Call For Papers

Workshop: (Un-)Familiar Grounds : Reflections on Anthropology, Fieldwork and Home 30.11.2023 - 01.12.2023 at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology @MaxAnthropology Halle/Saale, Germany; deadline: 1 April 2023


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Workshop: (Un-)Familiar Grounds : Reflections on Anthropology, Fieldwork and Home 30.11.2023 - 01.12.2023

Danaé Leitenberg (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology), Annika Lems (Australian National University)

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Halle/Saale, Germany

Call for Papers

The anthropological pursuit of “making the strange familiar” traditionally opposed sociology’s aim to “make the familiar strange”. The first generations of anthropologists conducted fieldwork in contexts marked by geographical and cultural distance from their Western home institutions and countries. By immersing themselves in the everyday of the exoticized, often colonized, Other over long periods of time, they produced detailed accounts of far-away
societies for audiences to read “at home”. The further one’s fieldwork was located from one’s own socio-cultural context, the greater the prestige one could gain from it (Gupta and Ferguson 1997).
Yet, with a wave of native anthropologists“ (Narayan 1993) starting to conduct fieldwork in (postcolonial) home-settings in the 1980-1990s, anthropologists were urged to move beyond these simplistic ideas about home and away, self and other. They showed that, rather than encountering familiarity and cultural proximity at home and otherness and novelty elsewhere, these distinctions were much more complex and that ethnographers always needed to be regarded as “positioned subjects” (Okely 1992: 14) that were inextricably linked to the social processes they were studying.
Today, anthropology can no longer be called a science of the exotic. Globally, anthropologists increasingly study what their interlocutors (and they themselves) experience as the other, the unexpected and the unfamiliar, from within their own societies.They engage in discussions on the global yet uneven realities of transnational capitalism, post-colonial relations or more-than-human and human life in the Anthropocene. Home is treated as a fluid
and flexible category, entailing different places at once or the future of human life on the planet. At the same time, concerns over who or what belongs continue to shape conservative responses to a changing world.

In a contemporary conjuncture of intense but unstable global connections, marked by war, financial and humanitarian crises, far-right movements or ecological disasters, this workshop proposes to re-open the anthropological question of “fieldwork at home” and its uneasy relationships with familiarity and estrangement. The recent Covid-19 outbreak also marks a turning point that altered the possibilities and conditions of fieldwork for many anthropologists faced with the inaccessibility of their chosen field sites. What, then, does conducting fieldwork “at home” mean in the 21st century? Is there still a fundamental difference attached to fieldwork at home in practical or more analytical terms?

Grounded in an understanding of home as a multi-scalar, affective, material but also sociolegal category (e.g. homeland), this workshop invites contributions that reflect on research in contexts that anthropologists call “home” and its relationships with familiarity and estrangement, both from a methodological and a theoretical perspective. We invite abstracts that explore (but are not limited to) the following questions and themes:

- What are the empirical and ethical dillemmas involved in research at home (in fieldwork, writing, etc.)?

- Whose home is implied in the label “fieldwork at home”? Which emic and etic notions of home is research defined as “fieldwork at home” based on?

- How does fieldwork relate to the notion of home? How can we explore home as a concept via the experience of fieldwork?

- What is the analytical purchase/limits of the concept of “home” and “fieldwork at home” in the current conjuncture?

Please send your abstracts (max. 300 words) to leitenberg[a] by 1 April 2023.

Travel and accommodation for invited speakers will be covered by the MPI. This workshop is geared toward the publication of a special issue. Authors whose paper are accepted agree to deliver a first draft of their papers two weeks before the workshop.

Danaé Leitenberg, leitenberg[a]


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Danaé Leitenberg