In July 2012, I, along with five other colleagues, will be guest blogging for the premier anthropology blog, Savage Minds, on the shifting nature of ethnographic production in the contemporary academy (description below). Join us in the discussion!
Ethnography on/from the Sidelines
A guest group blog proposal for Savage Minds
We hear it all the time: the academy and the securities it once offered are fast eroding. Funding cuts loom large and threaten jobs, course offerings, library collections, and other research resources. Universities are becoming more bureaucratic and corporatized; education is increasingly a service provided to student customers. Research possibilities are severely curtailed also by heavier administrative and career demands. The distance between the completion of a doctoral degree and the commencement of a tenure-track job grows wider and more fraught with uncertainty. The reliance on poorly compensated adjuncts and 1-year temporary positions become central cost-cutting strategies, and the margins of the academy expand rapidly.
And yet, the compulsions to scholarly production do not cease, but rather intensify with increased insecurity and marginality—generating diverse strategies of intellectual production that are variously freed of or limited by institutional constraints, necessarily collaborative, compelled to address multiple constituencies, to rethink intellectual and disciplinary goals, or to become more openly application-oriented. What does it mean to produce ethnography under such conditions of constraint and uncertainty? How do our present and changing career demands orient the practice of fieldwork and the nature of ethnographic method? Or, to pose these questions another way, how does present institutional form (or the lack thereof) come to define contemporary anthropological content?
To explore such questions further, we propose a group guest-blog on Savage Minds, in which 6 contributors (names proposed below) at various distances from the academy and at various stages of their own careers, will produce guest blog posts reflecting on the impact of career compulsions and uncertainties on their own ethnographic productivity. Our contributor follows alongside a tentative list of prompts to which the initial posts will respond. The central idea is to use these first posts to jumpstart a wider discussion with Savage Minds readers on the extent and character of present precarities, both within but especially on the sidelines of the academy, and the impact of these on the method and practice of ethnography itself.
- Lane de Nicola, University College, London (UK)
- Nathan Fisk, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (USA)
- Laurel George, New York University (USA)
- Alison Kenner, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (USA) (and Managing Editor, Cultural Anthropology)
- Aalok Khandekar, Maastricht University (The Netherlands)
- Deepa Reddy, University of Houston-Clear Lake (USA)