"American Studies" and the prospects for ethnography
Jane Desmond (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Paper short abstract:
While few foreign anthropologists conduct fieldwork in the United States, some specialists on the United States, located in 'American Studies,' are beginning to include fieldwork in their range of methodologies. How can these two groups interact?
Paper long abstract:
Few foreign anthropologists conduct fieldwork in the United States, but some specialists on the United States located in the interdisciplinary Ph. D.-granting field of 'American Studies' (and increasingly trained and practicing in the United States) are beginning to include fieldwork in their range of methodologies. Drawing on extensive data analysis about the current U.S. faculty in American Studies, this paper examines the growth of this segment of the interdisciplinary field of 'American Studies' in the United States and asks what the future of a collaborative relationship between domestic and foreign fieldworkers might look like from a domestic U.S. academic perspective. Within the United States the field of 'American Studies' has, since the 1930s, developed as an academic specialty combining historical and literary study. In the last 20 years or so, influenced by British Cultural Studies and its sociological bases, the study of audiences, practices, and social formations has attracted new interest in the conduct of fieldwork. This has resulted in important fieldwork-based studies by non-anthropologists, working in venues as disparate as the Wall Street trading floor and the popular music industry. This paper analyses the possible relationships between these scholars and foreign anthropologists.
Does the future of anthropology not include the USA as a field site (except as 'anthropology at home')?