"Ethnographies of the Record: The Codes of Collaboration and Inclusion"
2008 American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting
November 19-23, 2008
San Francisco, California
Paper abstracts are invited for this panel to be submitted to the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational Anthropology (SUNTA) and the Society for the Anthropology of North America (SANA) for invited status consideration for the 2008 AAA Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California. Papers addressing issues of social and political counting, categorization, and standardization practices, regardless of regional emphasis, will be considered.
DUE DATE: Tuesday, February 26, 2008
"Ethnographies of the record: The codes of collaboration and inclusion"
As scholars, activists, governmental agencies, and subjects work together to identify, understand and solve social imperatives and everyday problems, forms of coding, standardization, and quantitative subjection emerge as part of a lingua franca of intervention. In an effort to triage needs and problems, social phenomena are measured, codified and recorded in ways that make them manageable and intelligible to all intervening actors. Thus, people are counted and categorized; situations, assessed and codified; and the social is construed into data. Yet processes of accounting are far from being straightforward technologies of management or governance. Nor are they one-way vectors of subjectification. Rather, they also produce their own logics, alliances, artifacts, conceptual categories, sensations, emotional commitments and forms of sociability that effectively establish the conditions of social inclusion. This panel examines the sociopolitical implications of the quantification and categorization of social phenomena through ethnographically diverse cases that consider sites and registers that have emerged through accounting procedures. We chart how records are made and circulated within life worlds, and in turn, shape and constrain those life worlds themselves.
In a world ever more mediated by the production and circulation of reports and snappy soundbites, the quantification, classification, and codification practices give rise to "social facts" which, as highly synthesized and mobile forms of knowledge provide the bases to discriminate and generate concern, solicit collaboration, and design interventions. As we consider discipline's potential to generate inclusion, collaboration, and engagement, first it is critical to examine the regimentation of knowledge at the core of ethnographic practice and anthropological analysis. Concerns about how people classify and categorize their world as a way to make sense of it, to shape it, and control it have long preoccupied anthropologists, standing at the center of seminal anthropological studies from Durkheim and Mauss to Douglas. By no means a dated topic of inquiry, scholars have tracked the manifestations and effects of classificatory practices in the context of colonialism (e.g. Bernard S Cohn), development (e.g., James Scott), and modernity (e.g., Bruno Latour). Anthropologists continue not only to encounter, but also to appropriate and produce categories and codified forms of knowledge to order the social and cultural context we study.
This panel brings together a variety of recent approaches and ethnographic examples from the contemporary world, emerging in both highly localized and translocal contexts. It tackles, for example, cases that range from the production and circulation of birth and fecundity statistics and migrant death tolls on the U.S.-Mexico border, to the calibration of progress away from "welfare need" in post-Projects Chicago. In doing so, we aim for a renewed discussion of contemporary political legitimization through enumeration processes, the unexpected forms that accounting practices take, the ongoing life and circulation of such forms, and the exigencies or ambivalences surrounding demands for accountability.
Please submit the following information to Rocío Magaña (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Tuesday, February 26, 2008 for consideration:
* Institutional affiliation
* Paper title
* 250-word abstract
* Contact information
Cassie Fennell, PhD Candidate, University of Chicago (email@example.com)
Rocío Magañana, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago/Dissertation Fellow, Dartmouth College (firstname.lastname@example.org)
University of Chicago / Dartmouth College
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