Sydney Seminar for Culture and Society: 'Ethnographic Inquiry Today'

The Institute for Culture and Society and Sydney Seminar will jointly host the Sydney Seminar for Culture and Society 2, themed 'Ethnographic Inquiry Today'.

In this seminar, Professor George Marcus will present a public lecture on the status of ethnography in contemporary society. The seminar will be chaired by ICS Director Professor Ien Ang. 

Seminar details

Date: Tuesday 25 March, 2014
Time: 6pm - 7.30pm
Venue: Metcalfe Auditorium, Macquarie Building, State Library of New South Wales
RSVP: Adults $15, friends and concessions $10. Booking is essential. RSVP via the State Library website (opens in a new window).    


Interest in a distinctly historic anthropological mode of ethnographic inquiry has shifted from its poetics and politics of representation, focused on writing and texts, to experiments with its forms of production in fieldwork. These do not merely evoke its mythic mise-en-scene of situated encounter and prolonged observation, but require new thinking, collaborations, and inventions of third spaces, middle range forms, and  conceptual trading zones amid immersions in ever more digitally mediated realities and the local effects of  global geopolitics everywhere. How, for example, does ethnography, as a continuous, mobile production, sustain a distinctive voice while jostling productively between varied projects of design thinking and the situated inventions of collective art practices? Increasingly, anthropologists define their jeweller's eye view of social and cultural life amid politically charged and entangled struggles that play out at the level of everyday life in community and simultaneously in the more abstract world of experts, planners, and media producers.  Ethnographic inquiry gives access to the inner social lives of both. Experimental from its inception in the early twentieth century as the core method of social anthropology, ethnography today requires rethinking in the ways that it creates micro-publics of its diverse subjects for its claims to knowledge before it ever reaches an academic response or more general public.  


Close up of George Marcus wearing reading glassesGeorge E. Marcus is Chancellor's Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and founder of its  Center for  Ethnography, since 2005.  Previously, he spent his entire career at Rice University (Houston, Texas) helping to forge a small anthropology program that participated distinctively in the halcyon critical cultural theory years of the 1980s and 1990s. He was the founding editor of the journal Cultural Anthropology. He co-edited with James Clifford, Writing Culture, and co-authored with Michael Fischer, Anthropology as Cultural Critique. In the 1990s, he edited the eight volume annual, Late Editions, which aimed to represent diverse changes at the turn of the century, without the assumptions and styles of documentary representation.  In a 2008 volume of edited conversations with Paul Rabinow and others, Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary, he co-assessed the recent past and a near future for anthropological research, in which its continued classic association with ethnography is not assumed. In June 2014, he co-produced an anthropology/art installation in the Centre William Rappard, Geneva, headquarters of the World Trade Organization. He is in the midst of thinking about when and how this project might end as ethnographic inquiry.

Sydney Seminar for Culture and Society is an initiative of the Sydney Seminar. 

This Seminar is funded by the Institute for Culture and Society of the University of Western Sydney and also supported by the State Library of New South Wales.

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