Modern institutions in a 'cross-cultural' perspective - ethnographies of adaptation and code-switching

Almut Schneider (Goethe University, Frankfurt)
Elisabeth Tauber (Free University Bolzano)
Prof. Judith Okely
Start time:
27 August, 2008 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Ethnographic research in modern institutions as seen internally, externally, from in between, as "implementations". What modes of adaptations or "code-switching" can be found? What is the anthropologist's role between open-ended ethnographic description and "useful application"?

Long abstract:

Ethnographic research centering on institutions and organisations plays an increasingly significant role in our discipline, not only because more and more anthropologists are working as consultants. Within this growing field, the focus of the workshop will be on "modern" institutions (e.g. schools, hospitals, prisons, army, employment centres, public service institutions, etc.), and seeks ethnographic examples of situations, regardless of specific regions (inside or outside Europe), where people are involved with modern institutions 'cross-culturally'. For example, people "inside" institutional contexts dealing with different "outside" realities or people from "outside" approaching institutions inherited from colonial/postcolonial implementations. What are the concrete and intended articulations of places, people and specific forms of social relations and knowledge? Who is adapting how and to whom or what? How do institutions and people react to these adaptations? What other approaches are being attempted as in, for example - to borrow from a linguistic concept - people code-switching when moving between the inside and outside of institutions. How are internal, institutionalized discourses perceived in contexts of cultural diversity? Finally, one might ask what the role of anthropologists is here? Where does an open-ended ethnographic description (model) end and where does a specific "useful" application as 'expert knowledge', with clearly targeted outputs start? How can anthropologists react to the practical needs and interests of an institution? Does the increasing need for collaboration (mutuality) that anthropologists identify cause dilemmas similar to those encountered in recent debates on audit and accountability?