Disjunction: caravans and the complexities of connections
Paper short abstract:
Ethnographically exploring the caravan through issues of mobility, home and consumption, this paper examines the term disjunction and discusses the role of (dis)connection-making as part of anthropology’s comparative ambition.
Paper long abstract:
Over the past decade, anthropologists have shown an increasing interest in critically questioning the discipline's comparative endeavour, including how the issue of context has been taken for granted as part of anthropology's epistemological project (Gingrich and Fox 2002). Through an examination of the term disjunction, this paper engages with the issues of comparison and context, and, more specifically, with how we make connections and disconnections as an essential part of anthropological knowledge production. Drawing upon research on European caravanning, the paper ethnographically illuminates the complexities of connection-making in a field where the starting point is a hybrid material object; a home on wheels and the various ways people use, dwell in, and relate to it. The caravan and the practice of caravanning, I show, presents the anthropologist with a range of interrelated issues and problems concerning home, (im)mobility and consumption. By unpacking the caravan in light of methodological strategies commonly employed in studies of material culture such as commodity chains and circular approaches, I discuss how our expectations to make connections permeates ways of conducting anthropological research in fields where "place is no longer given". If, as Hylland Eriksen (2010) argues, the most important anthropological legacy is to make the world more complex, can a concept of disjunction be just as analytically challenging when critically examining the way we construct (dis) connections between places, objects and human beings?
Small places, large issues: thinking through anthropological conundrums