Anthropological Association of Ireland, Annual Conference: Ethnography Beyond Ethnos?

School of Social Sciences and Philosophy. Trinity College Dublin 09:00 :: 7th May 2010

When we think of ethnography we probably think of descriptions of a people rooted in a place, and/or interpretation of the meanings they attach to themselves, their actions and predicaments; ie ethnography involves studying an ethno held to comprise human being. Much ethnography is still recognizably like this, but anthropologists have long worried about reifying ethnos – worries that have presented themselves sharply in the Irish context. The conference will explore this dilemma and its implications for ethnographic practice and for teaching ethnography.
While we hope that the conference will have a critical edge, we are as interested in papers that defend the study of peoples and their cultures as we are in papers that critique it. We are also interested in papers that seek to move ethnography beyond ethnos not in the name of criticism, but of practicality. One could not think about a conference on ‘ethnography beyond ethnos’ without including papers on the application of ethnographic techniques to study issues and problems in corporate and medical settings and to evaluate social programmes. We anticipate a special panel on ethnographies conducted in medical and applied settings convened by Cormac Sheehan, Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, National University of Ireland Galway.
Without wishing to impose a spurious unity on the conference or to suggest a false unanimity among the various people involved in organizing it, it is important to note that the spirit of Foucault is somewhere in the background. He is there in the initial framing: the reification of ethnic categories and invocations of ‘the people’ in the management of populations is a quintessentially Foucauldian concern. But he could equally feature in discussion of the application of ethnographic research to social, health or corporate problems and issues. And he is at the centre of moves towards a post-human anthropology.

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