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Accepted Paper:

The Responsibility of ‘Studying Up’: Experiences from Researching Norwegian Energy Elites  
Anna Rauter (University of St. Andrews)

Paper long abstract:

Despite recent insightful contributions (including Field 2021, High 2019), I find that the study of elites remains under-researched in anthropology. Particularly so in relation to processes of societal transformation and transnational phenomena. This is partly due to methodological limitations such as attaining access to elites’ networks. It also stems from theoretic disagreements on who constitutes ‘elites’. Further, unfavourable associations with the term promoted in recent history by pop-culture and scholars alike make ‘elites’ a rather unpopular field of study. Moreover, ethical considerations have meant that anthropologists have had a preference in studying ‘the marginalised’ and hesitate to give a voice to the “wealthy and powerful” (Hughes 2017).

In this talk I not only argue for a responsibility towards the study of elites, but also that this must be done responsibly. By providing methodological and ethnographic insights into my experiences with ‘studying up’ (Nader 1972), I advocate a non-judgemental, respectful approach to studying elites. Much of the social science work on elites has been presumptive. Immersive, ethnographic research ideally equips anthropologists with the means to provide nuance to this field. This entails allowing interlocutors to share their own conceptualisations of their roles in society. Particularly in an era marked by growing climate change concern, for which corporate elites are held in large part accountable (Hughes 2017), it is essential to gain a better understanding of how they view their own responsibilities.

Panel PlenB
Responsibility: Early Career Scholars Forum
  Session 1