Session 8

SMUSI_08- Ethnography as Spatial-Temporal Method

One whole century has gone by since Bronislaw Malinowski’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific firstly publicized ethnography as the distinguishing research method of the anthropological discipline. In the meantime, this essentially interactive and qualitative way of approaching peoples, groups, institutions, and individuals for the sake of a kind of knowledge strictly forged from within the researcher’s search for a ‘real dialogue with the other’ – as Eduardo Viveiros de Castro summarized in an interview in 1999 – underwent uncountable disciplinary applications and interdisciplinary developments. Especially in the wake of the so-called linguistic turn in the social sciences amidst the spread of globalization, there emerged methodological trends spatially as diverse as multi-sited ethnography – coined by George Marcus in 1995 – and the autoethnography proposed by Carolyn Ellis and Arthur P. Bochner in 2000. The approaches imply ethnographic dialogues in spaces ranging from multiple geographic sites to the researcher’s subjective conscience. This spatial versatility clearly supports the assessment that ethnography is a research method especially sensitive to both the social and relational dimension of space—hence, a spatial method. Therefore, ethnography is also a temporal method. Conceived as a social product/construct (depending on the theoretical stance), space and time are sets of relations between living beings and material/symbolic goods: what varies is the logic underpinning these relations—respectively simultaneity or sequence. Hence, due to its sensitiveness to relational space ethnography also allows us to understand the multiple temporalities comprised in social processes and in space as such. The ethnographic gaze discloses the way in which spatialized practices are also practices that bear multiple temporalities. Based on the assessment that the empirical and theoretical gains arising from critical reflections on the sociospatial and sociotemporal dimension of ethnography remain conceptually underexplored both in the social and spatial sciences, this session welcomes papers that address either in empirical, methodological or theoretical terms the following question: What do we learn about our research and/or practice issues by assuming ethnography as a set of empirical research techniques that are sensitive to the fact that space and time are socially produced/constructed/constituted (depending on the respective theoretical stance)? What are the empirical and conceptual gains of an ethnographic gaze that assumes space and time as analytical dimensions? To sum it up, we expect papers that contribute either methodologically, empirically or theoretically to ethnography as spatial-temporal method.