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Methodologies and theories for an anthropology of fun and play 
Chika Watanabe (University of Manchester)
Carrie Ryan (University College London)
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Kellynn Wee (University College London)
Wednesday 24 July, -, -
Time zone: Europe/Madrid
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Short Abstract:

Fun is arguably an important aspect of human experience. Yet, ‘fun’ as an anthropological topic is under-theorised, and it raises methodological dilemmas, as explanations can kill the fun. This panel explores the challenges and possibilities for doing and undoing an anthropology of fun and play.

Long Abstract:

Games and playful methods are on the rise, from climate-related policy making and disaster risk reduction (IFRC Climate Centre n.d.) to health interventions for older people (Kletzel et al. 2021). Anthropologists and theorists of play have long argued that play is serious, as intent commitment and adherence to rules is an important part of the dynamics of play (Bogost 2016; Kalshoven 2012). This does not preclude fun; the seriousness of play is often what makes it fun. Similarly, a ‘serious’ action such as in one’s professional work can also be fun. Yet, if conveying our interlocutors’ experiences faithfully is one aim of ethnographic analysis, fun presents an anthropological challenge as it seems to resist verbalization. How do we know if people are having fun? Asking interlocutors in the moment of play often kills the fun (Csikzentmihalyi 1990). Can fun only be analysed retrospectively and at a distance, and is that a problem for anthropology? Could fun be observed phenomenologically, and if so, how? Is fun an emotion or affect if we tend to ‘have fun’ but not ‘feel fun’? What is the temporality of fun? Why has anthropology generally avoided the topic of fun, and of pleasure more generally? This panel explores the methodological challenges of and experimentations in studying fun and play, and what new anthropological theorizing becomes possible in the process. A ‘fun’ activity (like a bingo game!) will be part of the session and we welcome alternative forms of presentation.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -
Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -