Discourse and Discipline at the National Research Council: A Bureaucratic Bildungsroman

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Essay Excerpt

This article draws upon my current research project, a long-term, participant/observation-based ethnography of the grant evaluation process in several federal agencies. The grant proposal as genre and the reading practices of evaluators and funding panels represent a critical and directly consequential nexus. In such events, texts (as well as the conventions that shape them and the understandings of knowledge and truth to which they lead) can and must be considered together with those social practices through which they are produced, received, and given force.

My ethnographic materials derive from time spent evaluating proposals, both as an outside evaluator and as a member of various funding panels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the National Research Council (NRC). The last panel, that for NRC, made recommendations regarding NSF graduate student fellowships; the others considered research proposals of various sorts (24).

Brenneis, D. "Discourse and Discipline at the National Research Council: A Bureaucratic Bildungsroman." Cultural Anthropology 9.1(1994): 23–36.

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