Ethnography as Fieldwork and Philosophy

Term: Spring 2010

Subject Code: GANT

Course Number: 6810

 “Fieldwork in philosophy” is a term that the British philosopher John Austin used, one Pierre Bourdieu borrowed to define his work, and Paul Rabinow after him. With such a rich genealogy of adherents, it is surprising how little work has attempted to define what such a venture might look like, what it is not, and what it could be. Anthropologists have long called on philosophy in very different ways to establish analytic authority, to apply ready -made philosophical concepts to an ethnographic and empirical domain, and less frequently to call on the methods of philosophical thinking to generate new concepts in ethnographic domains. In this seminar, we begin to explore this notion of fieldwork in philosophy from several angles: one, by looking at the varied relationship anthropology has had to philosophy historically and why it is now that epistemology and ontology have emerged as so common to ethnographic vocabularies; two, by looking at a primary philosophical enterprise --concept formation -- and what procedures and sorts of questions it entails, and three by exploring concept formation as an ethnographic enterprise and thus to imagine a broader social field of critical inquiry in which multiple sorts of philosophical interlocutors exercise their craft. Anthropologists (Val Daniel and Vincent Crapanzano) who have worked deeply in a philosophical mode as well as a philosophers who have worked critically in social theory (among them Richard Bernstein and Jay Bernstein) will be joining us for discussion. This seminar is open to students from philosophy, anthropology and other disciplines. Enrollment is limited. Prior permission of the professor is required.


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