Ethnography of the State – Summer Term 2015

Here is one of two seminars on “the state” I will be teaching in the coming Summer Term 2015 at the University of Konstanz.

All BA-students registered in Konstanz are welcome:

Ethnography of the state: Participant observation and photography

The methodology of participant observation is at the forefront of this seminar. Aided by photography, we will close in on self-selected themes within the subject of ‘state’. Once characterised as “fiction of philosophers” (Radcliffe-Brown 1940), the representation of states (i.e. what concretely the state is) has become the central focus today. Students’ field research can be concentrated on institutions, such as the courts, police, state/municipal administration, and other public institutions. It can, however, also focus on other material embodiments of the state, such as streets, architecture, monuments or borders.

The topic will first be explored with the camera, and connected to the seminar by way of a concrete research question. Over the course of the seminar we will examine specific subjects in addition to making observations, and if possible we will also use other qualitative methods such as open questions and semi-structured interviews. As an accompaniment, we will read texts on ethnographic methods together with texts on the ethnography of the state.

The seminar has two goals: firstly, to discuss the method of participant observation in order to understand its possibilities and limitations; and secondly to offer a practical introduction to the theme of the ‘state’ and reflect on how such manifestations influence our daily lives.

New equipment (small and large cameras) has been purchased for the seminar specifically for students to borrow. Students can, however, also use their own cameras.

Possible work formations: individual work or two-person teams.

Seminar requirements: regular participation in class; reading of literature; regular conducting of field exercises during the semester; presentation of preliminary results; seminar paper to be written during the semester break.