2021 Ethnography Winter School
The Future of Ethnography in a World Transformed by COVID-19
11 to 15 January 2021
Important: This module will be delivered fully online.
The annual ‘Ethnography Winter School’ hosted by the Department of Anthropology at Maynooth University will take place online from 11 to 15 January 2021. As always, the school will bring together postgraduate students, professional researchers, and others for focused reﬂection on ‘ethnography’ today. We have structured the module as a one-week workshop or ‘laboratory,’ enabling students, established scholars, and others to work through challenges and opportunities related to their own research and writing projects in dialogue and critical engagement with each other. We hope this format will attract participants of diverse disciplinary orientations and career stages, and we further hope that this cross-fertilization of perspectives will yield fresh insights into what ethnography can teach us about the world in which we live.
The texts that most amply fulfil the promise of ethnography frequently draw on extended fieldwork with marginalised populations and are dependent on many hours spent in the company of powerless people inhabiting contexts that have been rendered invisible to the mainstream. What are the prospects for this kind of ethnographic practice while a global pandemic rages unchecked and focuses its fury on those who are already the most disadvantaged? How can researchers maintain their commitment to marginal groups in the COVID-19 era when the very act of fieldwork endangers both the researcher and the research participants? Given that the social distancing imperative of this present moment is, by definition, the polar opposite of the practices of participant observation, how will researchers remain connected with the side-lined (and now particularly COVID-threatened) populations that they have often sought out? Will ethnographers have no choice, at least in the medium term, but to work with more privileged, and therefore, accessible populations? The 2021 Winter School will go beyond the now-commonplace discussion about switching to digital research methods to consider the dangers posed by COVID-19 to engaged ethnographic research. To this end, we will hear from engaged researchers from near and far – Ruben Andersson (Oxford), Kathy Powell (National University of Ireland, Galway), Abayomi Ogunsanya (Independent scholar), Anandini Dar (Ambedkar University, Delhi), among others -- about how they are continuing with their vitally important work under the present circumstances.
Module Description AN862: Ethnography Winter School
This module is a comprehensive introduction to ethnography. The course is delivered in a burst format over one week, and features the collaborative teaching of practising ethnographers, including both academics and professional researchers, on the island of Ireland. ‘Ethnography’ is more than a ‘method’: it comprises a whole style of thought encompassing forms of observation, analysis, and writing. The module therefore emphasizes analysis and theory in addition to the research practices (interviewing, participant observation, note-taking) conventionally associated with qualitative research methodology. Themes covered include: culture and diﬀerence, contexts and cases (working in NGOs, clinics, corporations), styles of representation and the politics of knowledge, research ethics and ethnographic engagement. The module is also structured as a workshop, so that ethnographers at various stages of their careers -- from students planning proposals, to dissertation writers analysing previously collected material, to research professionals who may not be based in academia -- will be able to produce work within the module that relates to their respective career stages, locations, and goals. This work, such as a proposal draft or a stretch of ethnographic writing, forms the basis for module assessment.
Research students based at institutions other than Maynooth University are welcome to register for the Winter School, but the procedures for enrolling in the course for credit will necessarily be somewhat complicated. You are advised to be in touch immediately with the Winter School Coordinator Dr Chandana Mathur (Chandana.Mathur@mu.ie) and the Maynooth Anthropology Department Oﬃce (anthropology.oﬃce@mu.ie).