Figuring Out Ethnography

I have become increasingly interested in the multiple ways ethnography can generate new insight and possibilities.  I am interested in  how ethnographic techniques can develop to address seemingly new phenomena, and entangled political-economic, technoscientific, biophysical and sociocultural systems.   I’m also interested in different ways ethnography can perform and communicate critique.  I have an essay in a special issue of India Review on public anthropology, for example, that describes how poststructuralism orients critical ethnographic work, another essay on scale and/in multisided ethnography (“Visualizing Multisited Ethnography,”) and yet another on how ethnographic research design often involves intense play between figure and ground.   I also have an essay in process titled “Double-binds and Other Moving Objects in the Anthropology of Technoscience,” which draws out techniques anthropologists have used to avoid essentializing the subjects they are concerned with.

A recently completed project – editing (with Mike Fortun) a four volume Major Works in Cultural Anthropology for Sage – also advanced my thinking about ethnography as sensibility, practice and mode of representation.  In the process of selecting articles and writing an introduction to the series, it became increasingly clear to me that ethnography’s critical purchase is an effect of cultivated openness to new and diverse theoretical frameworks, and to new, often initially nameless, developments in the world.

Teaching, as always, has kept my thinking about ethnography in motion.  See a dissertation research design syllabus and supporting exercises here:

Most bravely, in spring 2009, I ventured to teach K-2 students something rather like “Ethnography 101,” in six sessions in an afterschool program at my daughter’s elementary school.