees. The first, with an emphasis on standards and measurability, takes as its priority international accountability for clinical trial research. The second explores how the organization goes about persuading trainees to see and do ‘ethics’ differently. This distinction between forms of capacity allows me to explore what will count as ‘success’ in research ethics capacity building.
‘Everyday Diplomacy’ in Field Relations during the Russia-Ukraine Conflict
Based on long-term fieldwork in Russia, but focusing mainly on the aftermath of the 2014 Malaysian airliner downing in Ukraine, this article examines the individual ethnographer and informants alike as unwilling ‘diplomatic’ representatives in the field. Firstly, I discuss the authoritarian political context in Russia and how it affects the notion of ‘soft power’ and ‘public’ discourse. Then I relate the familiar ‘political testing’ experience of researchers by informants, and ‘neutrality’ in field relations (Ergun and Erdemir 2010). Next, I draw on the anthropology of indirect communication to characterize ‘everyday diplomacy’ after the event as a particular kind of civility. I go on to examine attendant affective states of ‘tension, disturbance, or jarring’ (Navaro-Yashin 2012) that both threaten civility and enable it. Finally, I argue that classic ethnographic rapport-building deserves further examination in the light of the porosity of politics, the social environment and the field.
The Ho‘omaka Hou Research Initiative at the Bishop Museum
Mara A. Mulrooney, Charmaine Wong, Kelley Esh, Scott Belluomini and Mark D. McCoy
The Ho‘omaka Hou Research Initiative is a collaborative research endeavor that is primarily focused on the analysis of the Bishop Museum’s Archaeology Collections. The goal of Ho‘omaka Hou (which literally means “to begin again”) is to encourage continued work with these invaluable museum collections, and to bring together researchers and students with various research interests in order to learn more about the past. In addition to conducting research on museum collections using the most up-to-date methods in the field of archaeology, we are building a digital inventory of the collections. This integrated approach highlights the relevance of archaeological collections housed in museums for informing researchers about the past, and also emphasizes the need for modernizing digital inventories to safeguard these collections for the future.
The Moral Cartography of Renovation in Late-Socialist Vietnam
Building on fieldwork in Hanoi, this article uses the idea of moral cartography to explore the ethical significance attached to the expertise of mapmakers, geomancers and psychic grave-finders, fields widely esteemed in Vietnam as scientific disciplines with strong moral entailments. Of central concern are the ways such practices reflect the intertwining of the temporal and the geophysical. The material expressions of these engagements include article death goods and the photographs displayed on ancestor altars; also maps as points where histories of nationhood and family interpenetrate in forms both exalting and painful for those involved. In connecting the different markers and chronologies of Vietnam's official and familial time modes with the notion of a moralized marketplace, it is suggested that the ethical concerns of today's market socialism are being negotiated in Hanoi not only in temporal terms, but through evocations of purposefully achieving life in space.
Border Medicine and Health Tourism
This essay exemplifies a particular approach to the field of health tourism, whereby the anthropology of tourism and medical anthropology can be used in conjunction. The serious business of healing is not usually associated with the pleasures of relaxation; however, Czech spas have historically been sites of both healing and leisure for visitors. Building on the suggestion of Veijola and Jokinen (1994), the body of the tourist is made the centre of this study. The bodies of patient-tourists at Czech health spas undergo various healing regimens, and their bodies signify a negotiation of national and cultural identities. Just as Bunzl (2000) considers bodies as constituting European cultural landscapes, this essay considers the ways in which German patient bodies at Czech health spas constitute a changing national, political and cultural relationship at a 'border' of Europe.
Olivier Schrauwen’s Arsène Schrauwen beyond Expectations of Autobiography, Colonial History and the Graphic Novel
Benoît Crucifix and Gert Meesters
This article proposes a close reading of Olivier Schrauwen’s Arsène Schrauwen, focusing on the various cultural discourses that it engages with, and particularly its ironical self-positioning within the field of comics. First of all, Schrauwen playfully questions the entrenchment of autobiography in the contemporary graphic novel by presenting a wholly fantasised adventure as biographical family history. This play with generic expectations is continued through Schrauwen’s reliance on the tropes of the adventure story and its figuration of the voyage. Arsène Schrauwen also draws on stereotypical images of both Belgium and the Belgian Congo and integrates them into a grotesque narrative so as to question the supposed unicity of the individual and colonial bodies. Last but not least, the book displays a highly self-reflexive approach to comics storytelling, building on a legacy from Flemish comics in order to play with reading conventions, graphic enunciation and abstraction, thereby thematising the perception of the main character.
Extending the Extended-Case Method
The central concern of this article is the relationship between ethnography and social theory. With the help of 'consequent processualism', a social ontology that centers on the co-constitution of people, cultural forms, social relations, and the built environment, this essay makes an argument for what should be at the core of social theorizing: the principles underpinning the dynamics of processes in the nexus between actions and reactions, igniting social formation in webbed flows of effects across time and space. The article shows how consequent processualism is able to implode time-honored, reifying conceptual dichotomies, such as micro-macro, event-structure, agency-social structure, to open new vistas on the social. Building on consequent processualism, the essay argues on the one hand for the significance of theory for the practice of ethnography in identifying and delimiting fruitful field sites. Conversely, it advocates ethnography as the method of choice for developing social theory.
The Temporalities of Ethnographic Fieldwork
Anthropologists working in a culturally unfamiliar field site carry out an experiment in time by interacting with people who do not share a common cultural past with them. Their real time interaction will therefore engender miscommunications and interpretative breakdowns. The 'invisibility' of temporal patterns results from the tendency of human consciousness to focus on difference and forget repetition. This article argues that the methodological intervention of ethnographic fieldwork is to transform repetition into difference by participating in events over a period of time. Building on the premise that anthropologists and their collaborators often act from different temporal orientations or 'timescapes', the article suggests that similar differences develop within societies between actors in different life situations and representing different cultural interests and traditions. Only through the long-term study of a particular group of people can the complexity and dynamics of different timescapes be discerned.