Network of Ethnographic Theory (NET)
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NET was founded in September 2014. The goal of the Network for Ethnographic Theory is to promote intellectual collaboration around the heuristic of ethnographic theory. The central question of ethnographic theory concerns what kind of theoretical contributions are produced by ethnography, either in our own fieldwork or in our engagement with the extant ethnographic record. How, for example, do these forms of knowledge relate to theoretical debates more broadly? We propose to develop a platform of information, exchange and initiative between colleagues that relate to such questions.
The network’s ambitious intellectual aim is to return the discipline to a conceptual wealth of its own—to concepts we collectively bring from the field, both near and far—and to bring ethnography to the forefront of theoretical developments in the discipline. Where once anthropologists drew their theoretical terms—‘totem’, ‘taboo’, ‘hau’, ‘mana’, ‘potlatch’—from ethnography, causing thinkers from Wittgenstein to Sartre and Freud to feel the need to weigh in on the resulting debates, in recent decades ethnographically embedded conceptualization has increasingly given way to analysis through philosophers’ terms (deterritorialization, governmentality, bare life, etc.), which has resulted in a loss of the discipline’s distinctive intellectual nerve, as well as a loss of the ability to contribute uniquely to some of the most exciting cross-disciplinary debates. The network brings together scholars working to revive the theoretical potential of ethnographic insight everywhere, therefore bringing it back to its leading role in generating new debates in anthropology and related disciplines.
But the Network for Ethnographic Theory also emerges from the recognition that more and more anthropologists are concerned with the conceptual and epistemological reach of their work, and how that reach also becomes a political problem when it comes to academic hegemonies, citation practices, funding policies, etc. Ethnographic theory, from this perspective, also depends upon intellectual, economic, and political autonomy. One example of such processes is the irruption, in the anthropological scene, of editorial initiatives such as HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Prickly Paradigm Press, and other alternative media for anthropological debate (Savage Minds, Allegra, etc.). Our aim in establishing an EASA Network for Ethnographic Theory is to foster a means for EASA members to engage with ethnographic theory as an intellectual and political project. We propose to do so through a mailing list, the organization of events and also publication initiatives.
Theodoros Kyriakides, University of Manchester theodoros.kyriakides(at)manchester.ac.uk