Ecstasy and Intoxication
25-27 October 2013
The Burn, Aberdeenshire,
“Intoxication” makes us see the world differently. Hence, to some, it is a condition for subjectivation: in order to become “self,” one has to step out of it. Intoxication makes us human (Chrzan 2013: 11).
Along similar lines Johannes Fabian (2000b: 10, 2000a) has argued that ecstasy is a prerequisite for ethnographic knowledge. For Fabian, the experience of being outside discourse, of not being in control (or controlled) has an epistemological dimension.
Following Fabian’s lead, this workshop therefore aims to explore the role of ecstasy in field research. By ecstasy we refer to the “altered” state of mind related to the consumption of psychotropic substances (such as drugs, alcohol, or medication), but also to the altered perception as a result of dance, sports, or play (see Langer et al. 2006). Within the context of anthropological research, it may also refer to the ecstasy resulting from a real or imagined exceptional relationship between an ethnographer and his or her field. Unfortunately, the impact of emotions, friendship or sexuality on anthropological fieldwork and theorizing remains largely unaccounted for (but see Beatty 2010; Davies and Spencer 2010; McLean and Leibing 2007; Milton and Svazek 2005).
Therefore, this workshop focuses on what happens when anthropologists become intoxicated by alcohol or drugs; by the other; by desire, or by terror and disgust. More in particular, the workshop starts off with the following questions:
• Why is the ecstatic absent from most anthropological accounts? After all, from the informal conversations we have at dinner and after hours with our colleagues, we know how important ecstasy can be in determining the course of research and careers. See next.
• What is the impact of intoxication on anthropological research? Would the revelation of ecstatic states of mind be seen as a limitation and invalidation of anthropological findings? Or, conversely, how can we integrate it in our ethnography and analysis? Are the existing anthropological methods and theories adequate to capture the ‘ecstatic’ in the field? Why? Why not?
• Hence, how does one write about and account for ecstasy in field research (see, for instance, Taussig 2012)?
• And finally, what is the impact of ecstatic experiences on agency of anthropologists, on their research strategies, and on their reputation in the “field” and “at home”?
The workshop welcomes contributions from anthropologists who are willing to explore intoxication and the ecstatic in field research and analysis through a wide range of media and methodologies, including film, photography, sound, and fictional elements.
Please submit a title and a 250 word abstract to Mattia Fumanti (mf610[at]st-andrews.ac.uk) and/or Steven Van Wolputte (steven.vanwolputte[at]soc.kuleuven.be) before July the 31st, 2013.
Steven Van Wolputte
Institute for Anthropological Research on Africa (IARA)
Faculty of Social Sciences, KULeuven
P.O. Box 3615 Parkstraat 45, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium
tel: ++ 32 (0)16325496
Department of Social Anthropology
University of St Andrews
71 North Street
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