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http://eth.sagepub.com Ethnografeast: A Progress Report on the Practice and Promise of Ethnography
Loïc Wacquant Ethnography 2003; 4; 5 DOI: 10.1177/1466138103004001001 The online version of this article can be found at: http://eth.sagepub.com
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as well as the changing politics and ethics of ethnography at century’s dawn. The spirit of the conference was one of open and attentive dialogue across three divides that. Paris. representational devices. ethnography was deﬁned. empirical and theoretical (im)possibilities.sagepublications. philosophy. history. the participants were invited to examine the epistemological moorings. medicine. political economy. onthe-ground observation of people and institutions in real time and space. think and feel the way they do. Promise’. in catholic fashion.1 The purpose of the three-day event was to take collective stock of the past achievements. USA Centre de sociologie européenne. feminism. For that purpose.sagepub. Predicament. methodological quandaries. the journal Ethnography and the Center for Urban Ethnography at the University of California. and to sketch the future promise of ethnography as a distinctive mode of inquiry and form of public consciousness. 2008 . Berkeley. statistics. Thousand Oaks. although widely recognized as arbitrary. continue Downloaded from http://eth.035380] Ethnografeast A progress report on the practice and promise of ethnography ■ Loïc Wacquant University of California-Berkeley. in which the investigator embeds herself near (or within) the phenomenon so as to detect how and why agents on the scene act.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10.5–14. held an international conference on ‘Ethnography for a New Century: Practice. CA and New Delhi) www.graphy Copyright © 2003 SAGE Publications (London.com Vol 4(1): 5–14[1466–1381(200303)4:1. France On 12–14 September 2002. and theory in fastchanging academic worlds and societal landscapes. as social research based on the close-up. Drawing on and projecting forth from their own ﬁeldwork spanning the gamut of topics and styles. And in the process to illumine its relation to and its uses of ﬁction. to reﬂect on the contemporary practice.
worried epistemological disquisitions. is rarely done in earnest today. to suspend lingering disdain. Sâo Paulo. 2008 . theory-driven and narrative-oriented. and postmodern. 1913) but that. 1999). 1998 and Gille and Ó Riain. as the prophets of postmodern gloom would have us believe. phenomenological. local. positivist. for reasons having to do with its intellectual history and institutional ecology. Paris.2 Needless to say. The ﬁrst is the continuing split between national traditions. and postcolonialism. But. the premise and wager of the ‘Ethnografeast’ was that the most promising route for strengthening and enriching the craft of ﬁeld inquiry at this particular juncture lies not in grand theoretical elaborations. feminism(s). ethnography is a proliferating animal that walks on multiplying feet. numerous other disciplines are concerned by the conceptual and practical issues on which the conference fastened: the remarkable renewal and growth of ethnography over the past decade has touched an unprecedented variety of knowledge domains ranging from education. identity politics. interpretive and analytic. Third. and global –4 as conduced by authors who draw on the broadest array of theoretical traditions in the social sciences. which was lessened by convening scholars coming not only from the four corners of the United States but also from London. interdisciplinarity rooted in a vigorous Downloaded from http://eth.6 E t h n o g r a p h y 4(1) to impede the development of ﬁeld-based social inquiry – as they do research based on other methodologies. This threefold commitment to internationalism. 1997: 25–29). and they are) but in the long overdue. media and science studies to geography. management and design.3 Far from being an extinct or endangered species. and to remove their professional blinders so as to get each to acknowledge and engage the varied approaches and productions of their twin colleagues in a way that was routinely done a century ago by the Durkheimians (as attested by Mauss. or deliberate rhetorical innovations (however important these may be in their own right. its two main legs remain anthropology and sociology (Stacey. The second is the separation of disciplines: the main impulse behind the conference was to get a group of anthropologists and sociologists who seriously practice and think about ﬁeldwork to come not face to face but side by side. Stockholm. distrust and doubt. and seek to amplify or rectify intellectual currents as varied as the Chicago school. neomodern. and the mutual ignorance and symbolic imperialism it fosters (Gupta and Ferguson. the conference brought together the diversity of styles of ethnographic work – modern. and Cape Town. history. for reasons having to do with the accumulated accidents of academic and political history. systematic and selfconscious braiding of actually existing traditions of ﬁeldwork across that artiﬁcial disciplinary divide as anthropologists ‘return home’ and sociologists ‘go global’ (Peirano. and by design. law. organization theory. from Marx and Merleau-Ponty to Bourdieu and Blumer to Goffman and Geertz. 2002). to gender studies and nursing.sagepub. Indeed. interactionist and historical. multi-sited.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10.
empirical commitment. and to invite each to recognize. And it will continue to guide its efforts to stimulate and disseminate innovative ﬁeldwork stamped by theoretical sensitivity. and the occupational habits of school administrators. social divisions and bonds (kinship. Budapest and Syktyvkar in Northern Russia. before returning to the role of history and theory in ethnography.sagepub. and gender). It sets the editorial policy and deﬁnes the distinctive intellectual stance of the journal in the ever-more cluttered space of social scientiﬁc production. the politics of medicine in Haiti and the aesthetics of death in Nepal. and learn from the other. The ﬁrst was to Michael Boris Burawoy. that of explanation and interpretation. Burawoy has not only produced classic ﬁeld studies of labor and working class (de)formation under capitalist evolution and Soviet involution (see Burawoy. The conference opened on a double dedication. Burawoy et al. in which sociologist Michael Boris Burawoy presented the case for theory-driven ethnography carried out under the banner of science while anthropologist Ruth Behar advocated a humanistic approach based on story-telling closer to writing and ﬁlm.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10. Presentations were based on completed or ongoing research into subjects as variegated as drug addiction in San Francisco and crime in São Paulo. 2000) to inﬂuential authors with their own agenda Downloaded from http://eth. urban planners. 1991.. experiment and narration. the one joyful and the other somber. practicing. Bridging the gap between anthropology and sociology. as well as between theory and method. mating the ‘extended case method’ of Jaan van Velsen and Max Gluckman to the theoretical agenda of an epistemologically astute and empirically aware Marxism scouring the globe in stubborn search for the ‘politics of production’ (Burawoy. Chicago. and the body and the senses. 1998 and 2000a). with roots in Manchester by way of Lusaka. He has trained cohorts of ﬁrst-rate ethnographers who have gone on from being close collaborators in a revolving ‘ethnographic cooperative’ (Burawoy et al. The Behar–Burawoy pairing was meant to incarnate the two poles of the craft.. and promoting ethnography at Berkeley. the ethics of ﬁeldwork. The ‘Ethnografeast’ started off with a session titled ‘Suspended Between Theory and Fiction’.Wacquant ■ Ethnografeast 7 and rigorous dialogue between sociology and anthropology. So much so that one could argue that he has single-handedly created a ‘Berkeley school’ of ﬁeld research. 2008 . professional boxers. for a reﬂexive recapitulation). mushroom collectors. class. who received a special award in recognition of 25 years devoted to teaching. Sessions held on the ensuing two days addressed violence. and pluralism in genres and theoretical suasions is epicentral to the mission of Ethnography. observer concept and native percept. exchange with. and civic relevance. morality among American physicians and ‘zombies’ in post-apartheid South Africa. 1996. sentiments in French families and gender in Mexican factories. international journalists. and global organs trafﬁckers.
Burawoy has time and again demonstrated the scientiﬁc and political pertinence of ﬁeld inquiry to the ongoing ‘great transformations’ of our epoch. whether one admires or deplores his obdurate insistence on the centrality of class and capitalism.5 The second dedication was to Pierre Bourdieu. thus setting high standards for an ethnography alive to its civic responsibility. from the dissection of gender relations and kinship strategies in his native village of Béarn to the analysis of taste in the making of class and of the rituals of consecration of the ‘state nobility’ to the diagnosis of novel forms social suffering in societies wracked by economic deregulation and welfare-state devolution (Bourdieu. Bourdieu called for a forthright ‘collaboration’ between ‘statistics and sociology’. by which he meant intensive ﬁeld studies that are alone capable of ferreting out the social meaning that patterns of action and belief acquire in the ‘concrete cases’ that quantitative techniques parse. And he dutifully followed his own prescription: Bourdieu resorted to detailed and sustained in situ observation in every one of his major studies thereafter. 1979.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10.sagepub. Bourdieu et al.. who agreed. which he taught himself in the late 1950s crisscrossing the countryside and delving into the urban slums of colonial Algeria in the grisly conditions of the war of national liberation.7 By convening this gathering of anthropologists and sociologists committed to the craft. Sociology is a Martial Art by Pierre Carles (2001). to come to Berkeley for the ‘Ethnografeast’ and to deliver a closing address on ‘Ethnography as Public Service’. his ﬁrst methodological notations. the conference included ‘an evening with Pierre Bourdieu’ in the form of the ofﬁcial U. Ethnography sought to provoke a confrontation of Downloaded from http://eth. Pierre Bourdieu was an inventive and iconoclastic scientist who transformed social science by fusing rigorous theory with precise research. 2002. 2008 . in summer of 2001. And it leaves many of us bereft of an irreplaceable friend and wonderful human being. Bourdieu was the ﬁrst scholar to truly reunify sociology and anthropology in his practice since the classical generation in which his work was anchored and the ‘Ethnografeast’ was a means to acknowledge and advance on the path he cleared. aggregate and correlate (Bourdieu et al.8 E t h n o g r a p h y 4(1) and voice and working at the four corners of the earth. It deprives activists ﬁghting for social justice around the world of an engaged intellectual who was deeply committed to making the results of social inquiry inform and impact democratic struggles. 1989. And. In lieu of a tribute or homage (something he profoundly disliked: he once quipped ‘hommage égale fromage’). 1963: 9–13). 1993). His sudden and untimely passing in January 2002 not only robs the social sciences and humanities of one of their most innovative and inﬂuential practicioners.6 In the introduction to his 1963 book Travail et travailleurs en Algérie. premiere of the awardwinning documentary on his life and thought. including ethnography..S.
the three days of lively debates before a packed room and the subsequent exchanges they triggered through manifold media offered irrefutable proof that reports of the ‘death of ethnography’ have been wildly exaggerated – they turn out to be little more than the prescriptive cries of those who. the universe of references and studies they build on.sagepub. Shed this professional garb (or armor) and they turn out to be not sister disciplines but identical twins. It is hoped that publication of these presentations will help extend and enlarge the animated discussion of the distinctive problems and promise of ethnography that took place in Berkeley. 2008 . as well as for its pertinence to social policy and citizenship after a protracted period of solipsistic doubt and nihilistic rumination.Wacquant ■ Ethnografeast 9 experiences. and views liable to clarify its standards and to make the case for the renewed vigor and centrality of ethnography to social research. need to make an epistemological virtue out of their professional surrender. focus and concern within each of the disciplines than between them. They conﬁrmed that ﬁeld inquiry is a diverse enterprise admitting of a variety of standards of production and evaluation but one endowed with a strong core of common epistemological and operational principles readily apparent in its ﬁnished products. And that it will feed intellectual exchanges across disciplinary boundaries liable to erode the arbitrary mental and professional divisions that hamper the full blossoming of an ethnographic social science. What separates sociologists and anthropologists are the ready-made problematics they inherit. Mary Pattillo.8 And they made it clear that the balance sheet of similarities and differences between sociologists and anthropologists active in the ﬁeld tilts decisively in favor of the former: indeed. The three papers by Ruth Behar. and Gary Fine featured in this issue form the ﬁrst of several installments of contributions to the ‘Ethnografeast’. purposes.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10. (Ethnography welcomes reactions and commentaries that take up central issues addressed – or evaded – by several papers). as a result of the separate training they receive and the distinct career tracks they follow. If anything. there was more dispersion of style. and the idiom in which they articulate their questions. Appendix: Summary Program of the Ethnografeast Day 1 – Thursday 12 September 2002 1 Suspended between theory and ﬁction Ruth Behar (University of Michigan): ‘Adio Kerida: Ethnography without Borders’ Michael Burawoy (University of California–Berkeley): ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Bringing Theory and History to Ethnography’ Downloaded from http://eth. having stopped doing ﬁeldwork.
gender.sagepub. 160 Kroeber Hall: Screening of Ruth Behar’s ‘Adio Kerida’. Downloaded from http://eth. Now You Don’t: Masculinity at Work’ Sherry Ortner (Columbia University): ‘New Jersey Dreaming: Theoretical Intentions and Field Lessons of a “Native Ethnographer” ’ Discussant: Raka Ray (University of California–Berkeley) 4 The contested politics and ethics of ﬁeld work Mary Pattillo (Northwestern University): ‘The Politics (Mine and Theirs) of “Revitalizing” Black Chicago’ Ruth Horowitz (New York University): ‘On the Uses and Abuses of Membership: Dynamics and Ethics of Participation in the Regulation of Medicine’ Nancy Scheper-Hughes (University of California–Berkeley): ‘Rotten Trade: Global Justice and the International Trafﬁc in Human Organs’ Discussant: Laura Nader (University of California–Berkeley) 9–11pm.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10. Strategies and Models in the Ethnography of Kinship and Kin Dependency’ Leslie Salzinger (University of Chicago): ‘Now You See It. followed by a debate with Ruth Behar and José David Saldívar (Chair of UC–Berkeley Ethnic Studies). class Florence Weber (Ecole normale supérieure–Paris): ‘Sentiments. University of California–Irvine): ‘Crime and Rights in Contemporary Brazil’ Paul Farmer (Harvard University): ‘Toward an Ethnography of Structural Violence: Haiti and Beyond’ 3 Bonds and divisions: kinship. Wheeler Auditorium: An evening with Pierre Bourdieu – USA Premiere of Pierre Carles’ ‘Sociology is a Martial Art’. Crack and Homelessness in Black and White: A PhotoEthnography from San Francisco’ Martín Sánchez-Jankowski (University of California–Berkeley): ‘The Role of School Violence in Leveling Aspirations and Curtailing Mobility among the Poor in Two American Cities’ Teresa Caldeira (Universidade São Paulo. Day 2 – Friday 13 September 2002 2 Dissecting violence Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg (University of California–San Francisco): ‘Heroin. introduced by Chancellor Robert Berdahl and followed by a debate with director Pierre Carles and Linda Williams (Chair of UC–Berkeley Film Studies).10 E t h n o g r a p h y 4(1) 8–11pm. 2008 .
selves Loïc Wacquant (University of California–Berkeley. and the Ofﬁce of the Chancellor. senses. and There . the French Studies. all at the University of California-Berkeley. . the Departments of Sociology and Anthropology.Wacquant ■ Ethnografeast 11 Day 3 – Saturday 14 September 2002 5 Bodies. Extramural support from the Lal Foundation. Martín Sánchez-Jankowski and Nancy Scheper-Hughes. Professional gatherings Downloaded from http://eth.sagepub. 2 Several anthropologists noted aloud that it was the ﬁrst time in their career that they found themselves in a conference room with throngs of sociologists.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10. for their patience and persistence. the Center for the Study of New Inequalities. . 2008 . the Townsend Center for the Humanities. Film Studies. the sociologists candidly confessed to being unfamiliar with some of the idioms and concerns of anthropologists as expressed at the lectern and from the ﬂoor during discussion. and Maureen Fesler for her ﬂawless management of the event. and Ethnic Studies Programs. for making the conference possible: the Survey Research Center. I would like to personally thank my co-organizers. . David Snow (University of California–Irvine) and Leon Anderson (Ohio State University): ‘Elaborating Analytic Ethnography: Linking Field Work and Theoretical Development’ Paul Willis (Wolverhampton University): ‘Autonomy and Determinacy in Understanding Cultural Practices’ Jean Comaroff (University of Chicago): ‘Ethnography on an Awkward Scale: The View from the South-African Postcolony’ Notes 1 The journal expresses its appreciation to the following institutions. Centre de sociologie européenne–Paris): ‘ “Suffering Beings”: Ethnography as Embedded and Embodied Social Inquiry’ Robert Desjarlais (Sarah Lawrence College): ‘A Phenomenology of Dying: Subjectivity and Death among Nepal’s Yolmo Buddhists’ Gary Alan Fine (Northwestern University): ‘Towards a Peopled Ethnography: Analyzing Small-Group Culture’ Akhil Gupta (Stanford University): ‘Bodily Practices and Rebirth’ Discussant: Lawrence Cohen (University of California–Berkeley) 6 From site(s) to history and back to theory (2–5pm) Ulf Hannerz (Stockholm University): ‘Being There . . and the French Consulate is gratefully acknowledged. and There! Reﬂections on Multisite Ethnography’ Calvin Morrill (University of California–Irvine). the Institute for the Study of Social Change. Conversely. the Holbrook Foundation.
Pierre (2002) Le Bal des célibataires. as well as critical analyses of their theoretical and empirical import. Heidi Gottfried. Burawoy (2000b and 2001a) and the interdisciplinary volume on social change in Eastern European societies after the Soviet collapse (Burawoy and Verdery. Mayne (1999) for history. September 2001. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 28(5): 442–50. Goodale and Starr (2002) for law. 1999).12 E t h n o g r a p h y 4(1) 3 4 5 6 7 8 of anthropologists rarely include more than a token sociologist and vice versa. Jennifer Peirce. among a ﬂurry of recent works. as well as Burawoy’s (2001b) own para-reflexive piece on his predecessor industrial sociologist and ethnographer Donald Roy. among more recent papers. A future special issue of Ethnography on ‘Pierre Bourdieu in the Field’ (scheduled for Spring 2004) will feature several original ethnographic texts by Bourdieu drawn from his early ﬁeldwork in Algeria and in his native region of Béarn in Southern France. References Adler. it was introduced by Chancellor Berdahl and followed by a debate with director Pierre Carles and Linda Williams. 2008 . 423–444). Cottle (2000) and Schlecker and Hirsch (2001) for media and science studies. Steven Peter Vallas. with biographical sketches. The full conference program. Bourdieu. the articles by Robin Leidner.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10. Cambridge: Polity Press. and. Paris: Seuil/Points. Herbert (2000) and McHugh (2000) for geography. Cambridge. MA: Harvard University Press. all of which were represented at the Ethnografeast. Patricia A. Wasson (2000) for design and Rosen (2000) for management.edu. La crise de la société paysanne en Béarn. Pierre (1979) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. and Roper and Shapira (2000) for nursing. The movie was screened before a full house on the opening evening of the conference in Wheeler Auditorium. Bourdieu. Wolf (1996) for gender. Walford (2001) and Zou and Trueba (2002) for education. Adler and Adler (1999) provide a different taxonomy of breeds of ethnographers. Read. Gay Seidman. Bourdieu. Berkeley. and Leslie Salzinger in Contemporary Sociology (2001.berkeley. Downloaded from http://eth. and Peter Adler (1999) ‘The Ethnographer’s Ball – Revisited’. See. draft papers and/or abstracts of the presentations is available on line at http:// cue. Pierre (1989) The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power. 30–5.sagepub. Chair of Film Studies at the University of California. for a collective appraisal and critique of his work by sociologists.
Progress in Human Geography 24(4): 550–568. Upside Down. Annual Review of Sociology 28: 271–295. Contemporary Sociology 30(5): 453–458. Michael Boris (2001a) ‘Manufacturing the Global’.sagepub. Michael Boris (1996) ‘From Capitalism to Capitalism via Socialism: The Odyssey of a Marxist Ethnographer. Burawoy. Outside. Alain Darbel. Carles. Mayne. Herbert. www. Steve (2000) ‘For Ethnography’. Michael Boris (2000b) ‘A Sociology for the Second Great Transformation’. New York. Berkeley: University of California Press. Downloaded from http://eth. Zsuzsa and Seán Ó Riain (2002) ‘Global Ethnography’. 1975–1995’. (1993) The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society. Theory and Society 29(2): 151–174. Backward. Lanham. Burawoy. Berkeley: University of California Press. Goodale. MD: Rowman & Littleﬁeld. Burawoy. Paris and The Hague: Mouton and Co. Jean-Paul Rivet and Claude Seibel (1963) Travail et travailleurs en Algérie. Michael Boris et al. International Labor and Working-Class History 50: 77–99. Annual Review of Sociology 26: 693–695. McHugh. C-P Productions (distributed in the United States by Icarus Films.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10. (2000) Global Ethnography. Marcel (1913) ‘L’ethnographie en France et à l’étranger’. La Revue de Paris 20: 815–837. Bourdieu et al. Michael Boris et al. Michael Boris (2000a) ‘Marxism After Communism’. Burawoy. Michael Boris (2001b) ‘Donald Roy: Sociologist and Working Stiff’. Kevin E. Betacam Video/VHS. Simon (2000) ‘New(s) Times: Towards a “Second Wave” of News Ethnography’. Burawoy. Pierre. Pierre (2001) Sociology is a Martial Art. Burawoy. Ethnography 2(2): 147–159. Gille. Urban History 26(3): 325–348. Michael Boris and Katherine Verdery (eds) (1999) Uncertain Transition: Ethnographies of Change in The Postsocialist World. Mauss. Michael Boris (1998) ‘The Extended Case Method’. London: Palgrave Macmillan.com) Cottle.Wacquant ■ Ethnografeast 13 Bourdieu. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gupta. (2000) ‘Inside. Burawoy. Burawoy. Alan and Susan Lawrence (1999) ‘Ethnographies of Place: A New Urban Research Agenda’. Forward. 2008 .frif. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Mark and June Starr (eds) (2002) Practicing Ethnography In Law. Communications 25(1): 19–41. Sociological Theory 16(1): 4–33. Akhil and James Ferguson (eds) (1997) Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science. Burawoy. (1991) Ethnography Unbound: Power and Resistance in the Metropolis.
) (1996) Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork. Science and Technology’. Rosen. (1998) ‘When Anthropology is at Home: The Different Contexts of a Single Discipline’. Human Organization 59(4): 377–388. and Jill Shapira (2000) Ethnography in Nursing Research. Annual Review of Anthropology 27: 105–128. Mariza G. Schlecker. Wolf. Diane (ed. Walford. Samford. Zou Yali and Enrique T. CT: JAI Press. Michael (2000) Turning Words. Stacey. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 28(6): 687–697. Peirano. Lanham. Geoffrey (ed. CA: Altamira Press. Walnut Creek. London: Routledge.com by Edison Hurtado on October 10. Wasson. History of the Human Sciences 14(1): 69–87. MD: Rowman & Littleﬁeld. Markus and Eric Hirsch (2001) ‘Incomplete Knowledge: Ethnography and the Crisis of Context in Studies of Media.sagepub. Boulder.14 E t h n o g r a p h y 4(1) Round and Round: A Case for Ethnographic Studies in Migration’. Judith (1999) ‘Ethnography Confronts the Global Village: A New Home for a New Century?’.) (2001) Ethnography and Education Policy. Christina (2000) ‘Ethnography in the Field of Design’. Downloaded from http://eth. Progress in Human Geography 24(1): 71–89. Spinning Worlds: Chapters in Organizational Ethnography. Trueba (eds) (2002) Ethnography and Schools: Qualitative Approaches to the Study of Education. S. Roper. Janice M. 2008 . Co: Westview Press.
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