Accepted paper:

Another culture: yoghurt, ethnography, and the anthropological imagination at the 2011 Asia NGO Social Innovation Summit


Amy Levine (Pusan National University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will describe one session of the 2011 Asia Social Innovation Summit in South Korea and explore how that session obviates meeting forms. Finally, it will consider the possibilities and limitations of yoghurt as another form of culture for the anthropological imagination.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will describe the 2011 Asia NGO Social Innovation Summit (ANIS), co-sponsored by Intel Asia and the "think-and-do-tank" that I had been researching called the Hope Institute in Seoul, South Korea. Summit participants were an eclectic mix of NGO, GO, and academic types who were often on their second or third careers. There were about 70 participants and all were there to give and/or receive social innovation best practices. Given the summit title and the reputations of the organizers, many participants, myself included, expected innovations in the forms of the meeting itself. Yet most of the meeting forms were conventional: hosted at a large hotel ballroom, Powerpoint lectures, poster sessions, small group breakout discussions with reports to the large group, coffee breaks, and formal meals. There were, however, some innovations on meeting form. In this paper I will focus on one innovative session, which invited participants to do ethnography by eating or observing someone eating yoghurt. This session constituted a break from meeting conventions by obviating form. At the same time, this yoghurt activity obviated me as an ethnographer. Ultimately, the paper will explore the possibilities and limitations of yoghurt as another form of culture (pun intended) considering its material practices, ideologies, and relationships as well as its potential to engage what Ilana Gershon, following C. Wright Mills and others, called the "anthropological imagination."

panel P14
Meetings: procedure and artifacts of modern knowledge