Mind the Gap!
Problematizing Social Gaps and Ethnographic Knowledge
Two elections broadened the public discourse on democracy with a new narrative in 2016: the result of the Brexit in the UK as well as the outcome of the presidential election in the US have been interpreted in a critical introspection as signs of a gap between actors of the public discourse and a part of the population which has been underrepresented and therefore misunderstood. Among other assessments and evaluations, it is this self-critical call of a “loss of contact”, which seems interesting and at the same time problematic from an ethnographic point of view. That is why we want to organize this workshop.
Journalists of the qualitative media were primarily the ones who formulated this narrative and who self-critically attested themselves a lack of knowledge regarding the outcome of the elections as well as a “co-responsibility” in misjudging the electorate. Thus, this is above all a self-critical analysis of these journalists themselves. It can, however, also be read as a call to other intellectuals to reassess their analyses in relation to this formulated gap.
This articulation of a gap raises different questions especially for a discipline that uses ethnography as the main research method such as Social and Cultural Anthropology, which deals with both the life experiences of the socially "other" as well as the internal and external ascriptions and dominant constructions of the "other": Which gaps exist in ethnographic research with regard to social milieus and questions? What is the relationship between ethnographic knowledge and the democratic processes of social representation? How is ethnographic knowledge integrated into media coverage and political decision-making processes and which potentials can be increased? Is the problem description of splitting societies at all accurate? Which other problem descriptions can be possibly applied?
In the light of these three question complexes about ethnographic knowledge production, transfer and problematization, the narrative about the gap can be analyzed in two different ways: On the one hand, it can be seen as a contemporary version of intellectual self-criticism (as it was articulated in the ethno-sciences, for example, as the so-called "crisis of representation" in the 1980s and later also as a "crisis of the reception"). On the other hand, it is important for us to understand the discussions about the "alienation" or the gap as problematizations of society, in which the relevance of ethnographic knowledge is also discussed.
This workshop is meant as a first step into the subject by bringing together various ethnographers who briefly comment on these issues. We further invite everybody to join us who would like to deal with these issues of cultural and social shift and the role of ethnographic knowledge in the future.
27th of April 2017: 6.30pm
Keynote lecture by Ida Susser (NYC): The new populism in the U.S.: Ethnography on the margins.
28th of April 2017: 10:00am - 4.30pm
Workshop with Moritz Ege (Göttingen), Kerstin Poehls (Hamburg), Thomas Bürck (Hamburg), Marion Hamm (Klagenfurt, t.b.c.)
If you would like to attend, please send a non-binding registration to email@example.com
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