This panel addresses moral certainties and ambiguities in relationships between researchers and those occupying their field-sites. We ask how the enlightenment project of a science of society fits with anthropologists' personal political positions, social obligations and career investments.
What has become of the enlightenment project of a science of society informed by sympathy for fellow human beings? How is scholarly research now complicated by anthropology's multi-faceted relationships with those once termed 'informants'? Are those with whom we work as research subjects also social movement collaborators, business partners and / or intimate friends? Much writing has canvassed overlaps and differences between theoretical analysis, research applied to social problems and self-reflexivity on the part of the investigator. Which strands of enlightenment thinking engage most with these diverse conditions of ethnographic inquiry today? In particular, anthropology's empathetic identification with those for whom research remains perplexing if not remote from everyday concerns, leads often enough to researchers' senses of ambiguity about the moral dimensions of our endeavors and ultimate outcomes from our intellectual work. This panel seeks papers from the wide range of settings in which anthropology's enlightenment aim of reaching understanding melds with other social, political and economic imperatives encountered in diverse 'fields' of inquiry.