Ethnographies of waiting 
Manpreet Janeja (Leiden University)
Mukulika Banerjee (London School of Economics)
Quincentenary Building, Tausend Room
Start time:
21 June, 2014 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This panel examines: forms of (in)actions/(in)activities, regulatory norms, rituals, notions of productivity, historical inequalities, power configurations, multiple scales, subjectivities and socialities that constitute modalities of waiting; also ethnography as a methodology that rests on waiting.

Long Abstract

From Malinowski's analysis of the return gift in the kula prestige-economy to Lefebvre's critique of 'modern' everyday-life to Bourdieu's meditations on unemployed men in 1960s Algeria as waiting communities, we are reminded of the ubiquity of waiting. We all wait in areas, developed and developing: in traffic-jams, identity-document offices, school-meal queues, a let-up in the weather. Beyond such 'ordinary' forms of waiting are others: periodic-waiting (national-elections), crisis-induced waiting (compensation-waits), 'chronic-waiting' (development-aid). There are forms of violence enmeshed in waiting - in residents awaiting decisions on rehabilitation for the good of the 'community' or human inhabitants attacked by 'wild-animals' awaiting compensation. There are also forms of delayed gratification, creativity, and affectivity embodied in modalities of waiting - a "productive gap-year"/sabbatical on a CV or the consumption of perfectly-ripened brie.

The panel invites reflections on forms of (in)actions/(in)activities, processes, practices, and perceptions that constitute waiting. Questions the panel could address:

What are the diverse norms that seek to regulate and order waiting? Are there rituals of waiting? What are the notions of productivity that elicit understandings of waiting as an 'active-strategy'/'dead-time'? How might we revisit processes of subjectivity and sociality through various configurations of waiting across multiple temporal scales? What are the historical inequalities manifested in different modalities of waiting? How might we conceive of the linkages between configurations of power and the social production of waiting? What might ethnographies of waiting reveal about ethnography itself as a methodology that hinges on waiting as a tool which possibly facilitates extending 'sympathy' towards those studied?

Accepted papers: