CEE | Center for Experimental Ethnography
A blog of the Center for Experimental Ethnography
A Letter from the director of the cee
We are so excited to announce the launch of the Center for Experimental Ethnography!!
Why a new Center? And what is “experimental ethnography”?
Over the past twenty years, we have seen an “ethnographic turn” across a range of disciplines, a turn that has been grounded in participant-observation research and inductive analytic and theoretical processes. This turn has occurred 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 that yield thick descriptions of persons, locations, and processes of meaning-making have become more common as scholars and practitioners seek insights into the everyday worlds and ideas of their collaborators in the field.
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, we are witnessing a shift in orientation from the page to other representational formats – film, performance, soundscapes, games, drawing and design, among others – as researchers experiment with new platforms. These two shifts are opening new questions about the public responsibilities of the University in the twenty-first century.
What tools for research and communication should we offer the next generation of Ph.D. and graduate professional students?
What difference does genre make in research dissemination – analytically, epistemologically, and politically – and what modes of representation are meaningful and relevant?
How do non-text based formats transform the processes and products of research, and the boundaries of discipines?
In what ways is this work accountable to the communities from which it emerges and through which circulates, and what counter-spaces can be built to create new kinds of dialogue and new forms of recognition?
The CENTER FOR EXPERIMENTAL ETHNOGRAPHY is a forum dedicated to exploring these transformations. We seek to support the work of faculty and students who are working extra-textually, whether this be through the medium of film, performance, sound, creative writing, or art. We recognize that knowledge production is participatory, embodied, and social. We know that the space of the 21st century university must extend beyond its walls and beyond books and labs. And we understand that sometimes the most transformative experiences come through an encounter with a film, a performance, a poem, or a soundscape.
At the Center, we endeavor to coordinate scholarship, research, and public partnerships related to multi-modal work practices; to consolidate those activities in which we and our students are already engaged; and to grow these generative connections in order to make Penn a nationally- and internationally- known hub for these types of inquiry and practice.
By hosting Visiting Scholars each semester, we envision a dynamic and vibrant space that puts Penn students and professors in constant contact with others working in these fields elsewhere. We also seek to forge connections with Centers and Programs doing this kind of work internationally, and other institutions worldwide, serving as a hub for a wider network. We hope you will join us!!
Deborah A. Thomas
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