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"Anthropology Otherwise: Rethinking Approaches to Fieldwork in Different Anthropological Traditions"

CAS 19/05/2011

September 1st-4th 2011, Petnica Science Centre, Valjevo, Serbia
supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation

The conference invites contributors to:

(1) generate a dialogue between researchers working on projects based in the Balkan region/Eastern Europe, yet in different ethnographic traditions. This includes those who use 'immersion’ (long-term fieldwork) and ‘back and forth’ (repeated short visits) models of ethnographic research. The aim is to discuss epistemological possibilities opened and closed by each of these models, and how these two models complement each other.

(2) participate in a forum in which to try out a consensus-based decision making process in order to find common ground between different research methodologies and foci. By using consensus-based decision making process, we hope to illustrate how the workshop process, and ultimately, the knowledge produced, is shaped by the organisational forms in which it takes place. Hence we take seriously the premise that the material and organisational culture(s) of an event or institution shape (if not determine) in an important way, the kinds of and qualities of knowledge produced.

The conference has two key aims:

1. To generate a dialogue between researchers working in different ethnographic traditions. Participants will come from traditions which use the 'immersion model' of research (loosely defined as Anglo-Saxon, which involves spending an extended amount of time, usually a year or more, in one location), and from traditions which use an approach which we will call the ‘back and forth’ model for the purposes of this conference (loosely defined as Balkan/Eastern European, whereby researchers make repeated short visits to a fieldsite for a month or so at a time). The conference will be a place for thinking about relations of different ways of doing a discipline, which has at least four names: social anthropology/cultural anthropology/ethnology/ethnography, through research - how do researchers do it? Instead of theorising different possibilities of producing theory in ‘the West’ as opposed to producing theory in ‘the Balkans’ or ‘(South) Eastern Europe’ we intend to theorise ethnographic research practices and their implications for knowledge production. Since there are different ways of doing fieldwork research, what are their similarities, and what are the
differences? What is gained and what is lost through particular ways of doing ethnography? Where does the link between geographical regions and the two models come from? In what way can elements of one model be translated into the other? How do researchers combine them? In what way is the boundary between them constituted? The conference will open a discussion about existing ways of doing fieldwork, and of methodological, epistemological, and political issues brought up by existing fieldwork designs.

2. To provide a forum in which to try out a consensus-based decision making process. Consensus method is a tool to challenge people who have been doing anthropology/ethnology in a particular way to find a common ground with people who have been doing ethnology/anthropology ‘otherwise'. What is consensus-based decision making process and why use it? The insights regarding the importance of material and organisational cultures (in shaping the kinds of and qualities of knowledge that is produced) are often applied to knowledge produced ‘in the field’ and less frequently to working contexts in academia as well. In academia knowledge comes out of institutional contact with other academics as much as, for instance, from texts and field experiences. Academic conferences are often quite hierarchically organised, with a chair, 'renowned' speakers, and academics who 'lead' discussions. Instead of a more traditional conference format, in which participants state their views and experiences and then ask questions challenging and criticising the views of others, the conference will use a format borrowed from anarchist modes of political organising, which is designed to minimise the presence or formation of hierarchies. It is committed to finding common ground rather than pitching one set of viewpoints against another. It is especially productive if there are participants who are committed to different approaches but who are asked to work together and find solutions to questions which suit the largest number of people present, rather than seeking to contrast one creative, often highly individual or idiosyncratic position with others.

Participants will attend two out of four offered sessions:

(1) Thinking through the particularities of different research methods. What kinds of topics, research questions and themes can be addressed through different kinds of ethnography?

(2) How can we rethink the oldies (old ethnograhies) from the region? What value do such classical ethnographies have today?

(3) ‘Field Guide’ Session. The aim of the session is to produce a 'field guide' where we aim to reach consensus on what difficulties researchers setting out to do fieldwork in the region may expect to come across.

(4) What is the place of sensory media in an ethnographic research? How do we use it – to tell a story, to convey an experience, to theoretically generate an anthropological knowledge, or for something else?

Key note speakers: to be announced soon

Working language(s): primary: English
also: Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian


Applications are welcomed from researchers who have an active interest in practicing ethnography in a variety of fields: social/cultural anthropology/ethnology/ethnography would be the most obvious choice, as well as researchers working in fields of political science, sociology, cultural studies, etc. who (plan to) utilise ethnography.


Please send a CV and the application form, including 3000 characters (with spaces) explaining in what way the conference themes are of interest to you and/or relate to your work. Also indicate your order of preference for the session, putting 1 next to the most, and 4 to the least preferable choice. The application should be sent to [email protected]. There is no conference fee. Accommodation and meals are covered, and there is a possibility of refunding travel expenses.

Organisers: Carna Brkovic (University of Manchester), Vanja Celebicic (University of Manchester),
Marina Simic (University of Belgrade), Andrew Hodges (University of Manchester)

Deadline for applications: 1st June 2011

Successful candidates will be informed by 1st July 2011

For more details about the conference and conference themes, please visit http://anthropologyotherwise.blogspot.com

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