The 12th Annual International Ethnography Symposium
Politics and Ethnography in an Age of Uncertainty
The Annual Ethnography Symposium is a leading international forum for debate and dialogue on the theory, practice and form of ethnographic work. The conference is unique in its commitment to cross-disciplinary dialogue that draws on the sociological and anthropological roots of ethnography but with a common interest in contemporary organizations and their business and management.
In 2017 the conference takes as its theme the question of politics and ethnography in what we are calling here ‘an age of uncertainty’. Inspired by recent diagnosis pronouncing the ‘end of politics’, which we take to be politics in a certain mode or institutional form, we wonder what new types of politics are emerging or possible in contemporary organization. At a time when politics is in danger of being replaced by a technocratic and managerial elite whose mode of conduct ranges from the oppressive and brutal to the ‘soft-power’ of seduction and normalization, how might we revive the practice of politics as a radical democratic, inclusive or even global agora? How must we reimagine and reinvent politics if communities of people are to survive the widely acknowledged coming crisis in ecological and economic breakdown? For many we are now in a permanent state of emergency, crisis, or exception, marked by terror, fear and militarised security. In this war of ‘all against all’ things are worse than Hobbes can have imagined by the fact that war seems to have been declared on the human – by what we used to call nature, and after Lovelock we may now need to call ‘Gaia’. Who can act as sovereign to adjudicate on all the differences and claims being made on the earth that are now becoming evident in spaces that lie between old state territories, in processes and movements that cross-over the old spatial and temporal boundaries?
Ethnography has much to contribute to these epochal narratives and their allied debates. From the study of alternative political and economic systems in the anthropological tradition to studies of street corner societies and political activism, ethnography has a fine tradition to draw on. For Burawoy ethnography can best contribute to politics in the contemporary world by thinking ‘globally’. For others ‘the global’ is a misnomer, reifying that which remains contingent and contested at multiple points of weakness and construction. Following Stengers, Latour talks about the need for a new diplomacy, in which a greater voice is given to the non-human – whether soil, earthworm or Gaia! Might we need to think of a new ‘cosmopolitics’ if, as Bill Maurer shows the basis upon which modern economy and its politics is constructed is now being eroded by forms of ‘economic’ practice that evade the epistemological and ontological purview of the state. And what of the marginalised and overlooked, those communities of terrorised urban black poor charged charted by Alice Goffman?
At the moment we are inviting proposals for streams, panels and sessions that can address and extend these issues. We have currently accepted 12 streams including Extreme Work, Health and Medical Professions, History, Marketing, Post-Colonial Ethnography, International Development, Visual Ethnography, Political Economy, New Materialism, and Architecture and Design. There is also a doctoral stream (with bursaries) and an open stream. Calls for papers will be distributed in due course, but we are inviting additional streams or panel session proposals. Please submit a 1 page outline of your proposal by September 30th 2016 to the organizing committee providing details of your co-convenors.
Confirmation of acceptance will be circulated by October 14th 2016 .