Over the past twenty years, we have seen an “ethnographic turn” across a range of disciplines, not only within the humanities and social sciences, but also in professional schools, fine arts and architecture. Whether in business, medicine, or law, photography, sculpture, or performance art, qualitative social science methods have become more common as scholars and practitioners seek insights into the everyday worlds and ideas of those with whom they work. At the same time, contemporary developments in technology – including inexpensive cameras, editing software and internet platforms for sharing work – have made new representational techniques widely available and familiar, especially to younger generations now moving into academia. As a result, researchers and practitioners across a wide range of fields are relying on a combination of old and new technologies to advocate for and work with communities. At the same time, researchers are reexamining the relationships they build with these communities, openly discussing the public responsibilities of the University in the twenty-first century. These transformations have forced us to confront new questions: What tools for research and communication should we offer the next generation of Ph.D. students? How are we thinking about what the digital age means for humanistic, social scientific, and professional inquiry and practice in today’s world?

This cross-school interdisciplinary symposium is designed to create a public conversation during which we deliberate several key questions raised by these trends: 1) What has the “ethnographic turn” means across the disciplines, and how do we think about “visuality” and “performativity” in relation to research generated ethnographically and in collaboration with communities?; 2) What role are new technologies (both material and embodied) playing in the research process, and what kinds of archives do they create?; 3) How might we institutionalize inter-disciplinary, multi-modal work within the academy in a way that collaborates with community organizations?; 4) What standards and evaluative criteria can be established for this kind of work, and how can we translate this approach in a way that makes it legible to others when it comes time for doctoral students to enter the job market or for junior faculty to be promoted?


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