This panel ethnographically explores the actions and procedures intrinsic to all kinds of formal and institutional meetings. In so doing, it intends to provide a contribution to broader anthropological theory, especially in relation to work on modern and bureaucratic knowledge.
Formal meetings, understood as socially and institutionally prescribed spaces for coming together, are central to social organization in various political, religious and economic contexts. They feature prominently in classic accounts, as well as in more contemporary ethnography, particularly in relation to studies of documents, organizations, policy, development, politics, and science and technology. Here they have generally been approached as contexts for other substantive and theoretical concerns and rarely as subjects of interest in their own right. Moreover, attention to meetings within largely distinct theoretical literatures has precluded understanding of the interconnections between these contexts. Consequently, forms and procedures of action intrinsic to formal meetings have not drawn the sustained or comparative attention of anthropologists. While formal meetings can be important sites for the performance of power, identity and knowledge, this panel proposes that there has been a lack of attention to the relationships, ideologies and material practices through which these emerge as specific 'social' forms. Consequently there has also been a lack of comparative attention to the ontological basis of coming together in contexts as diverse as committees, working groups, annual general meetings, and ad hoc meetings. Through ethnographic exploration of these forms & procedures, this panel aims to develop novel conceptual tools for understanding and enacting meetings. In so doing, it intends to provide a contribution to broader anthropological theory, particularly in relation to work on modern and bureaucratic knowledge.