How do we know? Evidence, Ethnography, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge

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9781847185815: How do we know? Evidence, Ethnography, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge

Since its inception, modern anthropology has stood at the confluence of two mutually constitutive modes of knowledge production: participant-observation and theoretical analysis. This unique combination of practice and theory has been the subject of recurrent intellectual and methodological debate, raising questions that strike at the very heart of the discipline. How Do We Know? is a timely contribution to emerging debates that seek to understand this relationship through the theme of evidence. Incorporating a diverse selection of case studies ranging from the Tibetan emotion of shame to films of Caribbean musicians, it critically addresses such questions as: What constitutes viable anthropological evidence? How does evidence generated through small-scale, intensive periods of participant-observation challenge or engender abstract theoretical models? Are certain types of evidence inherently better than others? How have recent interdisciplinary collaborations and technological innovations altered the shape of anthropological evidence? Extending a long-standing tradition of reflexivity within the discipline, the contributions to this volume are ethnographically-grounded and analytically ambitious meditations on the theme of evidence. Cumulatively, they challenge the boundaries of what anthropologists recognise and construct as evidence, while pointing to its thematic and conceptual potential in future anthropologies.

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About the Author:

Liana Chua is a Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. Casey High is a lecturer in anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Timm Lau recently completed his PhD in Social Anthropology at Kings College, Cambridge University.


"A mark of good ethnography is that it answers questions that emerge out of the very process of analysis. Or to put it another way, finding out what the questions are (for only after analysis can they be seen always to have been in plain view) is the primary task of ethnography. This timely volume shows not only why evidence is a vexed question, but why what counts as evidence is quite properly itself an artifact of the ethnographic process. A genuinely useful read." - Christina Toren, University of St Andrews. "What is it about evidence that has produced such a singular silence within anthropological treatments of method and epistemology? How Do We Know? is just the kind of collection we need to get a conversation going, and goes a long way toward helping us situate the concept of evidence in-and for-anthropology. The editors have brought together an impressive roster of established and emerging scholars, all of whom provide fascinating case studies through which to work out questions of evidence. Anyone interested in how anthropology gets done, and what it produces in the doing, will want to have this book on their shelf." - Matthew Engelke, London School of Economics.

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