Reports lectures WDO Symposium 2008

Below you'll find the reports of the lectures of the WDO Symposium 2008. These reports are written by members of the audience and depend on their interpretation and notes of what was said. They are not necessairily reflecting the extact words and opinions of the speakers.


Have fun and let yourself be inspired reading them!

Prof. Dr. Sharon Hutchinson

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


- Report by Marlous van den Akker


‘It is never too late to negotiate’


Imagine a frog in pond. Now, if you put this frog in a pan of boiling water, it will reflexively jump out to protect itself. However, if you let it paddle for a little while in normal temperature and slowly heat it up, it will not recognize the danger and will calmly wait until it is cooked-through.

Prof. Dr. Jeremy Keenan

'The ethics of anthropological engagement in a neoliberal world'

- Report by Annemarie Samuels


Prof. Keenan thanks the WDO for the invitation to this symposium. He recalls that, when discussing the topic of the lecture on the phone, the organizers stressed the ethical and the autobiographical aspects of the lecture. He goes on to introduce his lecture by calling it a personal journey through anthropology. This journey leads us through different ideologies, regions and theoretical perspectives. It is also a journey of resistance to many issues such as post-colonialism and “resistance, seen through the prisms of racism, apartheid, poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, exclusion, conflict, genocide, imperial over-reach and the ‘war on terror’.” This journey gives him privileged understanding of the world and its people. But, in the same way as Margaret Thatcher once remarked that ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’, there are no free journeys for anthropologists. Our insight, given by the ‘other’, requires our engagement in return.

Prof. Dr. Philippe Bourgois

'A 25 Year Ethnographic Retrospective on An Anthropology of Violence'


- Report by Rivke Jaffe


In his presentation, Philippe Bourgois gave an overview of the ways his work has focused on various forms of violence and the ways in which this has contributed to the theorization if violence. He started off by elaborating on the concept of a ‘continuum of violence’, which he developed together with Nancy Scheper-Hughes. Within this continuum, different forms of violence overlap and can morph into each other. The four main forms of violence distinguished are, first, structural violence, as developed by scholars such as Johan Galtung and Paul Farmer. Structural violence relates to invisible political economic forces that impact on the bodies of the socially vulnerable. Such impacts are evident in class inequality, international terms of trade, unequal access to services and so on.


Prof. Dr. Ronald Stade

'Victimless Ethnography? Anthropology’s Changing Triangulations'

- Report by Edo Kort


Professor Ronald Stade started his lecture by referring to the night before: “It was the best diner I ever had!”


The scientific genre of ethnography exists for the purpose of communication. Communication involves a transmitter (the author), a recipient (the readers, and, in the case of ethnography the research subjects). The three parties together form a triangular constellation. Prof. Stade tried in his lecture at the morning of the second day of the Symposium to show us the problems connected to this triangle.


Drs. Metje Postma

‘Access, Ethics and Loyalties: the Camera as a Platform in a Humanitarian Crisis Situation’


- Report by Mathilde Vanderbooren


‘Through you we ask the world’ – Leader of the Free Lions Forces


Drs. Metje Postma discussed the ethics and implications of introducing the camera during her research (2003-2006) on the humanitarian crisis at the Eritrean border. In her presentation - a variation of speech and video fragments-, she highlighted the complexity of applied anthropological research in such a crisis situation.


Prof. Dr. Thomas Hylland Eriksen

Introduction to the Plenary Discussion

- Report by Maarten Onneweer


Thomas Hylland Eriksen (THE) started the plenary session by mentioning some common themes in anthropology and controversy, namely methodological, epistemological and existential. Furthermore, he attributed to anthropologists a self image of being marginal, being at frontier and negotiating boundaries. Part of this self image is the idea of fieldwork as a rite of passage which shapes our collective identity, bringing us a sense of community of anthropologists. It gives us a normative partiality, our work is always incomplete, and our field is irreducibly complex. Because of this, more description is always better. As a student you need to take these things into account, you will face existential questions; otherwise you would be better of finding another discipline.