The Ethnography Workshop is a Humanities Lab of the Humanities Unbounded initiative at Duke University. Often described as both a science and a craft, ethnography is a method, a theoretical framework, and the product of research. It can be immersive in a single place, or it can arc across different sites, meaning that different research problems require different forms of ethnographic theory, research, and representation. The final product of research may be written, but its medium may also be visual, sonic, conceptual, material, or even a matter of policy. Yet, while ethnography’s form and content are dynamic, the questions of precisely who is an ethnographer and what counts as ethnographic practice is rapidly changing. Rather than deciding that ethnography is a finished method, we begin from the proposition that its boundaries are constantly expanding; for while ethnography is documentary, it is also experimental.
The Workshop events for the 2020-2021 year will take place in the midst of the continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic, and the ongoing struggle to end police violence and systemic racism. We hope to organize events that engage in reflective dialogue about the human, social, and political implications of COVID-19 and other ongoing crises for the Duke and Durham communities, and for the places and people where we do our anthropological work. We want to consider what the COVID moment means now for the doing of Ethnography, as borders close down, new surveillance regimes emerge, new forms of racism and anti-immigrant populisms intensify, and everyday life is even further mediated by screen time, as we teach, organize, communicate, and do fieldwork through Zoom and other forms of platform capitalism. What new forms of Ethnography are emerging to document, record, theorize, and tell stories about our present moment? These are the issues we turn to during the 2020-2021 Ethnography Lab.