Accepted Paper:

Tragedy, farce and the comparative method  


Alex O'Connell (Maynooth University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I want to explore anthropology’s role in countering repetitive and damaging narratives that involve ‘ethnicity’. Examining how these narratives play out across different field-sites can hopefully help counter new emergences elsewhere.

Paper long abstract:

Based on my PhD research comparing majoritarian paranoia about population growth in India and Northern Ireland, I want to examine the persistence and re-emergence of narratives with highly damaging claims about race, religion and ethnicity. Despite proving groundless in the past, similar narratives re-emerge (sometimes in the same site) and continue to repel most quantitative refutations. I want to examine the role anthropology could play in teasing out the persistence of these narratives and the means by which they could be successfully challenged by offering comparisons across time and space.

In doing so anthropology could cement its place in historical comparison, engage constructively with quantitative methods (which have failed to quell the enthusiasm for doomsday demographic models) and renew a critical stake in the concept of 'ethnicity'.

Panel P022
Anthropology as a vocation and occupation