P07
Reason and passion: the parallel worlds of ethnography and biography

Convenors:
Janet Carsten (University of Edinburgh)
Sophie Day (Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Charles Stafford (London School of Economics)
Location:
Appleton Tower, Lecture Theatre 5
Start time:
20 June, 2014 at 9:00
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

This panel places ethnography at its centre, and considers the role of biography and biographical work for anthropologists and their interlocutors, in the ethnography they produce and in the sympathy and moral judgements that makes it possible.

Long abstract:

This panel, entered under the theme, 'Moral Sentiments', takes inspiration from David Hume's insights about rational thought: 'Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them'. If (reasoned) ethnography is, among other things, the outcome of the desires of the anthropologist, how do the worlds of the anthropologist and those they study come together, and over what time span? What is the role of biography, or of biographical work, for anthropologists and their interlocutors, in the ethnography they produce and the sympathy that makes it possible? How do such biographical connections make a difference? How do they shape the moral judgments that (inevitably) pervade the everyday experience of fieldwork? This panel places ethnography at its centre, and considers what the anthropologist brings to it, and how this might matter. It seeks to analyse the relation between ethnographic work and the anthropologist's sensibility - both through an examination of research that is obviously associated with, and motivated by, the anthropologist's own background, as well as through probing the more unexpected connections which sometimes arise between these parallel worlds.