Here you find the abstracts of the lectures the speakers sent us beforehand, check 'Reports' for summaries of the actual lectures.


  • Prof. Dr. S. Hutchinson

"Perilous Knowledge: Reflections on the Ethical Challenges of War Zone Ethnographic Research"

  • Prof. Dr. P. Bourgois

“In Search of a Good-Enough Engaged Anthropology of Violence: A 25 Year Ethnographic Retrospective”

  • Drs. M. Postma

“Access, Ethics and Loyalties: the camera as a platform in a humanitarian crisis situation”

  • Prof. Dr. J. Keenan

“The ethics of anthropological engagement in a neoliberal world”

  • Prof. Dr. R. Stade

“Victimless ethnography? Anthropology’s changing triangulations”

  • Prof. Dr. P. Bourgois

    “In Search of a Good-Enough Engaged Anthropology of Violence: A 25 Year Ethnographic Retrospective”


    A retrospective re-examination of my fieldwork sites—from the Miskitu and FMLN guerrilla fighters in the 1980s to crack dealers, gang members and homeless heroin injectors in the U.S. inner during the 1990s and 2000s--reveals the importance of theorizing violence in anthropology. The transition from the Cold War to an era of U.S. economic domination and military intervention requires a critical theoretical understanding of the continuum of violence and the stakes of the punitive neo-liberal turn since the early 1980s. Can anthropology rise to the task of understanding ethnographically the links between military/revolutionary, structural, interpersonal/intimate and symbolic violence during the wars on terror and on drugs and the poor?


    Drs. M. Postma

    “Access, Ethics and Loyalties: the camera as a platform in a humanitarian crisis situation”


    From 2003 to 2006 Metje Postma worked with a local NGO that supported several refugee communities of the Sudanese Rashaayda in Eritrea who were at that moment fighting against the government of Sudan, using the camera within an applied anthropology approach. In order to get access to the field, she relied heavily on the support, social relations, position and networking skills of her Eritrean counterparts who formed the local NGO. To address some of the main complexities of this type of research she will discuss the following propositions:

    • Ethically and practically, ethnographic research in a humanitarian crisis situation will always have strong applied anthropology features. Being seen as part of the aid-system however influences the way members of the community relate to the researcher and therefore threatens to flaw the research findings.


    • In order to have access to the field, the researcher relies fully on her counterpart(s). This must me persons that have a strong and influential position in the field. Being part of their networks and strategies may also make her complicit to whatever tactics that person uses to survive and to be able to work in a murky socio-political environment.


    • For ethnographers who depend on trusting social relations to perform their research, war creates a condition of ‘embeddedness’ more than any other social condition. As much as talking with ‘the enemy’ can be interpreted as spying and betrayal. Therefore the ethnography of humanitarian crisis in the context of war is often not comprehensive in the description of the whole context.


    • Using the video-camera in a humanitarian crisis has the potential of bringing the people in the field to the world. The role of advocator for the community is an almost natural consequence of this. But the academic environment poses other demands to the content and genre of publication than the genre of exposure that is needed to relieve the immediate needs of the people in the field. The researcher will need to balance these two forms of engagement.



    Prof. Dr. J. Keenan

    “The ethics of anthropological engagement in a neoliberal world”

    My talk is a personal journey through anthropology, from Che Guevara and Frantz Fanon to Tony Blair and George Bush; geographically via Latin America, Algeria, the Sahara, the Middle East, the Kalahari and apartheid South Africa, the former Soviet Union and then back to Algeria, the Sahara, the Sahel and finally Rwanda; intellectually through the useful dead-end of British structural functionalism, the dilettantism of Levi-Straussian structuralism, the death of developmentalism, the wealth of neo-Marxism, the negativism and self-indulgence of post-modernism and the ‘terror’ of neo-liberalism. It is a journey from colonialism and resistance to post-colonialism and more resistance, seen through the prisms of apartheid, poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation, exclusion, conflict, genocide, globalisation, imperial over-reach and the ‘war on terror’.

    That is a long journey and one that has given a highly privileged and insightful understanding of the ways of the world and its peoples. It is the journey of an anthropologist. But as Mrs Thatcher, the Mrs Thatcher who pronounced the greatest man of our age [Mandela-WDO] a terrorist, once remarked: ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’. In the same way, I believe that for anthropologists there are no free journeys. Our privileged insight is one that is given to us by the ‘other’, and like all gifts it requires reciprocity, in the form, so I believe, of our engagement.
    That is what I want to talk about today: our responsibilities as anthropologists and the multiple moral and ethical questions of anthropological engagement. Knowing what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is one thing, but putting what is ‘right’ into practice is often neither easy nor clear-cut, and there are costs. Amidst the romanticism that shrouds our subject, we should not underestimate the latter, as they can be personally immense. A good anthropologist, or at least a committed one, should be fighting on at least two fronts.


    Prof. Dr. R. Stade

    “Victimless ethnography? Anthropology’s changing triangulations”

    Like other types of literary work, the scientific genre of ethnography exists for the purpose of communication. Acts of communication commonly involve a transmitter, in this case the author of an ethnography; a recipient, such as the reader of same ethnography; a message; and some form of feedback. In addition, ethnographic communication per definition includes the people who are the object of study. We can thus identify at least three parties in the ethnographic genre: the ethnographer; the audience; and the research subjects.


    The triangular relationship between these three categories of people has changed over time. In the nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, the relationship between, on the one hand, ethnographer and audience, and, on the other, research subjects, was one of I-It (in Martin Buber’s sense). That is, the people who were depicted in ethnographic writing were treated as if they belonged to the realm of nature and things. They were objects of study. The relationship between ethnographer and audience, however, was one of coequality. The audience could be expected to consist of learned gentlemen. In the course of the twentieth century, and in particular since the 1960s, the triangular relationship has undergone a dramatic shift. Ethnographers regularly lay claim to being in an I-Thou relationship with the research subjects. Frequently, ethnographies contain allusions to bonds of friendship between the anthropologist and a research subject.


    The audience at large, on the other hand, has become less specific. It no longer can be expected to share the author’s outlook, values, and expert knowledge (the distance between professional anthropologists and amateur ethnographers has increased in the course of the twentieth century). This general trend, in part, is inconsistent with another development, namely that another kind of audience has entered the triangular relationship of anthropology. The new audience not only reads, it often wishes to play an active role in the production of ethnographies. At the least, it asks for specific data and interpretations for particular purposes. This audience consists of parties in political conflicts – parties like independence and indigenous rights movements, intelligence and military agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and so on. Ethnographers may find themselves pressured from different sides.


    A process of triangulation, in which we consider the relationships that make up the triangle of ethnographer, audience, and research subjects, may help in defining the position of contemporary anthropology. It may also guide us in how to navigate the genre of potentially dangerous ethnography. Whether or not we can find a path toward a victimless ethnography will be put up for discussion.


    Prof. Dr. S. Hutchinson

    “Perilous Knowledge: Reflections on the Ethical Challenges of War Zone Ethnographic Research”


    Sites of violence are especially revealing contexts for exploring the soft underbelly of ethnographic practice. Prone to wildly unpredictable upheavals, fieldwork in "unstable places" can prove harrowing, physically and emotionally. Such sites also present profound ethical and methodological challenges. Basic obligations of the researcher to secure informed consent, ensure beneficence, maintain impartiality, guarantee confidentiality, eschew privilege and create valid and balanced representations require constant vigilance in any context. But war zone research intensifies such challenges, often exposing underlying ethical enigmas in the process.