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Ethnography

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Ethnografeast : A Progress Report on the Practice and Promise of
Ethnography
Loïc Wacquant
Ethnography 2003 4: 5
DOI: 10.1177/1466138103004001001

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Drawing on and projecting forth from their own fieldwork spanning the gamut of topics and styles.1 The purpose of the three-day event was to take collective stock of the past achievements.01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 5 graphy Copyright © 2003 SAGE Publications (London. ethnography was defined. as well as the changing politics and ethics of ethnography at century’s dawn. political economy. and to sketch the future promise of ethnography as a distinctive mode of inquiry and form of public consciousness. USA Centre de sociologie européenne. in which the investigator embeds herself near (or within) the phenomenon so as to detect how and why agents on the scene act. the journal Ethnography and the Center for Urban Ethnography at the University of California. 2013 . Predica- ment. France On 12–14 September 2002. Thousand Oaks. medicine. held an inter- national conference on ‘Ethnography for a New Century: Practice.com at University of Liverpool on March 23. and theory in fast- changing academic worlds and societal landscapes. think and feel the way they do. statistics. although widely recognized as arbitrary. the participants were invited to examine the epistemological moorings. in catholic fashion. Berkeley. repre- sentational devices. The spirit of the conference was one of open and attentive dialogue across three divides that. philosophy. Paris. on- the-ground observation of people and institutions in real time and space.sagepublications. CA and New Delhi) www. methodological quandaries. as social research based on the close-up. Promise’. And in the process to illumine its relation to and its uses of fiction. empirical and theoretical (im)possibilities.com Vol 4(1): 5–14[1466–1381(200303)4:1. continue Downloaded from eth. history. to reflect on the contemporary practice. For that purpose.5–14.sagepub. feminism.035380] Ethnografeast A progress report on the practice and promise of ethnography ■ Loïc Wacquant University of California-Berkeley.

to gender studies and nursing. and they are) but in the long overdue. Sâo Paulo. which was lessened by conven- ing scholars coming not only from the four corners of the United States but also from London. worried epistemological disquisitions. neomodern. theory-driven and narrative-oriented.2 Needless to say. interactionist and historical. Third.sagepub. multi-sited. Paris. But. 2002). posi- tivist. interpretive and analytic. is rarely done in earnest today. and seek to amplify or rectify intellectual currents as varied as the Chicago school. 1997: 25–29). feminism(s). phenomenological. 1998 and Gille and Ó Riain. for reasons having to do with its intellectual history and institutional ecology. local. Stockholm. 2013 . The first is the continuing split between national traditions. and global –4 as conduced by authors who draw on the broadest array of theoretical traditions in the social sciences. to suspend lingering disdain. and the mutual ignorance and symbolic imperialism it fosters (Gupta and Ferguson. for reasons having to do with the accumulated acci- dents of academic and political history. or deliberate rhetorical innovations (however important these may be in their own right. and postcolonialism. and Cape Town. 1999). the premise and wager of the ‘Ethnografeast’ was that the most promising route for strength- ening and enriching the craft of field inquiry at this particular juncture lies not in grand theoretical elaborations. 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. management and design.01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 6 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. systematic and self- conscious braiding of actually existing traditions of fieldwork across that artificial disciplinary divide as anthropologists ‘return home’ and sociologists ‘go global’ (Peirano. law. organization theory. media and science studies to geography. from Marx and Merleau-Ponty to Bourdieu and Blumer to Goffman and Geertz. ethnography is a proliferating animal that walks on multiplying feet.com at University of Liverpool on March 23. and by design. identity politics.3 Far from being an extinct or endangered species. and postmodern. interdisciplinarity rooted in a vigorous Downloaded from eth. history. The second is the separation of disciplines: the main impulse behind the conference was to get a group of anthropologists and sociologists who seri- ously practice and think about fieldwork to come not face to face but side by side. the conference brought together the diversity of styles of ethnographic work – modern. numerous other disciplines are concerned by the concep- tual 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. distrust and doubt. This threefold commitment to internationalism. Indeed. its two main legs remain anthropology and sociology (Stacey. as the prophets of postmodern gloom would have us believe. 1913) but that.

com at University of Liverpool on March 23. 1998 and 2000a). and to invite each to recognize.. social divisions and bonds (kinship. Presentations were based on completed or ongoing research into subjects as variegated as drug addiction in San Fran- cisco and crime in São Paulo. The Behar–Burawoy pairing was meant to incarnate the two poles of the craft. Sessions held on the ensuing two days addressed violence. and civic relevance. exchange with. empirical commit- ment. sentiments in French families and gender in Mexican factories. The first was to Michael Boris Burawoy. So much so that one could argue that he has single-handedly created a ‘Berkeley school’ of field research. that of expla- nation and interpretation. and the body and the senses. Burawoy has not only produced classic field studies of labor and working class (de)formation under capitalist evolution and Soviet in- volution (see Burawoy.. 1991. observer concept and native percept. 2000) to influential authors with their own agenda Downloaded from eth. Bridging the gap between anthropology and sociology.sagepub. and promoting ethnography at Berkeley. inter- national journalists. He has trained cohorts of first-rate ethnographers who have gone on from being close collaborators in a revolving ‘ethnographic cooperative’ (Burawoy et al. and global organs traffickers. and the occupational habits of school adminis- trators. the one joyful and the other somber. before returning to the role of history and theory in ethnography. the politics of medicine in Haiti and the aesthetics of death in Nepal. 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. It sets the editorial policy and defines the distinctive intellectual stance of the journal in the ever-more cluttered space of social scientific produc- tion. 1996. morality among American physicians and ‘zombies’ in post-apartheid South Africa. 2013 . The conference opened on a double dedication. and learn from the other. experiment and narration. as well as between theory and method. urban planners. with roots in Manchester by way of Lusaka. Burawoy et al. for a reflexive recapitulation). mushroom collectors. The ‘Ethnografeast’ started off with a session titled ‘Suspended Between Theory and Fiction’. who received a special award in recognition of 25 years devoted to teaching. practicing. Chicago. Budapest and Syktyvkar in Northern Russia. And it will continue to guide its efforts to stimulate and disseminate innovative fieldwork stamped by theoretical sensitivity. 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. and pluralism in genres and theoretical suasions is epicentral to the mission of Ethnogra- phy. professional boxers. and gender). class. the ethics of field- work.01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 7 Wacquant ■ Ethnografeast 7 and rigorous dialogue between sociology and anthropology.

S. in summer of 2001.6 In the introduction to his 1963 book Travail et travailleurs en Algérie. Pierre Bourdieu was an inventive and iconoclastic scientist who transformed social science by fusing rigorous theory with precise research. who agreed. 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 demo- cratic struggles. the conference included ‘an evening with Pierre Bourdieu’ in the form of the official U. 2013 . Burawoy has time and again demonstrated the scientific and political pertinence of field inquiry to the ongoing ‘great transformations’ of our epoch. 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. In lieu of a tribute or homage (something he profoundly disliked: he once quipped ‘hommage égale fromage’). Bourdieu called for a forthright ‘collaboration’ between ‘statistics and sociology’. 1993[1997]). 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 diag- nosis of novel forms social suffering in societies wracked by economic deregulation and welfare-state devolution (Bourdieu. aggregate and correlate (Bourdieu et al. 2002. Ethnography sought to provoke a confrontation of Downloaded from eth..com at University of Liverpool on March 23. thus setting high standards for an ethnography alive to its civic responsibility.sagepub. 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 ‘Ethno- grafeast’ was a means to acknowledge and advance on the path he cleared.01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 8 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. 1963: 9–13). 1989[1996]. 1979[1984]. including ethnography. 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. Sociology is a Martial Art by Pierre Carles (2001).. whether one admires or deplores his obdurate insistence on the centrality of class and capitalism.5 The second dedication was to Pierre Bourdieu. his first methodological notations. premiere of the award- winning documentary on his life and thought.7 By convening this gathering of anthropologists and sociologists com- mitted to the craft. by which he meant inten- sive field studies that are alone capable of ferreting out the social meaning that patterns of action and belief acquire in the ‘concrete cases’ that quan- titative 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. to come to Berkeley for the ‘Ethnografeast’ and to deliver a closing address on ‘Ethnography as Public Service’. Bourdieu et al. And. And it leaves many of us bereft of an irreplaceable friend and wonderful human being.

having stopped doing fieldwork. as a result of the separate training they receive and the distinct career tracks they follow. 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 eth.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. Shed this professional garb (or armor) and they turn out to be not sister disciplines but identical twins. and views liable to clarify its standards and to make the case for the renewed vigor and centrality of ethnography to social research. Mary Pattillo. the universe of references and studies they build on. and the idiom in which they articu- late their questions. They confirmed that field inquiry is a diverse enter- prise 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. there was more dispersion of style. need to make an epistemological virtue out of their professional surrender. If anything. 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. and Gary Fine featured in this issue form the first of several installments of contributions to the ‘Ethnografeast’.01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 9 Wacquant ■ Ethnografeast 9 experiences. 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. focus and concern within each of the disciplines than between them. The three papers by Ruth Behar. What separates sociologists and anthropologists are the ready-made problematics they inherit. 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.sagepub. purposes. as well as for its pertinence to social policy and citizenship after a protracted period of solipsistic doubt and nihilistic rumination. (Ethnography welcomes reactions and commentaries that take up central issues addressed – or evaded – by several papers). 2013 .com at University of Liverpool on March 23.

Downloaded from eth. Day 2 – Friday 13 September 2002 2 Dissecting violence Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg (University of California–San Fran- cisco): ‘Heroin. Wheeler Auditorium: An evening with Pierre Bourdieu – USA Premiere of Pierre Carles’ ‘Sociology is a Martial Art’. 160 Kroeber Hall: Screening of Ruth Behar’s ‘Adio Kerida’. 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. introduced by Chancellor Robert Berdahl and followed by a debate with director Pierre Carles and Linda Williams (Chair of UC–Berkeley Film Studies).01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 10 10 E t h n o g r a p h y 4(1) 8–11pm.com at University of Liverpool on March 23. 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. 2013 . Crack and Homelessness in Black and White: A Photo- Ethnography 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. Strategies and Models in the Ethnography of Kinship and Kin Dependency’ Leslie Salzinger (University of Chicago): ‘Now You See It. gender.sagepub. 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.

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 socio- logists. the Townsend Center for the Humanities. and the French Consulate is gratefully acknowledged. and the Office of the Chancellor. . selves Loïc Wacquant (University of California–Berkeley. . all at the University of California-Berkeley. and Maureen Fesler for her flawless management of the event. and There! Reflections on Multisite Ethnography’ Calvin Morrill (University of California–Irvine). for their patience and persistence. 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 Ethno- graphy: 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 . 2013 . Professional gatherings Downloaded from eth. 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. .com at University of Liverpool on March 23. the Departments of Sociology and Anthro- pology. Martín Sánchez-Jankowski and Nancy Scheper-Hughes. for making the conference possible: the Survey Research Center. senses. and There . the Center for the Study of New Inequalities. . 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. Film Studies.sagepub. the Holbrook Foundation. Extramural support from the Lal Foundation. Conversely. the French Studies.01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 11 Wacquant ■ Ethnografeast 11 Day 3 – Saturday 14 September 2002 5 Bodies. and Ethnic Studies Programs. the Institute for the Study of Social Change.

Gay Seidman. 1999). 8 The full conference program. among a flurry of recent works. 2013 . La crise de la société paysanne en Béarn. 423–444). Pierre (2002) Le Bal des célibataires.sagepub. with biographical sketches. all of which were represented at the Ethnografeast. Cambridge.berkeley. Bourdieu. Herbert (2000) and McHugh (2000) for geography. Goodale and Starr (2002) for law. 3 See. Cambridge: Polity Press. and Roper and Shapira (2000) for nursing. Mayne (1999) for history. September 2001. Pierre (1989[1996]) The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power. Paris: Seuil/Points. it was introduced by Chancellor Berdahl and followed by a debate with director Pierre Carles and Linda Williams. 4 Adler and Adler (1999) provide a different taxonomy of breeds of ethnogra- phers. among more recent papers. Heidi Gottfried. Chair of Film Studies at the University of California. Burawoy (2000b and 2001a) and the interdisciplinary volume on social change in Eastern European societies after the Soviet collapse (Burawoy and Verdery.edu. 5 Read. Downloaded from eth. the articles by Robin Leidner. and Leslie Salzinger in Contemporary Sociology (2001. Patricia A.com at University of Liverpool on March 23. Walford (2001) and Zou and Trueba (2002) for education. Bourdieu. Bourdieu. and. Cottle (2000) and Schlecker and Hirsch (2001) for media and science studies. MA: Harvard University Press. Wolf (1996) for gender.01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 12 12 E t h n o g r a p h y 4(1) of anthropologists rarely include more than a token sociologist and vice versa. as well as Burawoy’s (2001b) own para-reflexive piece on his predecessor industrial sociologist and ethnog- rapher Donald Roy. as well as critical analyses of their theoretical and empirical import. 6 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. Wasson (2000) for design and Rosen (2000) for management. and Peter Adler (1999) ‘The Ethnographer’s Ball – Revisited’. for a collec- tive appraisal and critique of his work by sociologists. Berkeley. 30–5. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 28(5): 442–50. Steven Peter Vallas. Jennifer Peirce. 7 The movie was screened before a full house on the opening evening of the conference in Wheeler Auditorium. References Adler. Pierre (1979[1984]) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. draft papers and/or abstracts of the presentations is available on line at http:// cue.

C-P Productions (distributed in the United States by Icarus Films. Burawoy. Berkeley: University of Cali- fornia Press. Pierre. McHugh. (1993[1999]) The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society.01 introduction (jk/d) 5/3/03 8:35 am Page 13 Wacquant ■ Ethnografeast 13 Bourdieu.frif. Michael Boris et al. Burawoy. Burawoy. 1975–1995’. Alain Darbel. Outside. New York. Communications 25(1): 19–41. Backward. Michael Boris and Katherine Verdery (eds) (1999) Uncertain Tran- sition: Ethnographies of Change in The Postsocialist World. Sociological Theory 16(1): 4–33. Gille. Michael Boris (1996) ‘From Capitalism to Capitalism via Socialism: The Odyssey of a Marxist Ethnographer. MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Gupta. (2000) ‘Inside. Bourdieu et al. Forward. Simon (2000) ‘New(s) Times: Towards a “Second Wave” of News Ethnography’. Akhil and James Ferguson (eds) (1997) Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science. Goodale. Michael Boris (1998) ‘The Extended Case Method’. Michael Boris (2001b) ‘Donald Roy: Sociologist and Working Stiff’. Michael Boris et al. Mark and June Starr (eds) (2002) Practicing Ethnography In Law. Downloaded from eth. Lanham. Zsuzsa and Seán Ó Riain (2002) ‘Global Ethnography’.sagepub. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Contemporary Sociology 30(5): 453–458. Burawoy. Burawoy. (2000) Global Ethnography. (1991) Ethnography Unbound: Power and Resist- ance in the Metropolis.com at University of Liverpool on March 23. Pierre (2001) Sociology is a Martial Art. www. Burawoy. Progress in Human Geography 24(4): 550–568. Kevin E. Michael Boris (2001a) ‘Manufacturing the Global’. Mayne. 2013 . Betacam Video/VHS. Burawoy. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Jean-Paul Rivet and Claude Seibel (1963) Travail et travailleurs en Algérie. Herbert. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mauss. Steve (2000) ‘For Ethnography’. Michael Boris (2000b) ‘A Sociology for the Second Great Trans- formation’. International Labor and Working-Class History 50: 77–99. Berkeley: University of California Press. Burawoy. Burawoy. Urban History 26(3): 325–348. Annual Review of Sociology 28: 271–295. Upside Down. Ethnography 2(2): 147–159. La Revue de Paris 20: 815–837. Alan and Susan Lawrence (1999) ‘Ethnographies of Place: A New Urban Research Agenda’. Carles.com) Cottle. Marcel (1913) ‘L’ethnographie en France et à l’étranger’. Theory and Society 29(2): 151–174. Paris and The Hague: Mouton and Co. Michael Boris (2000a) ‘Marxism After Communism’. Annual Review of Sociology 26: 693–695.

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