[URBANTH-L]CFP: AAA Embodying Labour: Fieldwork as (at) Work

Rebecca Prentice rebecca24 at usa.net
Wed Feb 21 18:21:25 EST 2007

Call for Papers

Proposed Panel for the AAA Annual Meeting, November 28-December 2, 2007, 
Washington DC

Embodying Labor:  Fieldwork as (at) Work

The workplace is an increasingly critical site of ethnographic inquiry, where
the processes of globalization, neoliberalism, and late capitalist expansion
intersect with everyday employment practices and human labor.  As fieldsites
shift from "communities" to factories, malls, workshops and offices, how might
fieldwork in the workplace and the embodiment of labor by anthropologists
contribute to the redefinition of "the field" in research practice?

This panel aims to bring together a wide range of scholars who have made "the
workplace" their fieldsite with an eye to addressing just such a question.  In
factories, retail outlets, and export-processing zones, anthropologists probe
questions of a global nature through grounded ethnographic practices in the
particular sites - workplaces - where the meanings and possibilities of "the
global" become manifest.  Employment as fieldwork redefines an
anthropologist's sense of the "work" of research, through the internalization
of particular spatial and temporal disciplines, physical movements, moral
economies, and forms of sociality.  Our panel explores some of the theoretical
and methodological dimensions of workplace-centered ethnographic projects,
through a focus on the embodied subjectivities, postures, and practices
required of the anthropologist who takes on the role of "worker."

Specific questions which this panel plans to address include:

* What are the challenges and traps of workplace ethnography?  How does
contribution to the functioning of the workplace through employment "work on"
the researcher's perspective and subjectivity?

* How does participant observation in the workplace confront our most
"ingrained dispositions"?  To what extent can the embodied subjectivity of the
researcher become an instrument of inquiry?  How do our emotional experiences
in the workplace, our friendships and attachments, relationships of hierarchy
and authority, affect us as both researchers and as persons?

* What is the role of payments, wages, and other forms of compensation in
shaping and informing the experiences of employment as fieldwork practice? 

* What are the politics and ethics of workplace research and covert
anthropology?  What distinguishes anthropology from investigative journalism
and other forms of embedded inquiry and reportage?

* Geographies of the workplace: where does the workplace begin and end
spatially, temporally, and psychologically?  How are workplaces used and what
are the implications of describing their  usage?  How do these sites contest
fixed notions of "the workplace" and contribute to our understanding of work

* Exit strategies: How does work linger on the body, both physically and

* How does "working" as a form of participant observation figure within our
accounts of fieldwork, and our interpretations of the field? 

If you are interested in participating on this panel, please email an abstract
to Gavin Whitelaw (gavin.whitelaw at yale.edu) and Rebecca Prentice
(r.j.prentice at sussex.ac.uk), by March 4.

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