Category: Sessions

Ethnography of Finance

Research and Methods on a New Subject

Convenors: Davide Caselli (University of Milan Bicocca) & Valentina Moiso (University of Turin). Contacts:,

The financialization of global capitalism, defined as a new accumulation regime, as the ascendency of the “shareholder value” orientation or as the financialization of everyday life (Van der Zwan 2014), is a key phenomenon of our times and a major concern for economic and social sciences.

Focusing especially on the third definition, a well-established group of scholars, in particular from Europe, has analysed the use of financial products through close empirical descriptions of social practices. In doing so, they focused on technical devices, norms and obligations, social ties and relationships involved in it, showing not only different uses of financial instruments, but also different ways of calculating and understanding what finance is and what it is for.

It is an interesting perspective in order to study a lot of issues at different levels of analysis, taking into account institutional settings and public policies as well as familiar practices, organisational aspects as well as norms and values. At micro level, searching for the consequences – relevant and in some cases dramatic – that the so-called financialisation of economies produces on the daily life of families, we have the chance to explore how financial instruments are embedded in family dynamics, how their use is shaped by know-how, representations and norms of “inexperienced” individuals. Namely, how they are domesticized, as the studies of a new generation of international scholars have pointed out (cfr. Ossandón, Deville, Lazarus and Luzzi 2016, 2017; Pellandini-Simányi, Hammer and Vargha, 2015).

Close empirical descriptions – though organizational ethnographies for example – are also very explanatory when applied to the studies of experts’ activities, such as banking or stock market operators: it emerges how they perform exchanges of sophisticated financial products, showing a behavior far from the homo oeconomicus and bringing out the role of communities of practices, representations, emotions.

Very fruitful analyses can originate from the close observation of contact points the
interactions between expert and non-expert actors, for example in the case of face-to-face relationship between customers and bank advisors to decide on investments or access to credit, or in case of public situations such as shareholders' meetings of banks and companies. In these cases, it is a matter of power, sharing of information, moral judgment, differing expected behaviours. The close analysis of “relational work”, using the Viviana Zelizer definition of the performance of those involved in monetary interactions, allows us to highlight hidden aspects of these interactions.

Qualitative research on financialization can also shed light on important trends towards the penetration of finance in citizens’ daily life via the growing role of financial actors in public action and public policy, especially in the social and environmental fields (Chiapello 2015). In such cases, the construction of new narratives, metrics and technical devices in order to enact public policy determines important and controversial transformation in the relation between the State, financial industry and citizens and in the very conception of citizenship (Chiapello, Knoll 2020). The socio-anthropological qualitative take on the different processes and tools through which such processes occur can crucially contribute to shed light on these phenomena.

Open questions

The session invites papers exposing research in the many possible fields where the financialization of daily life and public action can be observed, answering to open questions such as (but not limited to) the following:

  • Specific difficulties in accessing to the field and negotiating the research design with the actors of the field (as diverse as bankers, traders, social services beneficiaries, financial consultants, mortgage holders and social workers – to name but a few) and following them in their daily practices and negotiations;
  • What kind of bottom up experiences in monetary and financial transaction are currently active or under study in Italy, what is their potential in terms of social innovation, what type of social problems they are willing to face?
  • How cultural and material dimensions of financialization impact on existing institutional arrangements and social identities? What forms of accommodation, conflicts and resistance do they determine?
  • How financialization determines new processes of subjugation and/or new subjectivities?
  • How financial culture is adopted and adapted into specific policy sectors? How does it interact with existing values and practices?
  • How do financialization relate to neoliberalism both in terms of values and practices?
  • How the Italian traditions of social studies can contribute to a development of knowledge on how finance works, taking into account both analytical traditions and institutional contests?


Domestic finance, Financialisation, Financial devices, Financial sector, Money circuits, Performativity, Social Impact Investing, Policy Ethnography, Subjectivity, Expertise, Welfare State, Public Action.

Sub-disciplines of cross-disciplinary areas of concern

Sociology of finance, Economic sociology, Political sciences, Studies on consumption practices, Methodological studies, Critical Discourse Analysis, Anthropology of finance, Sociology of expertise; Social Studies of Finance; Critical accounting.

Exploring Death in the Twenty-First Century: Field Research Results

Convenors: Asher Colombo (University of Bologna) & Francesca Pasquali (University of Bergamo).


The topic of death and dying now constitutes a strategic sub-disciplinary field in sociology, even if it needs to be deeper investigated, particularly in southern Europe. The changes in social practices related to death and dying are, in fact, generating new links between the public and private sphere, and they are claiming for new theoretical and empirical work.

Just to mention a few: the shift from burial to cremation, the rapid diffusion, at least in Italy, of funeral homes and the changes of funeral rites that are now facing a variety that might confirm the trend, enunciated by Walter towards the so-called “neo-modern”, highly personalized, death. Mourning practices are changing with the increasingly important role of social media as a space for communication of death, grief and memorialization. On the organizational side, the funeral industry is broadening its field of operation and it is developing new commercial and marketing strategies. At the same time, people working in the industry are gaining in status and social acceptability.

Open Questions

In this context, the panel offers itself as a place for gathering field research experiences on death that will highlight the ongoing change (and the differences) happening in European society addressing the following questions:

- Are death and its rituals undergoing redefinitions toward an increased personalization and re-negotiation of public/private relations?

- Are the relationships between the living and the dead changing, and how??

- Under what aspects beliefs of life after death are changing? And what new practices do they activate?

- Are there any changes in the funeral industry and the administrative organization of death?

- How are digital platform shaping rituals of grief and mourning, post mortem bonds, and memorialization of the death?

- How are memorialization practices in general changing?

The panel welcomes either ethnographic or qualitative papers but attention will also be given to interdisciplinary papers that integrate, among others, anthropology, history, media studies, cultural studies, Internet studies. We also invite papers that engage critically with the methodological and theoretical challenges of undertaking ethnographic research on the topic.


Death, funeral rites and ceremonies, grief and bereavement, memory and memorialization, death and social media, relationships between the living and the dead.

Ethnographies of Supermarket and Logistics Revolutions

Convenors: Andrea Bottalico (University of Milano) & Martina Lo Cascio (University of Bergamo)


In recent years, studies on globalization have fuelled a debate that has revealed a definition of the accumulation mechanisms in the contemporary capitalism, and an interpretation of how these mechanisms affect people’s living conditions. One perspective, in particular, focuses on the productive networks of the firms as socio-political actors, in the time of the “disintegration of production and integration of trade” (Gereffi, 1994; Feenstra, 1998). Scholars who addressed the fragmentation on a global scale of the economic processes have emphasized the implications that global productive networks have on labour and the geographical mobility of capital as the result of the activity of a network of legally autonomous and territorially displaced firms that cooperate in the production of goods or services. These dynamics configure an international division of labour, affecting the processes of subordination and exploitation of the workforce (Borghi et al., 2017). Moreover, the shift from vertically integrated production structures to interconnected but autonomous networks of firms has created greater pressure on working conditions in the more peripheral levels of the value chains.

Along this line, the centrality of retailers (supermarkets, fast-food outlets, and other large-scale food retailers) is a certainty. Retailers are among the most powerful actors of the consumer driven chain, they have assumed the absolute dominant position in global food chain (McMichael, Friedmann 2007). This particular and dominant aspect is tackled in the “Retailing Revolution” studies, focusing on how the global supermarket chains and big manufacturing/food corporations have outsourced the most part of their production and have become mainly distributors (Harrison 1994; Gereffi 1994; Burch, Lawrence 2007).

The distribution sector has overcome the traditional responsibility for food distribution and now strongly influences production and consumption patterns. The supermarket plays a central role in food production in many ways but the most important are: 1) the development of a range of products with its own brand (the supermarket’s own brand), which directly competes with the products of established food manufacturers / food industries; 2) the definition of safety, quality and environmental sustainability standards for farmers and the food industry.

One consequence of the growing power of the retail trade is that supermarkets are determining what is produced, where, under what rules, where everything is sold. Supermarkets have a significant influence on consumption and become producers of meaning. Time and space are important in food production and the supermarket revolution because the processes of transformation within the agri-food system and the effect of the supermarket revolution have produced the coexistence of a food of no place and a food that comes from a certain place, or industrial and standardized productions.

The Supermarket Revolution is strictly linked to what has been called the “logistics revolution” (Bonacich & Wilson, 2008) or the “container revolution” (Cohen, 2014). Time becomes the new parameter to measure space. Quoting an American playwright, the authors of the Handbook of Logistics and Supply Chain Management (Brewer et al., 2001) have stressed that “time is the longest distance between two places”. The “logistics revolution” in brief means that ideally, there should be no point, from production to final sale, when goods sit around waiting for further processing. The flow from sale to ordering to production to shipping and to the next sale should occur in one smooth motion (Bonacich & Wilson, 2008: 15). Competition shifted from the firm level to the supply chain level (Allen, 1997; Bonacich & Wilson, 2008). It is the supply chain of a firm that is in competition with that of its competitors rather than the firms themselves (Christofer, 1992).

Both the supermarket and the logistics revolutions allow us to observe how labour dynamics in the global supply chains and the dynamic effects of the new paradigms of global circulation and production are changing. These two perspectives are complementary and provide a set of theoretical argumentations aimed at interpreting the changing dynamics in the logistics and agribusiness sectors.

In this panel, we invite to submit papers focusing on agribusiness and logistics sectors, particularly with regard to labour dynamics, the actors involved, governance, rules and effects on work organization, recruitment mechanisms, etc. We ask for ethnographic and / or qualitative contributions that could give a description of the system of governance and the impact on working conditions in these two strategic sectors.

Papers may include, but are not limited to, these topics:

- Working conditions along the maritime-logistics chains, included infrastructures of transports, logistics platforms, supermarkets, fast-food outlets, and other large-scale food retailers;

- Reorganization of work in all phases of the food chain from the field to the distribution;

- Technological impact in the reorganization of work;

- Retail apocalypse and the effect of e-commerce;

- Forms of conflicts and resistance at workplace;

- Power relationships, racialization and genderization at workplace;

- The issues of the ethnographic research in investigating these economic sectors.

International Mobility and African Cities

Convenors: Nick Dines (European University Institute) & Paola Piscitelli (University of Witwatersrand; University of Hamburg)


International migration to cities has long been an established topic of ethnography. Research to date, however, has largely centred on the cities of the Global North and has addressed a range of themes and discourses, such as racism, “cultural diversity” and “integration”, that play out in markedly different ways or simply do not translate smoothly in the cities and urban regions of other parts of the world and in the various mobility practices that are associated with them. This panel intends to bring together ethnographic research, both written and audio-visual, to explore the manifold relationships between international migration/trans-local mobilities and African cities.

African cities have historically been characterized by international mobility that has taken place alongside and sometimes preceded internal migration. During colonialism, urban development was often underpinned by the arrival of foreigners, whether through colonial settlement, as exemplified by the French Ville Nouvelles of Morocco, or forced migration, as in the case of historic slave communities in Cape Town. From the nineteenth century a range of international labour flows would shape African urban life, from the Lebanese diaspora in West Africa to the seasonal migration of foreign workers in South Africa’s mining regions during Apartheid. The post-independence era saw transnational migration continue towards the continent’s expanding cities, perhaps best illustrated in Abidjan where by the 1980s over a quarter of the Ivorian city’s population comprised people from other West African states.

Today, with rapid urban growth and major restructuring projects taking place across the continent, international mobility to African cities is as diverse and complex as it is everywhere else in the world: from sub-Saharan elites moving to Tunis and Sfax for private health and fertility treatment to the circular migration of petty traders between Maputo and Johannesburg; from the settlement of Chinese contracted workers in urban enclaves to the post-crisis relocation of Portuguese professionals to Luanda. International migration has often been a source of conflict, epitomized by the recurrent xenophobic attacks and counter protests in South African townships, while at the same time its economic benefits have been embraced by policy initiatives, as demonstrated by the African Union Agenda 2063’s vision for Pan-African free movement and integrated high-speed train networks.

Nevertheless, ethnographic research on international migration and mobility in African cities appears to be somewhat scattered and, besides a few notable comparative projects largely coordinated from South Africa or the Global North, it tends to focus on isolated cases. Moreover, a number of areas have received scant attention, such as the impact of international mobility upon regional urban development or secondary cities, which have often experienced greater migration-fuelled growth than Africa’s leading metropolises.

This panel aims to bring into conversation research on old and newly urbanized regions from across the African continent (including North Africa) in order to explore and confront a range of themes that encourage a rethinking of the ways in which the “migration-city nexus” gets experienced and understood in the world today. Proposals are welcome that draw on original ethnographic research adopting any data collection method (including audio-visual means) and that critically engage with scholarly debates on international migration in cities.

Possible themes include, but are certainly not limited to the following:

- South-South entrepreneurial and labour migration to African cities;

- Non-economic forms of South-South mobilities in African cities (health, education, etc.);

- North-South migration to African cities (from NGO workers to retirees);

- International migration, translocal mobilities and “right to the (African) city”;

- Encounters and conflicts between temporary/settled migrant and host communities;

- Local state and elite responses to international migration;

- Arrival infrastructures in urban contexts.

For people requiring assistance with a visa application, the University of Bergamo will supply an official invitation letter once their abstract proposal has been accepted.

Gendering Ethnography

How Does Gender Affect the Fieldwork (and the Other Way Around)?

Convenors: Cristina Oddone (University of Strasbourg) & Costanza Currò (University of Helsinki) Contact:

Ethnographers’ approach to the field is never neutral. The researcher’s personal characters – in terms of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, origin, age, culture, language, religious and political beliefs, etc. – always have an impact on the social contexts s/he studies and on its informants. Symmetrically, the ethnographer is a sensitive human being and can be influenced and affected by the specific characters of the people and situations s/he analyses. Among different types of research, ethnography in particular requires to take an especially close look to reality. Accessing the field, participating in rituals and ceremonies, engaging in intimate conversations: these tasks compel the ethnographer’s ability to get accepted in a setting by “natives”, to create “a good climate” favourable to observation, and to succeed in hanging around for quite some time. In this process, the over-mentioned categories can play a crucial role in defining the power relations between “those who study” and “those who are studied”. In addition, they often become crucial interpretive keys for theoretical analysis. Although some of these dimensions have been widely discussed and examined (e.g. Elijah Anderson 1990, Martina Avanza 2008, Philippe Bourgois 1995), the role of gender has not been much explored.

The purpose of this panel is to share, discuss and analyse, in an open and critical way, the methodological and theoretical implications of gender in doing ethnographic research. We encourage the participation of scholars whose fieldworks did not explicitly focus on gender, but where gender rather emerged unexpectedly as a relevant category for analysis. It can be the case of research on migration, labour, schooling, urban studies, leisure, etc.

1. Presentations should offer a detailed description of the fieldwork and of the experience of male, female, and non-binary researchers in such contexts: Does gender play a role and have an influence on accessing the field, on the whole ethnographic experience and on the process of collecting qualitative data? How does gender interact with other dimensions of the researcher’s identity, values and beliefs – ethnicity and class, as well as religious affiliation, political orientation, etc.?

2. In particular, participants are invited to critically analyse how they deployed their personal resources to adjust and manage gender-related tensions arising on the field and in the relationship with social actors: How do ethnographers deal with gender issues? How do they benefit from the opportunities offered by gender or rather struggle to overcome the obstacles it entails?

3. By looking at gender as one of the categories organising social structure, participants are encouraged to analyse how its (unexpected) emergence can reveal new particular insights and generate relevant theoretical implications (e.g. Wendy Brown 2010).

Rather than being limited to specific journals and fora, the use of gender as a category for analysis should be mainstreamed in major disciplines like Sociology and Anthropology. The growing interest towards gender and intersectionality requires fostering a proper reflection on its implications in the process of doing social research and ethnography.

Open Questions

- How does gender participate in shaping the process of doing ethnography?

- How does it affect the relation with the fieldwork by imposing limits and constraints?

- What does gender trigger in terms of curiosity, desire, suspect, domination and fear, in relation to the field and to social actors?

- How does gender affect the ethnographer, in terms of gendered performance (verbal and body language)?

- What is the place of ambivalence in this peculiar context?

- What are the methodological and theoretical effects of using gender as a category for analysis among others?


Gender, intersectionality, power relations, gendered performance, critical thinking, sociological imagination, reflexivity.

Fields of Study

Gender, sexuality, interactionism, feminism.


Elijah ANDERSON (1990) Streetwise: Race, Class and Change in an Urban Community. University of Chicago Press.

Martina AVANZA (2008) « Comment faire de l’ethnographie quand on n’aime pas « ses indigènes »? Une enquête au sein d’un mouvement xénophobe », in A. Bensa and D. Fassin (eds.) Les politiques de l’enquête, La Decouverte, Paris.

Philippe BOURGOIS (1995) In Search for Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. Cambridge University Press

Wendy BROWN (2010) Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. Zone Books, New York.

Social Sciences from Dissonance to Ambiguity: Breaking the Deadlock

Convenors: Lynda Dematteo (IIAC EHESS CNRS Paris) & Mariella Pandolfi (Université de Montréal)


Beethoven wrote and several time revised “Fidelio”, his opera on love, political conflict and aspiration to fraternity. Because it was so difficult to compose, this opera lends itself to experimentation. In the Salzburg Festival 2015, director Claus Guth provoked vociferous booing on the opening night. He had decided to replace the singspiele (spoken dialogues) of this opera by recorded sounds: subdued rumbling, industrial creaks and clanks, moaning and breathing. During these moments, the singers either acted out the story silently, or stood around trying to look absorbed in thought. In that way Claus Guth wanted the public to explore the idea that we all live within self-devised prisons, even in our lives as couples.

This provocative experiment should make us reflect on the dilemmas generated in universities by identity politics and the reactions it causes. Researchers are mired in dissonance: there is no longer a widely shared framework and they are constantly being called upon to define themselves (politically, socially, culturally, sexually…). Such injunctions can be a source of anxiety and a great cacophony the result. Social networks have amplified the phenomenon and the risk of collision between divergent world-views has been increasing. Fake news ends up locking us into cognitive prisons by interfering with reality. In that way mediation has become a problem in itself, whether it is the involvement of subaltern groups in the affirmation of a populist aesthetic or the stereotypical descriptions conveyed by journalists. In order to shift preconceived ideas within the current media setting, dialogue is a prerequisite.

How do social scientists cope with cognitive and behavioural discrepancies today? Dissonance is creativity. Inventiveness is un-discipline. Conceptualization is resistance. How do different generations of social scientists approach this epistemic process? How do they deal with the perilous passage to creation in which each one expresses dissonance and copes with his or her own limits? The chains of some are not necessarily the chains of others. Can we help ourselves to break them reciprocally?

In order to effectively prevent that dissonance from turning into ambiguity, we have to leave space for contradiction. In recent years, we have seen academic debate atrophy, because remaining ambiguous has become a way not to offend anybody and to go forward. Researchers no longer know where their interlocutors stand and accordingly, they are more cautious in expressing themselves so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings. Political polarisation puts critical thought and free speech under pressure. In order to defeat conformism, we will strive to privilege rethinking about deconstruction and easy whistleblowing.

The conditions in which research is developing must also be highlighted, in order to capture their epistemic effects. Precariousness, devaluation of social scientists’ work by informants, and control of data access, have been impacting the production of knowledge. It is becoming incredibly difficult to work, whatever the subject matter. How to report on dissonances experienced in fieldwork? The researcher’s perspective often frightens people who may find themselves caught up in investigative work, the outcomes of which are completely beyond their control. Some researchers have been sued because of their ethnographic studies and others fear being sued. Confinement as a sanction has been replaced by exclusion (that is to say confinement outside). In some cases, access to the field is denied outright. The 1980s utopia of multi-sited ethnography is threatened today by the hardening borders of dissonance, which have been cast over true critical confrontation, intrinsic to the social sciences project. Is the researcher’s freedom still an ideal today?

Decolonizing Ethnographies of Migration from the Southern Mediterranean

Convenors: Ilaria Giglioli (New College of Florida) & Wael Garnaoui (Université Paris Diderot) — in collaboration with the Black Mediterranean Collective


Cross-Mediterranean migration is a widely researched theme by ethnographers in a variety of academic disciplines. While much of this work adopts critical approaches to questions of bordering, surveillance and migration control, the bulk of research circulating transnationally is produced from the perspective of the Global North. This perspective informs the positionality of researchers in the field, the main languages used in research, and the theoretical and conceptual paradigms deployed to interpret research results. In order to more fully understand mechanisms, processes and stakes of cross-Mediterranean migration, however, it is necessary to broaden the theoretical perspectives and the sites from which knowledge on migration is produced.

In this panel, we invite contributions that explicitly try to de-center the analysis of cross-Mediterranean migration from post- and de-colonial perspectives. We understand such perspectives in a broad sense, including studies conducted by researchers from the Southern Mediterranean, projects that explicitly seek to break with Eurocentric paradigms of analysis, and analyses that are strongly grounded in the Southern Mediterranean with an active engagement with languages spoken in this context, as well as papers that call into question the given socio-spatial unit of Europe. Thus, through this panel we seek to transcend material and epistemological power imbalances embedded in contemporary academic and activist paradigms.

We welcome contributions from scholars from different disciplines, including but not limited to geography, anthropology, sociology and psychology, and from diverse theoretical perspectives. Regardless of the disciplinary or theoretical background, we are looking for studies that fall into one of the following categories, or other analogous ones:

- Studies of migration carried out from the Southern Mediterranean and/or with people who have social proximity to migrants;

- Studies of migration that call into question Eurocentric paradigms of analysis, applied to themes as diverse as drivers of migration, processes of migration, questions of “radicalization”, notions of “integration”;

- Studies of migration that are aimed at creating cross-border solidarity initiatives and the safety and wellbeing of migrants in transit (i.e. activist ethnographies);

- Studies of migration that adopt a postcolonial and /or decolonial paradigm of analysis;

- Studies of migration that address questions about the (re-)production of concepts of citizenship, race and belonging in the European-African borderland;

- Studies of migration that reflect on moments of connection / rupture between Euro-African and Afro-European presences in the Mediterranean.

We envisage this panel contributing to a growing interest in rethinking the Mediterranean space, and questions of migration, from a postcolonial and decolonial perspective, particularly within the framework of the Black Mediterranean. We welcome contributions both in English and in French.

Open Questions

- How might studying Mediterranean migration from the Southern Mediterranean change common paradigms of analysis of migration?

- In what way does adopting non-Eurocentric paradigms of analysis allow us to reframe the stakes around migration?

- How can studies of migration contribute to creating cross-border solidarity initiatives?

- How can postcolonial and decolonial paradigms of analysis inform studies of Mediterranean migration?


Migration, Mediterranean, Eurocentrism, Postcolonial & Decolonial Theory, Activism, Global South.

Fields of Study

Migration studies, Postcolonial/decolonial studies, Geography, Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology.

- – - – -

Décoloniser les ethnographies des migrations du Sud de la Méditerranée


·    Ilaria Giglioli, New College of Florida, Ilaria
Giglioli est professeure de Géographie et Études Internationales à New
College of Florida.

·      Wael Garnaoui, Université Paris Diderot, Wael
Garnaoui est doctorant dans le Centre de Recherche de psychanalyse,
médicine et société à l’Université Paris Diderot.

En collaboration avec le *Black Mediterranean Collective.

Les migrations à travers la Méditerranée représentent un thème largement
recherché par les ethnographes dans plusieurs disciplines académiques. Une
grande partie de ces travaux adopte des approches critiques sur les
questions de la mise en place de frontières, surveillance, et contrôle des
migrations. Cependant, la plupart des recherches qui circulent au niveau
transnational est produite à partir d’une perspective euro-centrique. Cette
perspective concerne tant le positionnement des chercheurs sur le terrain
de recherche, les langues utilisées, ainsi que les paradigmes théoriques et
conceptuels d’analyse. À fin de mieux comprendre les mécanismes, les
processus et les enjeux des migrations méditerranéennes, il est donc
nécessaire d’élargir les prospectives théoriques et les terrains à partir
desquels sont produits les savoirs sur l’immigration.

Dans cette session, nous invitons des chercheurs qui contribuent
explicitement à décentrer l’analyse des migrations Méditerranéennes à
partir de perspectives postcoloniales et décoloniales. Les perspectives
recherchées embrassent un sens large. Elles incluent études conduites par
chercheur(e)s du sud de la Méditerranée, projets qui rompent avec des
paradigmes d’analyse euro-centriques. Il s’agit de privilégier des analyses
en provenance du sud de la Méditerranée, notamment les travaux réalisés à
partir d’une confrontation avec les langues locales. Plus avant, il est
question, à travers cette session, de remettre en cause les déséquilibres
des pouvoirs matériel et épistémologique intégrés dans les paradigmes
académiques et activistes contemporains.

Nous cherchons des contributions de chercheur(e)s à partir de
différentes disciplines, y  compris la géographie, l’anthropologie, la
sociologie, la psychologie et différentes perspectives théoriques.
Indépendamment de la discipline et du cadre théorique, nous cherchons des
études qui appartiennent à l’une des catégories suivantes, ou similaires :
·      Études des migrations conduites à partir de la perspective du sud de
la Méditerranée et/ou avec des personnes qui ont une proximité sociale aux
·      Études des migrations qui mettent en discussion les paradigmes
d’analyse eurocentriques, en abordant différents thèmes comme les causes
des migrations, les processus de migration, questions de ‘radicalisation’,
notions de ‘intégration’.
·      Études des migrations qui ont l’objectif de créer des liens de
solidarité et d’hospitalité face aux dispositifs frontaliers .
·      Études des migrations qui adoptent un paradigme d’analyse
postcoloniale et/ou décoloniale.
·      Études des migrations qui abordent des questions sur la
(re)production de concepts de citoyenneté, race et appartenance à partir de
la frontière Européenne-Africaine
·      Études des migrations qui s’interrogent sur les expériences de lien
/ rupture entre présences Euro-Africaines et Afro-Européennes dans la

Nous envisageons cette cession comme contribution à la suite de l’intérêt
croissant portant sur les formes de repenser l’espace méditerranéen, ainsi
que des questions de migration, à partir d’une perspective postcoloniale et
décoloniale, particulièrement dans le cadre théorique de Black
Mediterranean. Nous recevons les contributions en Anglais et en Français.

Questions pour les participants:
·      Comment l’étude des migrations méditerranéennes à partir de la
perspective du Sud de la Méditerranée peut changer les paradigmes d’analyse
courants des migrations ?
·      Comment l’adoption des paradigmes d’analyse non Euro-centriques nous
permet de reformuler les principaux enjeux autour des migrations ?
·      Comment les études des migrations peuvent contribuer à créer des
initiatives de solidarité transfrontalières ?
·      Comment les paradigmes d’analyse postcoloniales et décoloniales
peuvent influencer les études des migrations méditerranéens ?

Mots clé : Migration, Méditerranée, Eurocentrisme, Théorie postcoloniale et décoloniale, Activisme, Global South

Sub-disciplines / domaines de recherche trans-disciplinaires :
Études de migration, études postcoloniales et décoloniales, géographie,
anthropologie, sociologie, psychologie.

Exploring Everyday Responsibilities

Convenors: Salvatore La Mendola (University of Padova) & Morena Tartari (University of Antwerp)


In Western societies, individuals’ actions increasingly are assessed in terms of responsibility and accountability. Professionals, scholars, entrepreneurs, educators, teachers, parents, and so on, feel pressure to responsibility, accountability and transparency. Some individuals and activities seem to be more exposed than others to this pressure: professionals, nurses, carers, physicians, teachers (to name a few). Institutions and organizations ask these actors for taking responsibility for themselves and for their clients, patients, children, pupils and so on. However, clients, patients and so on are not exempted from this assumption of responsibility and its consequences.

These changes have affected the language, by which we nominate actions and social actors. Behaviours and social actors can become objects of social and legal sanctions if they fail in properly performing responsibility and accountability. Responsibility can be attributed to individuals and systems, with different origins and consequences, roles and functions. Studies have not yet defined effectively a culture or cultures of responsibility. However, “culture of blame”, “culture of safety”, “no-blame culture” and “just culture” may appear as or contain different declinations of responsibility and accountability.

How this increasing pressure does affect our actions and practices? How do we show or perform our responsibility and accountability? Can we outline cultures of responsibility other than those already defined? How these cultures are changing? How these cultures are affecting our performance? How do institutions, organizations and social systems support and promote or counter these cultures? Are there successful practices that negotiate different meanings, views or regimes of responsibility?

We are interested in proposal (and then full papers), which try to answer these questions and which explores the everyday life dimensions of responsibility through ethnography and other qualitative approaches and different disciplines (e.g.: everyday life sociology, sociology of culture, organization studies, socio-legal studies, sociology of work and professions).

In particular, submissions relating to the following specific themes and issues are welcome:

- The micro-social practices of everyday life;

- The hidden work of social actors, institutions and organizations;

- The (sub)cultures of responsibility;

- Responsibility and social change;

- Responsibility, gender issues and intersections;

- Responsibility and citizenship;

- Responsibility in organizations, institutions and systems;

- The innovative qualitative methods that analyze and give voice and visibility to the frontline social actors, workers, organizations, institutions.

Multiple Spiritualities through the Lens of Ethnography

Convenors: Stefania Palmisano (University of Turin) & Emily Pierini  (Sapienza University of Rome)


In the field of studies of spirituality outside institutionalized religions, the categorization of “New Age” (or a New Age Movement) has recently been undermined by scholars suggesting that it would be more suitably termed “spirituality”. This category reflects an emic conceptualization; in fact, few of those who might be considered New Agers actually label themselves as such; they rather call what they do “spirituality” However, concerns remain over whether the term “spirituality”, which has much broader analytical connotations, can be used in this way, and whether it should be singular or plural. In this panel, we address this issue by asking whether there is such a thing as “global” spirituality, exploring the ways in which spirituality is defined through cross-cultural and transnational perspectives. To this end, the panel aims to gather papers illustrating how spirituality is conceived and practised in different places around the world by means of ethnographic analysis. It seeks to illuminate differences and similarities in the ways in which spirituality is unfolding in various locations. Ethnography has a crucial contribution to this endeavour because it provides detailed descriptions of how spirituality is lived through in everyday practice.

Mobility and transnationalization are key aspects that we propose to explore in the debate upon the scholarly categorization of “spirituality”. Therefore, we invite papers presenting ethnographic cases that tackle one or more of the following topics, particularly those that compare different cultural contexts:

- Transnational forms of spiritual practices;

- Spiritual healing and holistic therapies;

- Relationship between humans and spirits;

- Relationship between spirituality and religion;

- Spiritual tourism and mobility;

- Methodological challenges.

Doing Ethnographic Research in the Field of Anti-Trafficking

Methodological and Conceptual Challenges

Convenors: Giulia Garofalo Geymonat (Università Cà Foscari, Venice) & Michela Semprebon (Cattedra Unesco SSIIM, Università IUAV, Venice)

This session proposal aims to address the theme of human trafficking and to critically assess the systems of prevention, protection and rehabilitation in origin, destination and transit countries, within and outside the EU, and their impact on women, men and transgender people involved in trafficking.

This session intends to bring together scholars from sociology, anthropology, gender studies, migration and legal studies, human rights, who have explored the functioning of the existing anti-trafficking systems in EU and non-EU countries and the extent to which they are dealing with the needs of victims, in face of the changing dynamics and emerging routes and trends of trafficking. In fact, in spite of a proliferation of anti-trafficking projects, little critical evaluation has been carried out to assess anti-trafficking policies and practices.

This panel welcomes contribution from scholars who have adopted ethnographic approaches to interrogate anti-trafficking interventions. The following are examples of questions that they might have addressed:

- To what extent are the anti-trafficking systems equipped to deal with different kinds of victims – in particular how are they able to take into account their diverse positioning in terms of gender, age, sexual orientation, parenthood, nationality, ethnicity?

- Although women and unaccompanied minors are traditionally considered as most vulnerable to sexual exploitation, transgender people and men are being increasingly involved in this and other forms of exploitation. What are their living conditions and what obstacles do they face to access the anti-trafficking system?

- How are systems of anti-trafficking dealing with issues linked to secondary trafficking routes, and to so called “re-trafficking” dynamics in countries of origin?

- Many victims of trafficking have been living in EU countries for more than two years, within or without the system of reception and/or protection. How have their experiences of anti-trafficking interventions impacted their present lives and future projects? To what extent have programs of “voluntary return” represented an effective opportunity in this sense?

- What are the challenges of conducting research in the field of anti-trafficking, in relation to access to the field, researcher positionality, autonomy of critical research – in particular but not exclusively depending on funding sources?

- How have researchers experimented with forms of participatory or collaborative research in this field, and to what extent have they been able to address the conflicts and polarizations that characterise trafficking and anti-trafficking?


Trafficking, anti-trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation, secondary routes, re-trafficking.

Materializing Ethnography

The Ethnographic Gaze on Material Culture, between Consumption, Media and Technology Studies

Convenors: Lorenzo Domaneschi (University of Milan) &  Oscar Ricci (University of Milan-Bicocca)

There has been an increasing interest in materiality and material culture within the social sciences in recent years, both extending “classical” works on consumption and science studies and also exploring new “materialist” point of views about media and digital culture. On the whole, the study of material culture challenges the historical separation between the natural sciences as being the place for the study of the material world and the social sciences as being where society and social relations can be understood. In fact, a key area of contestation in the literature on material culture is the question of agency and the ways in which objects can produce particular effects and allowing (or preventing) certain cultural practices.

Although understandings of material culture have often been implicit within ethnographic work, it is only recently that ethnographic methods have started to be explicitly used to observe material practices in context. In fact, ethnographies of material culture operate from the idea that humans construct their social world by making and using things, constructing buildings and dwelling in them. Reciprocally things, artifacts and objects, and spaces construct human subjects, our personhood, our identity. As long as we make things, things make us.

Thus, such approaches pose challenges to the dominance of qualitative word-based methods (such as straightforward interviews) within social science methodological approaches. Studies specifically based on materiality may question existing theoretical models in the sociology of culture and provide researchers with opportunities for new empirical data.

With these considerations in mind, we would like to invite papers related to the role of materiality in different domains of culture. The panel would welcome object-based ethnographies, with an interest in the relationship people have to different kind of objects, things or technological artifacts. Particularly, two main streams of research are considered to be of main interest for this panel:

a) the critical understanding of tacit-knowledge, meaning the non‐verbalised, the embodied, the sensory and the emotional and how such issues could be reframed in relation with material culture approaches;

b) the calling in question of the dichotomy between digital culture and material culture. People consume digital goods for the same reasons they consume material goods: to establish social status and live up to the expectations of their peer groups, to build and express identity.

Open Questions

- If material culture is not simply reflective of social practice, but rather constitutive of it, to what extent can we describe the boundaries between our bodies (humanhood) and things (objecthood)?

- How do people define agency in relation to artifacts and technology? How is it possible to consider the agency of inanimate objects, consider them as active agents in the making of our social world?

- To what extent materiality could be considered as a part of digital culture? Or, instead, is there a need to consider materiality as a sort of theoretical approach in order to understand digital culture? For example, how “memes” or “algorithms” could be investigated through the lens of a material culture approach?

Topics may include (but are not limited to):

- The material culture of video games;

- The material culture of food and wine;

- Material culture and mobility;

- Sport and material culture;

- The material culture of memes and virality.


Material culture, agency, practice, embodied culture, digital culture, brand community.

Fields of Study

Sociology of consumption, Sociology of media and digital culture, Cultural anthropology, Sociology of food, Sociology of sport, Games studies, Fandom studies.

Sensorial Worlds of Production and Consumption

Convenors: Shawnee Harkness & Clelia Viecelli (University of Southampton)


The sensorial aspect of conducting fieldwork has been recently noticed by anthropologists (see e.g. Classen and Howes 1996, Ingold 2000, Grasseni 2004, Pink 2009). The traditional ethnographic practice of participant observation, it has been remarked, is better framed as a multisensory engagement with the field and the people living in it, as well as an emplaced way of knowing. By sharing with our informants the same sensuous reality, as ethnographers we intimately experiment and learn other ways of being in, and perceiving the world. Within this perspective, learning and knowing are situated in embodied practice and movement. In this sense, the process of apprenticeship initiated in the field takes on novel ontological considerations.

This panel seeks to explore how sensory ethnography as a research method can become ontologically relevant in social and cultural contexts where the senses represent a category of meaning. In particular, we invite contributions that focus on sensorial worlds of production and consumption. This will draw attention to the role sensory ethnography plays in providing new insights that take into account the multi-sensorial aspects of the processes behind production and/or consumption of sensuous commodities.

We welcome case studies engaging with sensory ethnography as the main research method in contexts of production and/or consumption where the senses hold crucial significance for our informants and their lives. This may include, but is not limited to, artisanal and/or industrial production of goods which require an intimate and sensuous engagement with various materials and environments; emergent forms of consumption which explicitly rely on the role and value of our senses (i.e. the so-called “experience economy”); pleasure and intoxication driven commodities such as alcohol (i.e. wine, whiskeys, and beer), drugs (i.e. coffee, cannabis, and coca), or food (i.e. chocolate, sugar cane, and avocados);

Open Questions

- What are the challenges attached to the sensorial study of commodities and consumption?

- What are the differences in terms of sensorial engagement between the industrial model of production and consumption, and a more small-scale, artisanal one?

- With a rise in popularity for commodities like artisanal coffee, craft beer, and recreational cannabis, how might the sensorial study of consumption change how we frame our research questions, theoretical tools, methods, metrics, and modes of interpretation?

- More broadly, how has sensory ethnography shaped anthropological theory?


Sensory ethnography, senses, sensuous commodities, pleasure, production, consumption, intoxication.

Fields of Study

Anthropology of the senses, cultural studies, sensory sociology, consumer research, human geography, environmental studies.


Relatedness through Transnational Reproduction

Convenors: Corinna Sabrina Guerzoni (Università di Bologna) & Giulia Zanini (Queen Mary, London)


One of the salient features of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) is their capability to produce mobilities, something which has moral, body-related, economic and emotional consequences (Melhuus, 2009). Although being globally spread, ARTs’ local availability depends on a number of factors, among which national regulations play a crucial role. Legal provisions, establishing which reproductive services or techniques are available to whom and at what cost, have proven to be one of the reasons why individuals cross borders to seek conception and reproductive care (Shenfield et al. 2010). The issue of legal restrictions to ARTs in given locations in the so-called Global North and the availability of services in others, have contributed to the emergence of flows of people moving to specific areas of the world to seek assistance or to offer their reproductive services, on the one hand. On the other hand, they have contributed to foster a stratification of reproduction (Colen 1995; Ginsburgs & Rapp 1995) on a global scale. This phenomenon has multidimensional implications (Salama et al. 2018), whereby ethical, economic, social, cultural and legal dimensions are intertwined in the production of parenthood for certain individuals through the participation of multiple actors. While travel to cross-border services has been welcome as a form of resistance to local heteronormative or selective reproductive politics and has been related to ‘queer reproductions’, it has also attracted criticism for its participation in global gendered exploitative dynamics. Reproduction scholars have recently brought into conversation three different approaches to the study of transnational reproduction: ‘queer reproductions’, ‘stratified reproduction’ and ‘reproductive justice’ (Smietana, Thompson and Twine 2018). Taking on such an urgent call for further reflection, we propose to look at how relatedness (Carsten 2004) is created among actors in cross-borders reproductive encounters. In this panel we aim at exploring the ways in which all actors involved in transnational reproduction relate to its complexities through the elaboration of specific narratives, feelings, practices or legal actions of relatedness to one another.

Open Questions

- How does transnational reproduction affect the way in which prospective parents, donors or surrogates feel about relatedness in their life in relation to and beyond their transnational reproductive experience?

- What is the role of mediators, brokers, facilitators and lawyers in the creation of specific narratives and practices of relatedness or kinship following transnational reproduction?

- How do local administrations, policy-makers and national and international courts deal with claims of kinship or relatedness proceeding from transnational reproductive practices?

- How does transnational reproduction change local policies in different locations in terms of relatedness and kinship (i.e. country of residence of travelers; reproductive hubs; country of residence of surrogates or donors; etc.)?

- What kind of moral economies are being mobilized when building relatedness through transnational reproduction?

- How can scholarly attention to transnational reproduction participate in building global solidarities? + How are the concepts of reproductive justice and reproductive rights are used by different social actors and institutions when referring to different kind of relatedness in transnational reproduction?


Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), Sperm and Egg Donation, Surrogacy, Relatedness, Transnational Reproduction.

Fields of Study

Anthropology, Sociology, Feminist and Gender Studies, Kinship Studies, Reproduction Studies.


Ethnographies of energy production in times of transition

Convenors: Noura AlKhalili (Lund University) & Gloria Pessina (Politecnico di Milano)


Emerging disciplines such as the Energy Humanities (Szeman & Boyer 2017) are currently showing the need to overcome strict scientific boundaries in order to grasp the complexity of the current socio-economic and ecological transition at multiple geographical scales. It is in this framework that recent studies on energy ethnography have taken place (Smith & High 2017; Goodman 2018), mostly with the aim of shedding light on the social and material dimension of apparently invisible energy infrastructures. Only few studies adopted an ethnographic approach to research on energy production places (Bougleux 2012), be it traditional workplaces such as thermoelectric (or nuclear) power stations or more recently renewable energy power plants and territories, probably due to the difficulty of accessing the field. Several researches engaged with the ethnography of energy consumption, investigating values, practices and habits of the end-users (Strauss et. al 2013), while others paid more attention to the impacts on everyday life of mineral extraction and energy production, especially in the Global South (Sawyer 2014; Howe & Boyer 2016).

Lately, emerging research is tackling EU’s decarbonisation strategy and mitigation of climate change through investigating transition to renewable energies. Specifically, the Saharan desert of North Africa is perceived as a vast untapped supply of nearby renewable energy. Equally, North African countries are highly interested in energy transitions to renewables for both domestic use and export. There is not much research around large-scale renewable energy production schemes and only a few studies mention issues of land ownership and the presence of communities in these areas (Rignall 2016).

Clearly, more empirical research – and ethnographic – is needed to focus on culture, power, social relations and the people’s lived experiences in and around energy production plants. Ethnography is crucial so to bring to the fore elements such as gender differences and other less visible power relations in the context of study. It also helps to contextualize the ontological positions and subjectivities of people and gives local meaning to the relation to technology, society and environment. Therefore, this call for papers invites either ethnographic or qualitative contributions that deal with themes around energy transition and climate justice, highlighting aspects related to communities around both renewable and traditional energy production plants, issues of land enclosures, manufacturing processes, local participation for just energy production and transfer.

Open Questions

- How is energy produced in times of ecological transition and economic crisis?

- How can energy production work be observed and described by ethnographers?

- What is the role of the human work in traditional and renewable energy production? How does it interact with machine work?

- Which power relations characterize traditional energy production workplaces (e.g. thermoelectric power stations) and renewable energy production territories (e.g. solar power plants)?

- Which forms of local resistance to new energy production plants or to the dismantling of underused traditional plants can be recognized?

- To what extent do energy production workplaces and territories shed light on the current socio-economic conjuncture?

- Which territories are currently emerging in the global energy production geography? Which are declining?

- To what extent are the large-scale renewable energy production schemes bound to be a new form of exploitation?


Electric power stations, energy transition, large-scale renewable energy plants, energy justice, workplace ethnographies.

Fields of Study

Energy/environmental humanities, Political ecology, Anthropology of energy, History of energy, Human geography, Sociology of work, Sociology of the territory.


Bougleux E., 2012, Soggetti egemoni e saperi subalterni. Etnografia in una multinazionale del settore dell’energia, Firenze: Nardini.

Goodman J., 2018, “Researching climate crisis and energy transition: Some issues for ethnography”, Energy Research & Social Science, 45: 340-347.

Howe C., Boyer D., 2016, “Aeolian extractivism and community win in Southern Mexico”, Public Culture, 28 (2(79)): 215-235.

Huber M., 2015, “Energy and social power. From political ecology to the ecology of politics”. In: Perreault T., Bridge G., Mac Carthy J. (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Political Ecology, Oxon: Routledge.

Rignall, K., 2016, “Solar Power, State Power, and the Politics of Energy Transition in Pre-Saharan
Morocco”, Environment and Planning A, 48(3):540–557.

Sawyer S., 2014, Crude Chronicles. Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador, Durham: Duke University Press.

Smith J., High M.M., 2017, “Exploring the anthropology of energy: Ethnography, energy and ethics”, Energy Research & Social Science, 30: 1-6.

Strauss S., Rupp S., Love T., 2013, Cultures of Energy: Power, Practices, Technologies, London: Routledge.

Szeman I., Boyer D., 2017, Energy Humanities: An Anthology, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Youth Collectivities: Making them Visible and Researchable

Convenor: Valentina Cuzzocrea (Università di Cagliari), Ilaria Pitti (Università di Bologna)


Theories of individualisation, from Ulrich Beck onwards, have largely influenced the study of young people across approaches and contexts. While the meanings and value of ‘being together’ have received attention along specific research interests (for instance, in relation to peer relations in educational settings), scholarship has at times subtly suggested, and often implied, that young people are sole travellers, and that it is alone that they face the difficult socio-economic circumstances that have hit them the most among generations. Attempts to account for the relation between the individual and the collective have been few in youth transitions studies. In youth cultural studies, a critique of traditional Birmingham School accounts of ‘subculture’ and their collective aspects – often related to the sociologist of ‘tribes’ Michel Maffesoli – seems to have lost its energy. The criticism of this lies especially in the fact that a marked disinterest in collectivity per sé may impede to investigate in sufficient depth the very nature of youth interactions and youth life-worlds. Simultaneously, the lack of attention on aspects of collectivity within a fast growing youth research corpus, has left researchers short of adequate methodological instruments to study youth collectivity phenomena.

Therefore, this session seeks to discuss how young people come together in ways that are significant to them (a) and push this interest further in the direction of how we might study these aggregations (b). The focus on youth is meant to be both relevant in itself and strategic to reflect on wider societal changes.

This proposal is built on work in progress, including the edited collections Forms of Collective Engagements in Youth Transitions: a Global Perspective (edited by Valentina Cuzzocrea, Ben Gook and Bjørn Schiermer for Brill) and Youth Collectivities. Cultures, Objects, Belonging (edited by Bjørn Schiermer, Ben Gook and Valentina Cuzzocrea for Routledge). Following this, it seeks to further sensibilize to the topic and encourage to reflect on the best ethnographic strategies to investigate it.

Open Questions

- Are existing ethnographic methods adequate to capture the meanings of youth collectivities? How do we relate, as researchers, with settings which may be very normative (e.g. in education, inside schools, and school to work programmes etc.), or at the contrary very fluid and spontaneous (e.g. in the streets, in leisure, consumption etc.)?

- Can we solve all power and ethical issues with participatory methods?

- And how far can we experiment with new research methods in ways that on one side keep the dialogue open with practitioners and policy makers, and on the other, stay theoretically sound?


Youth, subculture, transitions to adulthood, individualization theory, participatory methods.

Fields of Study

Sociology, cultural studies, youth studies, leisure studies, consumption.

Public Health Interventions: Global Problems, Local Solutions

Convenors: Sandra L. Trappen (Penn State University) & Zoe Meleo-Erwin (William Paterson University of New Jersey)


Problems in public health cut across traditional disciplinary divides and require increased efforts to coordinate research and communicate important findings. Key to the notion of what has been called “Public Health 3.0” (Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2017) is the assertion that affected communities must not only have a voice in public health approaches but must in fact lead them. Public health officials increasingly acknowledge the importance of local communities and decision making. Further, there is a realization that successful public health approaches to problem solving will require public health workforces to “acquire and strengthen its knowledge base, skills and tools to meet the evolving challenges to population health, to be skilled at building strategic partnerships to bring about collective impact, to harness the power of new types of data, and to think and act in a systems perspective” (2017). In recognition of these developments, we propose a session seek research that helps demonstrate how critical ethnographic methods are vital to public health efforts to engage communities as active partners in problem solving.

Our proposed panel takes up the question of how critical ethnographic research methodologies can be used to complicate and extend standard understandings and approaches to key public health issues. We ask contributors to consider their fieldwork in light of at least one or more of the following research problematics: 1) how have public health interventions traditionally framed health, disease, and risk as this pertains to sexual and reproductive health, immigrant and refugee health, obesity, and addiction/drug problems and how might new insights be generated by ethnographic research attest to how this is changing? 2) how can ethnographic research help resolve the paradox, where the field of public health research has traditionally moved in the direction of understanding health, disease, and health disparities through an “upstream” social determinants of health lens and through the use of social ecological models, even as the the focus of education, treatment, and prevention remains centered on individual-level behavior change; and 3) how can ethnographic researchers effectively confront the fact that while public health as a discipline and practice has increasing embraced a mixed-methods approach, qualitative research has remained at best an adjunct to more quantitative investigations?

It is in recognition of these challenges that our panel aims to demonstrate the relevance of critical ethnographic methodologies (i.e. interviews with expert and patients, focused participant observation, and textual analysis) as a means to illuminate the ontological, epistemological, and structural foundations of key public health issues. We seek research that can demonstrate how such methodologies are fundamental to a health equity and social justice approach to population health, particularly when public the health needs of communities and populations must confront multiple and simultaneous challenges resulting from sensitive, stigmatized, and politicized populations who struggle with health issues in connection with sexuality, drug addiction, body weight, and immigration.

We would additionally like to encourage submissions from scholars who may be conducting qualitative public health research on COVID related issues as it affects their communities.

Open Questions

- How do individuals experience medical, scientific, and clinical discourses, and how do these discourses play out in and influence their selves, sense of embodiment, and social relationships?

- To what extent do public health approaches focusing on individual-level behavior change draw attention away from the need to address structural inequalities?

- How can ethnographic methods be used to illustrate the ways in which diverse individual risk factors are shaped by the larger community context as well as larger structural constraints – and synergistically intersect to produce ill health and death?

- How might public health education and awareness campaigns be improved through the use of qualitative methods?

- How can qualitative and ethnographic data meaningfully supplement the use of quantitative methods in public health research?

- Why are critical methodologies drawn from sociology, cultural studies, and other traditions vital to public health approaches to sensitive and highly stigmatized health issues and conditions?


Population health, community-engaged research, epistemology, public health campaigns, immigrant and refugee health, critical methodologies, social determinants of health, stigma, trauma and violence.


DeSalvo KB, Wang YC, Harris A, Auerbach J, Koo D, O’Carroll P. Public Health 3.0: A Call to Action for Public Health to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century. Prev Chronic Dis 2017;14:170017. DOI:

The Researcher’s Role in Militant Ethnography

Sympathy and Strain with the Research Context

Convenor: Stefano Boni (Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia)

This panel will illustrate and discuss methodological and ethical issues emerging when carrying out militant qualitative research. In comparison with more politically neutral ethnographic styles, militant research produces a particularly charged blending of political positioning in the interaction between the ethnographer and the research context. Militant ethnographers refuse to limit themselves to a mere academic role and aim to use their ethnographic experience and knowledge to assume – through personal involvement – a political role, aimed at a concrete transformation of power relations. In this process the ethnographer necessarily interacts with the political agenda of the research context, especially when this is very lively, as for example in social movements, unions, grass-root activism or labour and street protests. The political interplay between militant ethnographers and politically charged contexts may interest at least four domains: a) the ethnographer’s political positioning in relation to that of the activists (ranging from total alignment and support, sympathy mixed with reflexive critiques to hostility emerged since the begging or during fieldwork); b) the research’s effects on power dynamics within the activists (positions of leadership, decision making processes); c) the research’s effects on the wider political milieu within which the activists interact, composed of other groups that are addressing similar issues (groups may collaborate but at times there may be competition, and this may affect the ethnographer); d) the research’s effects on the relation between activists and the real or presumed beneficiaries of their struggle, for example migrants, exploited labourers or homeless. Papers should address the specific methodological and ethical dynamics resulting from the political entanglement of research and activism in their fieldwork context, attempting at the same time to sketch their stance on broad methodological and ethical issues able to resonate with other researchers. Papers based on qualitative research are welcomed from all human and social sciences (anthropology, sociology, geography, pedagogy) as well as papers based on research carried out in professional contexts (for example in refugees’ assistance).

Open Questions 

What was the degree of your political alignment with the research context? Did strains, tensions or misunderstandings with a political relevance emerge during fieldwork; if yes, for what reasons? Did your sympathy or hostility to the research context condition your research techniques? What were the methodological implications of your political positioning vis à vis the research context? Can an active engagement of the ethnographer as a facilitator, bridge or mediator between contexts inspire new political practices? Do you believe research can help provide activists tools to improve their action; if yes is this achieved through alignment or a reflexive and critical stance?


Militant ethnography, social movements, activism, methodological positioning, political positioning.

Fields of Study

Political anthropology, public anthropology, political sociology, ethnography of social movements, action research.

Micro-Sociality of the Giftee

Doing Status in Interaction: Charisma and Privilege

Convenors: Chiara Bassetti (University of Trento) & Emanuele Bottazzi (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche)

What is to be dominant in an everyday situation like at site seeing with friends, queuing at the grocery store or dancing in a club? In looking at how class distinction, or status, becomes salient and plays out in situated interaction, Di Maggio leverages theories from Bernestein, Bourdieu, and Collins, and concludes that “class identities are not very stable, not very salient, and only weakly elaborated” (p. 30) and asks therefore how to distinguish between “effects caused by social-class differences […] from generic effects situationally emergent social power and subordination” (ibid.)? This is particularly complex in those situations where, in his own terms, there is no script for the interaction, and no information on the participant/s’ status is available to the other one/s, as it happens for instance when asking information to a stranger in the street. This qualifies, therefore, as an intriguing empirical field for researching how the “dominance of the situation” (Collins 2009) comes to be in interaction.

As status is multidimensional, several sources of power may be considered. Weber (1968) identified three sources: traditional, bureaucratic and charismatic. How to account for this at the micro-interactional level? For instance, charisma must be considered also taking into account non-conceptual dimensions, such as rhythm (Bassetti, Bottazzi 2015), whereas the other two forms of power hold a clear conceptual dimension. The original meaning of the word charisma is, in Greek, gifted, in the most basic sense of the term (a gift given to someone). To be the recipient of a gift (giftee) is to entertain a relationship with a desirable object, a relationship that may configure itself as one of situated dominance. If to be charismatic can be seen at times as being talented, to be a giftee can be seen not only as being talented but also as being the receiver of something (the issuer being God, your family, another individual…). And thus somewhat invested of power.

Alongside charisma, what other sources of situational dominance are there? Is there something else to be considered that may contribute to one’s dominance in interaction. Privilege (being white, being male, being rich, etc.) is one of these candidates, as being a giftee and being charismatic share with being privileged the fact of existing without the necessity of being asked or searched for. To be gifted, to be charismatic and to be privileged appear to be somewhat close when they estrinsecate themselves in situated interaction. They are treated and thought of —managed one could say— in very similar ways, although such ways range from attraction and adoration, to resistance, and possibly, to hostility, aggression, despise.

Open Questions

Can privilege also be a source of charismatic power in micro-interaction? To put it differently, how do power sources intersect (hooks 1981, 2000)? Are being charismatic, gifted and privileged three disjointed categories or are there overlaps? More generally, what does it mean “doing status” in interaction? How does status play out in the making of the orderliness of a given interaction? Which is the role of the context —e.g. degree of scriptedness and availability of information on the participants— in this? Or, can charisma and privilege be equivocated in interaction, such that the situated charismatic leader can be revealed as just being a privileged one? Is this a relevant nexus between the conceptual and the nonconceptual dimension? How to deal with the issue of the awareness of participants in their fascination for the giftee? What is to be aware of the privilege?


Charisma, privilege, giftee, situated dominance, doing status, intersectionality, (non)conceptual dimension.

Fields of Study 

Intersectionality studies, gender studies, studies of power and inequalities, micro-sociology, ethnomethodology, contemporary sociological theory, philosophy of the social sciences, social ontology


Bassetti, C, Bottazzi, E. (2015), ‘The Power of Rhythm. From Dance Rehearsals to Adult-Newborn Interaction’, Etnografia e Ricerca Qualitativa, 8, 3, pp. 453-480.

Collins, R. (2009), Violence: A micro-sociological theory, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Di Maggio, P. (2012), Sociological perspectives on the face-to-face enactment of class distinction. In S. T. Fiske and H. R. Markus (Eds.), Facing social class: How societal rank influences interaction (pp. 15-38). New York, NY, US: Russell Sage Foundation.

hooks, b. (1981) Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism, Boston, South End Press.

hooks, b. (2000) Where We Stand: Class Matters, New York, Routledge.

Weber, M. (1968), Economy and society: an outline of interpretive sociology (1922), Bedminster Press, NYC.


Ethnographies of Algorithms and (Big)Data

Convenors: Biagio Aragona & Adam Arvidsson (University Federico II of Naples)


As algorithms and (big)data are increasingly shaping government policy, commercial practice and popular representations of the social world, and the need to think critically about their production and consumption is ever more recognized.

In the past ten years a growing number of scholars have started to focus critical attention on software code and algorithms contributing to Science and Technology Studies (STS), new media studies and software studies, in order to unpack the nature of algorithms. Some have concentrated on how algorithms are generated (Bucher 2012; Geiger 2014), others on how they work within specific domains such as journalism (Anderson 2011), security (Amoore 2006; 2009) or finance (Pasquale 2015).

An empirical effort to investigate the intertwined assemblage of socio-cultural and material entities that shape algorithms and data can be fruitfully detected in ethnography. Within STS (Latour 1987), similar methods have been used for a long time to define data infrastructures (Star and Ruhleder 1996). They are influential in more recent work on the “social life of data” (Ruppert 2015), or “data assemblages” (Kitchin and Lauriault 2014). Ethnography has also been employed in critical data studies (Iliadis and Russo 2017), which aim to interrogate all forms of potentially depoliticized data science, in order to track the ways in which data are generated, curated, and how they permeate and exert power.

An interesting example of this algorithmic “power” is the case of teacher mobility in Italy, where the ministry of education applied a not open source algorithm in order to reallocate school teachers on the national territory according to school needs. An aspect of the process was particularly disapproved by the teachers: the not open source nature of the algorithm, and the difficulty to verify it. As reactions, lots of appeals in court were advanced in order to proceed towards accessing the algorithm as a computer translation of an administrative procedure. This case shows that the data assemblage results from a complex network of relationships where all the actors involved (human and non human) play a specific – and sometime an unexpected role. Understanding the role played by all these actors is one of the possible object of ethnographic research on data and algorithms.

Ethnography seems suit to face the challenges that are head. The intensive use of massive databases and the wide application of algorithms have risen some concerns, because they may lead to a technocratic form of governance (Mattern 2013). A further risk is that big data may accelerate a process of corporatization of the public arena, because they are mainly private data coming from the largest software and hardware services companies and from the big majors of communication and logistic. Unpacking the data assemblages and the performativity of algorithms in decision making may be one way for increasing the system responsiveness instead of reproducing new forms of technocratic regimes.

Our session welcomes ethnographic research addressing following, non-exhaustive, list of topics:

- Algorithms at work;

- Auditing algorithms

- Building algorithms;

- Construction of meaning from automated Natural Language Processing;

- Retracing cultural, symbolic and normative values in data and algorithms;

- Data Coding;

- The dynamics of data teams

- Definition of commands for Artificial Intelligence;

- Design of machine learning algorithms;

- Digital platforms’ analytics design;

- Ethics in automated data production;

- Practices of (big)data management and (big)data curation;

- Practices of access to data and algorithms;

- Pre-analytics of big corpora;

- Social networks as source of data;

- Software Coding.

The role of ethnography on such topics has been recognized (Geiger 2017, Seaver, 2017), and interdisciplinary research in sociology, anthropology, computer science, STS, philosophy and technology, human geography, digital humanities, and data science has been carried out. We welcome therefore scholars from all these disciplines.

Open Questions

- What are the practices of algorithms and data production and use?

- What are the actors who participate in the design of algorithms, and how do they interact?

- What values are incorporated in algorithms and data?

- How do communities of experts and stakeholders impact the shaping of algorithms and data?

- How may technical issues impact the shaping of algorithms and data?


Algorithms, (Big) data, Coding, Machine Learning, Data curation, Natural Language Processing, Artificial intelligence.

Fields of Study

Sociology of algorithms, Critical data studies, Technoscience, Digital ethnography, Social Data science.

Reflection on Research Experiences among “Unmarked” Groups

Ethnographies of Inverted Fieldworks

Convenors: Yolinliztli Pérez Hernández (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales; Institut National d’Études Démographiques) & Paulina Sabugal Paz (University of Pisa; University of Roma Tre)

Ethnography has been historically linked with the colonial relationship between Europe and their ex-colonies and with other asymmetries. For social anthropology, for example, fieldwork has consisted for a long time in the study of “exotic cultures” in non-European societies, and for sociology in the research of “marginal groups” in modern societies. Fieldwork research has an a priori: the researcher or participant observer belongs to a “we” group (civilized and Westerns) and the informant or participant observed, belongs to a “they” group (primitive and non-Western). This tendency is today mainly maintained. Researches about “unmarked” groups (white, wealthy and heterosexual people, for example) are scarce. Although the “unmarked” comprises the vast majority of social life, the “marked” commands a disproportionate share of attention from social scientists currently doing ethnography studies. Regretfully, researches subverting these historical hierarchical relationships are still rare. Several methodological obstacles (How to get access to people in order to study them? Who gives access and on what terms? Who can and who does study whom? And, under what conditions and for which objectives who studies who?) and epistemological consequences (since the marked already draws more attention within the global culture, social scientists contribute to re-mark marked groups, and to reproduce common-sense images of the social reality) are associated with this marginality.

Furthermore, not only those kind of studies are little common, but also personal reflections on research experiences. This panel aims at fulfilling this theoretical vacuum by gathering researchers working on “inverted” fieldworks. It invites social scientists conducting ethnographic fieldwork about “unmarked” groups to send a proposal. Theoretical and methodological reflections are welcomed as well as reflections on how asymmetrical relationships play in fieldwork relationships (reflexivity).

Proposals are welcome from different research fields such as anthropology, sociology, history, Latin-American studies, political studies.

Papers are invited on topics related, but not limited, to:

- Methodological, theoretical, and practical (access to fieldwork) challenges that researchers face when they study “unmarked” groups;

- How fieldwork experiences contribute to thinking epistemological conditions of the production of knowledge;

- Significant elements for the researcher’s identity to defined respectability: mainstream social values, race, gender, social interests;

- How a phenomenon becomes an ethnographically studiedly and legitimately subject of research;

- Under what historical, social and cultural conditions a social segment deserve ethnographic research;

- How methods can be used not only to debunk hierarchical research relationships but also to produce new scientific insights with greater validity.