Moments of disruption and doing ethnography at policy-making meetings
(University of Tartu)
Paper short abstract:
This paper contemplates moments of disruption in cooperation while doing ethnographic studies of Unesco policy-making meetings. The emergent cracks create methodological conundrums which require renewed theoretical approach to discuss the trade of an anthropologist.
Paper long abstract:
This paper proposes to reflect upon methodological and epistemological
conundrums related to the ethnographic study of international meetings for
making cultural policy. It contemplates moments of disruption in cooperation
while carrying out research in the framework of Unesco intangible heritage
programs which engage in arbitrating sociopolitical representation and
My self-reflexive study will attempt to unravel emerging procedural or
evaluative mechanisms and the entanglement of relationships at play,
particularly moments of disruption in cooperation. This paper aims to
contemplate methodological issues related to an ethnographic investigation
that entails ‘observant participation’ (David Mosse) rather than
‘participant observation’ in highly politicised settings. I shall discuss
the position and trade of an anthropologist in experimental, evaluative and
applied contexts that has to deal with breakdowns and dis-cooperation.
Unesco conventions concerning culture find particular visibility through
their listing systems which draw upon the complex notion of representation.
In order to critically analyse problems arising from prescriptive modalities
and the contingent evaluative judgments, I shall introduce ethnographies of
the assessment process and the emergent relations. An experimental
engagement in a politically loaded collaboration requires renewed
theoretical approach to elucidate a globalised regime of cultural
engineering (Ulf Hannerz).
From cracks to breakdown: disruption in cooperation