[URBANTH-L]CALL FOR PAPERS: Field/Work: Work as an Object of Anthropological Inquiry Beyond "Ethnos"

Kevin Gerard Karpiak karpiak at uclink.berkeley.edu
Wed Feb 22 20:42:13 EST 2006


Field/Work: Work as an Object of Anthropological Inquiry Beyond "Ethnos”
Recent anthropological critiques of 'ethnos' as an essentialized object have troubled the very 
project of 'ethnography', the primary mode of anthropological inquiry.  While there has been much 
careful and fruitful attention paid to the implications of this questioning for the contours of 
the anthropological "field," significantly less effort has gone into thinking about equivelant 
changes in the "work" of anthropology. This panel hopes to examine new and emerging 
anthropological projects that take "work" in the broadest sense as an object of analysis.
Work has long been of interest to anthropologists, as have its corollary terms: labor, vocation, 
and profession.  Both industrial and agricultural fields have served as fertile sites of 
ethnographic investigation.  Recently the discipline has engaged with work in projects ranging 
from post-colonial problematizations of the universality of abstract labor to investigations into 
the international division of labor.   However, rather than looking to work as a window onto 
ethnos, this panel seeks to highlight recent ethnographic projects that take work itself as an 
object of inquiry.  

In other words, this panel seeks to address not just the "anthropology of work" but the very work 
of anthropology.  How does looking to work as a field force the discipline to re-examine fieldwork 
methods?  Where is the field?  What candidates beyond ethnos exist as potential objects of 
anthropological inquiry? What are the advantages or disadvantages of work as such an object?
We imagine conversations clustered around themes of method, space, and subjectivation:
- What might constitute “cultures of work”?  Might these be worthy objects of anthropological 
- Can we look at configurations of work as sites of cultural exchange?
- How do ethnographies of work reconfigure the anthropological field?
- How do projects that take work as their object of analysis have to reflexively examine the 
motivation of anthroplogical fieldwork itself?
- How do micropractices of fieldwork change if the object of study is work?
- What do practice based ethnographies have to offer such an anthropology of work?
- What work do networks do?  How do networks configure work and what work goes into the 
configuration of networks?
- What are the spaces of work?  What are the spatialities of work for such a reconfigured 
- What spatial possibilities are opened up for anthropology once a project site is no longer
geographically given?
- How are modern subjectivities shaped by work?
- How do subjects of ethnographic investigation reflect on their own work?  How is this similar to 
or different from anthropological reflection on work as an object?
- How does an anthropology of work push us to examine non-human, mechanical, and cyborg forms of 
- How are affective ties configured through work?
- Do anthropologists work?  Is ethnography work?

Please send abstracts of 250 words by Friday March 10th to Zeynep Gursel (zgursel at berkeley.edu), 
Kevin Karpiak (karpiak at berkeley.edu) or Daromir Rudnyckyj (daromir at alumni.uchicago.edu)

Kevin G. Karpiak
Dept. of Anthropology
University of California, Berkeley

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