Tag Archives: reading group


Our next read, calling all readers! Doodle poll is in the  making and will soon reveal the date of the next meeting!

Tsing, Anna L. Friction: an ethnography of globla connection

Calling all readers…

What shall we read for our next reading group meeting?




Books, books, books, books, books, books, and books., originally uploaded by kennymatic.

Fieldwork is not what it used to be

The book has been on my desk for a while, waiting for the perfect reading motivation that is the reading group. I’m now a couple of chapters in… enough to be quite intrigued about the book’s aims. It takes on a very particular slice of academic work–paying a lot of attention to the professional ‘craft’ of fieldwork, as Marcus calls it. I’m about to start the empirical chapters, and I’m curious to read on:  To what extent are the implications of particular ways of developing this craft linked to the kinds of knowledge produced by ethnographers?

Reading Group Proposal

How about this new book from Cornell University Press on fieldwork? It has its own site, where some material from the book is made available. This is an edited volume, with a number of contributors who are well-known spokespeople of the American cultural anthropology scene–and several of whom have been involved in the anthropology in/of circulation statement a few months ago.

For this volume, perhaps we could all read the introduction and each pick one chapter we especially like to discuss? We will also experiment further in the coming sessions with ways of discussing/ approaching texts and issues.

Who would like to join? Lilia, are you up for this one? We’ll pick a date once we’re back from holidays.

Emotions, selves and fieldwork

For our next meeting, we will be reading Sharon Traweek’s paper Warning Signs, and Ellis ‘ book, Final Negotiations. See you on the afternoon of the 12th!


Starting reading on the train yesterday. Strange experience. After about ten pages, I was quite grossed out with the whole thing. She was stupid. He was repulsive. Was I allowed to feel this way? Could I stop reading on the basis of this? Somewhat vindictively, I was thinking that by putting these characters, their emotions and their relationship so much to the forefront of this book, this was also entitling me to react to them on that basis. I managed to make myself read/skim/read through the first part. Stopped that when I got to the part where she becomes an unpaid nurse to a chronically ill tyrant. And then skimmed the last part, where she talks about writing the various versions of the book. And I read enough of that to realise that, yes, indeed, the whole point was more or less to provoke an emotional reading.

Now, having slept on this, I am feeling somewhat less vindictively repulsed. I’m also rather in awe of (and quite curious about) what it must have been like to publish something like this in the American academic climate of the mid-nineties, at the height of data-rape hysteria on campuses and institutionalised political correctness.

Lying is done… Part Two

Part of the reading group discussion on lying, and specifically of  ‘ten lies of ethnography’, by Gary Fine, published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, and Peter Metcalf’s book took place last Friday in Amsterdam (Dina, Sarah and Anne). The discussion will continue here…

Metcalf’s book struck us all as a classic, a book to read and to reread, a book that would engage us in different ways at different times in our work. Not only is this book eminently well written, each of its sections is layered, bringing together a compelling narrative, an entry into debates in post-modern ethnography literature, as well as illustrating the links to be constructed between fieldwork and conceptual debates. This part of the discussion also led us to wonder: What is it about this book that makes it so ‘good to think with’, in dealing with issues of truth and epistemology?

We also found that issues of language and truth (How is writing a research plan lying?, asked Dina, or how can we think of  ‘truth as a language game’, as Sarah formulated it) were perhaps least explicitly dealt with in the book–though we did find ways to extrapolate from its contents as to how Metcalf might address such issues.

Another theme we discussed was the evolution of the relationship to the field, over the course of one’s career. We also wondered: At what point can one write such a book? When, and on what basis, can a scholar engage in this kind of writing?

The disappearing field was also striking in this account. How often do we hear that the pace of technological change is a particular challenge for ethnographers of contemporary culture? In the case of Borneo, ways of life are not standing still either, and this sense of urgency and fast-pace of internet researchers rather felt like a particular conceit, when reading Metcalfe’s descriptions of change.

We also briefly talked about Fine’s piece which considers ten ‘values’ that ethnographers are meant to enact, and related it to our discussion of Metcalfs’ book, in terms of the value of values.  Enacting such values might take a different form in different settings (ie what it means to be honest can vary…). We also debated the following: what is at stake in maintaining or breaching such values?

These are some highlights of the discussion, with the questions underlying the discussion foregrounded–looking forward to hearing from the all readers on these or other points.

“Lying is done with words and also with silence.” –Adrienne Rich

The March meeting of the ethnography reading group will deal with lying: the (sometimes necessary) constitution of false statements, deliberately presented as being true. Why and when do ethnographers fib? What do we do when we think the interlocutor prevaricates? And who can tell?

Two texts will provide the academic framing of this discussion. One is the text ‘ten lies of ethnography’, by Gary Fine, published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, but also posted on the web as the text of a keynote address to QUIG Interdisciplinary Qualitative Studies Conference in 1992.

Along with this piece, Peter Metcalf’s book will be grounds for discussing lying in ethnographic relationships and in the presentation of the ethnographer.

Next book…

will be ‘Partial Connections’, by Marilyn Strathern. Supplemented with a delicious piece by Anna Tsing, presented at the annual meeting of the Danish Association for science and technology studies, and brought to our attention by Dina Friis.