Category Archives: Uncategorized

Grappling with Radical Vulnerability

A workshop with Richa Nagar
University of Minnesota
Author of Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism
Tuesday May 23 | 4p – 6p | MCC 201

Please join us for this special hands-on workshop with Richa Nagar. The workshop, to be led by Nagar, will focus on internalizing the practice/politics/poetics of radical vulnerability. To get the most out of the workshop Nagar has requested that participants read two short interviews, linked below. During the workshop we will draw on concepts that Nagar has developed to reflect on our own intellectual projects and epistemological/political struggles related to building alliances across scholarship and everyday lives and struggles. The readings offer a backdrop for the deeper hands-on work that we will do together.

Food will be provided for those that RSVP here:


Elizabeth Dauphinee’s interview with Nagar in the Journal of Narrative Politics

An conversation about friendships, collaborations and alliance work between Nagar and “The Toronto Group” that appeared in Feminist Studies.


Richa Nagar is Professor of the College in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, and currently holds a Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence and a Beverly and Richard Fink Professorship in Liberal Arts. Her multi-lingual and multi-genre research and teaching blends scholarship, creative writing, political theatre, and community activism to build alliances with people’s struggles and to engage questions of ethics, responsibility, and justice in and through knowledge making.

Richa’s co/authored or co/edited books in Hindi and English include: Sangtin Yatra: Saat Zindgiyon Mein Lipta Nari Vimarsh (2004), Playing with Fire: Feminist Thought and Activism through Seven Lives in India (2006), A World of Difference: Encountering and Contesting Development (2009), Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis (2010), Ek Aur Neemsaar: Sangtin Atmamanthan Aur Andolan (2012), Muddying the Waters: Coauthoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism (2014), and Main aur Mera Man: Sharad Nagar (2016).

Richa was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford in 2005-2006 and at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Study (JNIAS) at New Delhi in 2011-2012. Her home department is Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies.

Making Out in the Mainstream: GLAAD and the Politics of Respectability

A book presentation by Vincent Doyle
IE University (Spain)
Tuesday May 30th | 3p – 4:30 | MCC 201

Making Out in the Mainstream is the first full-length study of the rise and evolution of GLAAD, the media advocacy organization formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Founded in 1985 by a small group of writers and academics who were angry with how the New York Post was covering the AIDS crisis, GLAAD has become one of the most visible organizations of the LGBTQ movement. This book is based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in 2000–01 and a further round of interviews conducted in 2014-2015.

Doyle argues that the earlier strategy of coming out to the mainstream, intended to dismantle closeted life and create a mass movement, has been supplanted by the market-oriented making out in the mainstream, which privileges respectable images of homosexuality in the pursuit of political and economic gain. He shows how this emphasis on respectability clashes with the development of a diverse movement that campaigns for greater inclusion and he offers a sophisticated appeal for more complicated understandings of assimilation and anti-normalization.

Painting a complex portrait of a prominent gay and lesbian organization during a period of rapid societal change, Making Out in the Mainstream reveals not only the limitations of “mainstreaming,” but also its political possibilities.

Vincent Doyle is the Academic Director of the Master in Visual and Digital Media (MVDM) at IE University (Spain). Originally from Ottawa, Canada, he holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (USA), and an MA in Communication from McGill University, Montreal (Canada). He is a Fellow of the Sexuality Research Fellowship Program of the US Social Science Research Council (2000) and has received two top paper awards from the International Communication Association.  Prior to his appointment at IE University, he was Visiting Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellow at Macalester College, St Paul, Minnesota (USA).

Why Data Journalism Exists, and Why It Matters (or Doesn’t)

Professor of Media and Communication
University of Leeds
April 26, 2017 | 12:30p – 2p | MCC 201

Is journalism today better than it has ever been? The question, on the surface, seems ridiculous. Fox News and dominate our political discourse. A reality-television show star leveraged the affordances of cable news to vaunt himself into the Presidency. Newspaper circulation numbers and journalist employment levels are dropping. Nevertheless this talk will argue that, at certain elite publications, a lot of journalism is more accurate, more quantitative and more explanatory than ever– and this elite journalism, paradoxically, matters less than ever to American political discourse.

This talk tries to get at these issues by taking a trip back into the recent past, and examining the origins of our modern form of quantified journalism. It outlines five reasons why data journalism exists in its present day form, reasons that lead back to the intellectual dynamics of the 1960s and 1970s. I look at (1) the work of the Russell Sage Foundation, Columbia University, and the University of Wisconsin in promoting the “social sciences in the media” initiative in the early 1960s; (2) an emerging vision of computers and databases that allowed them to be integrated into journalistic work; (3) changing notions of what was meant by “investigative reporting” in the 1970s; (4) academic developments in journalism schools; and (5) a long-term crisis in notions of journalistic objectivity in the 1960s, in part prompted by the emergence of “the new journalism” at about the same time.

Beyond simply complicating our understanding of the sociology of data journalism, this more nuanced history allows us to better understand why data journalism has achieved such prestige today, why it nevertheless remains an outlier in most newsrooms, and how it has navigated the larger crisis in objective knowledge production gripping not only newswork but academia in general.
C. W. Anderson is Associate Professor at the College of Staten Island (CUNY); as of the Fall of 2017 he will be a Professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leeds. He is the author, coauthor, or coeditor of multiple books and articles on digital journalism, sociology, political communication, and science and technology studies.

Designing Feminist Research Technologies

Assistant Professor in Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland
Director,  Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research

April 25th, 2017 | 11a – 12:30p | Atkinson 4004

Feminist technology often refers to technologies that deal with issues of gender and equity. But recently, hackers, scholars, and designers have asked how we would design and create technologies that embody the values of feminism—equity, justice, and social transformation—that anyone can use for any purpose, including research. In this workshop, we will apprentice with Dr. Max Liboiron, director of Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist marine pollution lab in northern Canada. As a case study, participants will design feminist technologies for monitoring marine plastic pollution to learn how research instruments can embody the values and politics of feminism. The final portion of the workshop will focus on how these making and doing practices can inflect participants’ own research projects.

Max Liboiron is a scholar, activist, and artist. She is an Assistant Professor in Geography at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where she directs Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist marine science and technology laboratory that specializes in citizen science and grassroots environmental monitoring of plastic pollution. Her academic work focuses on how invisible yet harmful emerging phenomena such as toxicants from marine plastics become apparent in science and activism, and how these methods of representation relate to action. Liboiron also runs Discard Studies, an interdisciplinary hub for research on waste and wasting.  Prior to her position at Memorial, Liboiron was a Postdoctoral Fellow with both the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University and with Intel’s Science and Technology Centre for Social Computing. She holds a Ph.D. in Media, Culture, and Communication from New York University.

Mixing It Up: How to Design and Execute Interdisciplinary Research (without killing your collaborators in the process)

Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research New England
Fellow, Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society
Associate Professor of the Media School, with affiliations in American Studies, Anthropology, and Gender Studies at Indiana University.

12:30p – 2:00p, Thursday, March 2nd
MCC 127













Humanists’ critically-oriented scholarship has long struggled with when and how to best weave together quantitative and qualitative approaches to lines of inquiry. Even when they could be used to complement each other, computational and critical methodological tools are often positioned as “at odds” with or epistemologically antithetical to each other. While methodologies always hinge on the research question at hand, there are few questions about the social, cultural, economic, or political implications of “the Internet” that can afford to ignore either the “big data” produced by social interactions online or the everyday engagements and social contexts that make those interactions socially meaningful. Rather than assume that quantitative measurement and qualitative, critical interpretation are epistemological chasms, what could it look like to bridge computational and qualitative divides?

This workshop draws on the presenter’s multi-year, multi-modal study of crowdsourcing—calls for work, distributed online, through an API—as a form of employment to examine strategies for investigating ethnographically rich, data-intensive problems. Research questions, like “How is the nature of work changing through new forms of digital disaggregation and distribution?” require not only sifting and sorting through massive amounts of data but also iterating between them and people’s everyday experiences of these information and computational systems. We examine ways to effectively and rigorously extract, interpret, and learn from very large datasets and put them in conversation with surveys, participant-observation, ethnographic interviews and fieldnotes, that require new approaches to collaborative research and theory-building.

Mary Gray is the author of In Your Face: Stories from the Lives of Queer Youth (Haworth Press, 1999) and Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America (NYU Press, 2009). She received her PhD from the Department of Communication at University of California, San Diego.

Wednesday, April 29th: Ethnography | A prototype – Alberto Corsín Jiménez

Jiménez SED event poster

WEDNESDAY, April 29th
4:00 – 6:00 PM

Join SED for a talk by Alberto Corsín Jiménez, Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in Madrid. Professor Jiménez will discuss the politics of prototyping at the intersection of ethnographic design and free culture activism. This talk describes a long-term collaborative project with a variety of free culture activists in Madrid: digital artists, Occupy assemblies and guerrilla architectural collectives. Coming of age as Spain walked into the abyss of the economic crisis, Jiménez describes how the research team was forced to re- function the ethnographic project into a ‘prototype’- a notion borrowed from free culture activism. These ethnographic prototypes allowed the team to argue with collaborators *about* the city at the same time as we argued *through* the city. Providing a symmetrical counterpoint to the actions of free culture hackers elsewhere in the city, these anthropological prototypes were both a cultural signature of the radical praxis taking place in Madrid today and its expressive infrastructure.

Alberto Corsín Jiménez has recently completed a book, A trompe l’oeil anthropology for a common world (Berghahn 2013), and edited a special issue on “Prototyping Cultures” for the Journal of Cultural Economy (2014). He is also the editor of Culture and well-being: anthropological approaches to freedom and political ethics (Pluto 2008) and The anthropology of organisations (Ashgate 2007). He is a founding member of Ciudad Escuela (, an open-source urban pedagogical platform.g.

Suggested Reading:

Upcoming Event Monday March 10th: James Holston’s Social Apps Lab

Holston Poster New

James Holston will discuss the Social Apps Lab that he and Greg Niemeyer (Art Practice and New Media Studies) created in 2011 at UC Berkeley. The Lab focuses on developing interactive mobile and web applications that engage issues of urban citizenship and direct democracy.  It uses social science – especially anthropological investigation – and aspects of gameplay to identify social problems that apps can productively address by reformulating the terms of democratic assembly and civic motivation.  Among its various project during the past two years, the Social Apps Lab is building an application to promote crowdsourced initiatives to combat dengue fever called “Dengue Torpedo:A Community-Based Interactive Web and Cellphone Application for Dengue Vector Control”.  The lab is currently developing this project in Brazil and Mexico with the support of international funding and scientific collaboration.

Notes on Fieldwork After Ethnos

On Thursday December 6th, a team from UC San Diego headed north to the UC Irvine Center for Ethnography “Fieldwork After Ethnos” conference. As advertised, Tobias Rees (McGill) gave a thoughtful paper exploring the forms assumed by fieldwork when researchers are no longer interested primarily in ethnoi, the territorially imagined societies and cultures at the center of classical traditions of ethnography.

For those interested, you can find more detailed notes here, Notes on Fieldwork After Ethnos but I thought I would summarize some key points too.

What characterizes fieldwork “after ethnos”?

  • Interest in space (territory with culture, how people live ‘elsewhere’) –> interest in time (events, emergence, assemblage)
  • Fieldwork produces data –> Fieldwork produces questions (so research happens ‘after’ to address surprises/questions that emerged in the field)
  • Emphasis on surprises as a characteristic of fieldwork that produces knowledge
  • Framework is emergent, cannot be explained based on already existing paradigm
  • Cutting fieldwork loose from ethnography to open up new possibilities for research in anthropology

Basically, this is the difference between going to study the effects of neoliberalism on culture in Russian cities vs. going to Russian cities to question neoliberalism itself (as in Steven Collier’s Post-Soviet Social) Or, the difference between doing an ethnography of geeks and an ethnography of open source software (as in Chris Kelty’s Two Bits).

Other scholars mentioned as doing this kind of work included Joe Dumit, Stefan Helmreich, Cori Hayden. At this point, I think all the STS people in the room are kind of wondering what the big deal is here – isn’t this just what we are already doing?

Then it finally comes out that almost no one in the room – including those presenting – currently has a home in an anthropology department ( though we all “like the anthropology community”). So, as ethnographic methods continue to permeate all kinds of disciplines, do these interventions need to take place in anthropology? Or are we content with supportive homes found elsewhere?

But not everyone agrees with key premises here: does the ‘after ethnos’ argument start with a rather limited (and classical) understanding of ethnography today? Ethnography is arguably better defined as the study of practices than of bound systems. In any case, not all anthropology should be ‘after ethnos.’

The day ends with the suggestion that we do a better job documenting what we mean by ethnos. The Greek definition even includes ‘swarm,’ meaning we could have an ethnos of bees! If ethnos does not have to be defined by current associations with race, class, gender etc. alone, then maybe the solution is to reconfigure ethnos rather than divorce it from fieldwork altogether.