2004, 8th Biennial Conference, Vienna

Face-to-Face: Connecting Distance and Proximity

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna
September 8th to 12th, 2004

Face-to-face interaction, compliance and confrontation, the conditions of intersubjectivity, identity/alterity in shifting contexts of distance and proximity: these are the central dimensions of anthropological research that we offer for discussion at EASA's 2004 conference in Vienna.

From a topical and theoretical perspective, categories of distance and proximity subsume diverse and often contradictory processes in today’ s world. This entails movements of people, objects, and meaningful forms, which unfold in new temporalities within specific places. Yet such interconnections are countered by essentialising practices and ideas, ranging from populism or fundamentalism to xenophobia and racism.
The EU itself, with its drive to integration and enlargement, represents a case in point. Increased interconnections go hand in hand with disjunctures, new hierarchies, sharply differentiated notions and essentialising practices.

From an epistemological and historical perspective, our theme refers to tropes and concepts of multiple identities, of selves and others, of mutual production, that inform and challenge many of today's anthropological discourses. Whilst mutually constitutive, alterity and identity are constantly in flux. Proximity being so elusive, distance is equally so: connecting them is as much an aim as a condition for anthropological enquiry.
In this context, the reflection upon our own interactions with other segments of global anthropology, both "close" and "distant", may in fact encourage some intellectual reassessment of European anthropology' s own historical roots in the social sciences. After all, face-to-face relations in contexts of proximity and distance explicitly relates to classic concepts such as "community", "society" or “culture” – quite as much as to many of the more recently wrought concepts, such as “civil society”, “imagined communities”, or “socialities.”

Thirdly, "face-to-face" also points towards the sort of methodological concerns that, in ever renewed forms, continue to represent a central strength of our field. This third dimension of EASA’s Vienna meeting will be designated "RECASTING ETHNOGRAPHIC PRESENCE".

Three focal perspectives are suggested:

In order to encourage the debate, we propose a series of themes that might bring together workshops and motivate speakers: