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CfP: Panel Ethnographies from Global Margins


Conveners: Denisse Sepulveda (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Geneva; SNF Project Im/mobile Others in Chile); Céline Heini (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Geneva + University Fribourg; SNF Project Im/mobile Others in Chile); Anne Lavanchy (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Geneva, SNF Project Im/mobile Others in Chile).

Initially exotic “objects” of anthropology, many of the very “others” of the discipline have reclaimed their full place as active subjects in the discipline. Subaltern voices (Spivak, 1988) proposed indigenous methodologies (Smith, 1999), feminist and queer epistemologies (Abu-Lughod, 1991, Hekma, 2000), drawing on post/decolonial (Anzaldua, 2004 (1998), Hall, 2006, Said, 1979) cultural sciences and literature theories. Along with anthropologists from formerly colonized settings (Ntarangwi, 2010), scholars from these global margins have created new regimes of academic truth and legitimacy through activism and commitment. Their reflections on situated and on mechanism of authority in monographies have dismissed pretentions to neutrality and objectivity and highlighted the Western and heterosexist biases of anthropological knowledge.

Still, one can reasonably question their success to reform in profound and lasting ways the making of anthropological knowledge. Let us name three recent examples amongst other ones: the concern of EASA’s Anthropology on Race Network about the burning necessity to decolonize anthropological curricula across Europe[1]; the “prominent anthropologists” laudatory praises of a recent publication, apparently unaware these her-stories, pleading for anthropologists to get out of their ivory tower[2]; and, finally, voices from academic margins that denounce precarious working conditions of non-tenured scholars, whose innovative, but largely unrecognized, scientific contributions to anthropology departments paradoxically reproduce established hierarchies[3].

The panel aims to be a forum to exchange on the possibilities to develop different ethnographies from these global margins, in such a way those would broadly matter for anthropology. Drawing on Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s groundbreaking program for decolonizing methodologies (Smith, 1999) to produce new epistemologies, it addresses the old question of power relationships in knowledge production in a time of increased academic competition, which leads to a greater uniformity of anthropological thinking. Panelists should also actively engage with the idea of “margins”, in particular when it rests on binary categorizations (TallBear, 2017): What means for instance “global South”/”global North” (Bacigalupo, 2016)? Which are the relevance and the limits of this, and similar, distinction? Does belonging to academically marginalized spaces become a DNA thing (Kowal, 2013)? How could indigenous, feminist and other critical methodologies and epistemologies really matter for the whole discipline?


[1]; also see Tsantsa’s latest issue on “Decolonial Processes in Swiss Academia and Cultural Institutions: Empirical and Theoretical Approaches” (2019), ed. by Fiona Siegenthaler and Marie-Laure Allain Bonilla.




ABU-LUGHOD, L. 1991. Writing against culture. In: FOX, R. (ed.) Recapturing anthropology. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.

ANZALDUA, G. 2004 (1998). Borderland/La Frontera. In: RIVKIN, J. & RYAN, M. (eds.) Literary Theory. An Antology. Blackwell.

BACIGALUPO, A. M. 2016. Thunder Shamans. Making History with Mapuche Spirits in Chile and Patagonia, University of Texas Press.

HALL, S. 2006. What is this ‘black’in black popular culture? Stuart Hall. Routledge.

HEKMA, G. 2000. Queering anthropology.

KOWAL, E. 2013. Orphan DNA: Indigenous samples, ethical biovalue and postcolonial science. Social Studies of Science, 43, 577–597.

NTARANGWI, M. 2010. Reversed Gaze. An African Ethnography of American Anthropology, University of Illinois Press.

SAID, E. W. 1979. Orientalism, Vintage.

SMITH, L. T. 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Otago, Otago University Press

SPIVAK, G. C. 1988. Can the Subaltern Speak? In: NELSON, C. & GROSSBERG, L. (eds.) Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture

TALLBEAR, K. 2017. Beyond the Life/Not Life Binary: A Feminist-Indigenous Reading of Cryopreservation, Interspecies Thinking and the New Materialisms. In: RADIN, J. &

KOWAL, E. (eds.) Cryopolitics. MIT Press.

Contact person:

Anne Lavanchy,

Deadline proposal: 30 June 2019