Correspondence

The Correspondences section of the Cultural Anthropology website dates back to 2013, when Ali Kenner and Grant Otsuki created a forum called Field Notes inspired by the game of cat’s cradle. Rebooted in 2016 under the leadership of Tiana Bakić Hayden as "a space for thinking out loud together—through writing," Correspondences has produced widely read series on race, captivity, images, and hormones, to name a few. As the Society for Cultural Anthropology prepares to launch its new website, we are winding down this section with one final series on the theme of correspondence, a particularly apposite one for a last hurrah. We invite readers to continue engaging with this archive on the new site, where it will be available as a channel of the Member Voices section.

* * *

Intellectual currents such as actor-network theory, environmental philosophy, speculative realism, and new (or neo-)materialism have challenged common-sense understandings about what it means to be human. Non- or more-than-representational approaches (e.g., Lorimer 2005; Stewart 2007; Thrift 2008; Vannini 2015), which cut across these different schools of thought, attend to the linkages between corporeality, materiality, and sociality. Although their terminologies vary, scholars working in this vein conceive of life as a set of continuous processes of formation—a networking, assembling, or gathering of the human and the nonhuman. Tim Ingold (2015, vii) argues that such a relational and generative orientation seeks a “correspondence” with the world, “in the sense not of coming up with some exact match or simulacrum for what we find in the things and happenings going on around us, but of answering to them with interventions, questions and responses of our own.” Here, the notion of correspondence signals toward open relationships and ways of knowing between the human and the nonhuman, an epistemology that breaks with ethnography as a conventionally “realist and mimetic paradigm” (Schäuble 2006, 1).

If ethnography has been classically thought as a representational mode, correspondence thinking asks us to reorient and expand this understanding. It involves acknowledging the ways in which animals, materials, devices, atmospheres, and other things affect us in what we do as much as we affect their existence in the world. In keeping with recent approaches in the fields of design, sound studies, and visual anthropology, this might be accomplished by crafting active forms and future-oriented spaces of “sensory engagement where anthropological knowledge can emerge” (Schäuble 2016, 3). Such spaces of correspondence could stimulate evocative, provocative, speculative, and interventionist methodologies during, but also beyond, the moment of conducting fieldwork. Nonrepresentational experiments unfold through varied modalities such as writing, photography, dance, poetry, video, sound, and art installations, among other “research communication modes and media available in the twenty-first century” (Vannini 2015, 11).

A previous Correspondences series began exploring the understandings that could be derived from imagistic modes of ethnographic engagement. We have asked the contributors to this series to focus on questions and conversations generated by their own ethnographic experiments, whether image-based or otherwise. What happens if we think and make with the materials and devices of our research (see Law and Ruppert 2013)? Which modalities of fieldwork become necessary for such an endeavor, and what sensibilities emerge from listening and answering to the world? How can we capture method and process as forms of knowledge (or, rather, knowing) in their own right?

Contributors

Caroline Gatt ("Sketches for Regenerative Scholarship") has a PhD in anthropology from the University of Aberdeen and is project assistant for Town Is the Garden, Deveron Projects, and an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen. Her recent publications include the monograph An Ethnography of Global Environmentalism: Becoming Friends of the Earth (2018); the special issue "Collaborative Knowing: Considering Onto/Epistemology on Collaboration" in Collaborative Anthropologies; and the collaborative and experimental collected volume The Voices of the Pages (2017) also as editor. In her piece for this series, Gatt is collaborating with Joss Allen, who has an MFA from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee, and is project coordinator for Town is the Garden, Deveron Projects. 

Wendy Gunn ("Collaborative Research Inquiry: A Few Entanglements, Which Take a Long Time to Work Out") is Distinguished Adjunct of Research, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. As a leading scholar in Design Anthropology, she has played a crucial role in establishing a research agenda for the field of Design Anthropology at an international level. She has co-edited two agenda setting texts in the field, Design and Anthropology (Routledge, 2016, 2012) and Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013). She is currently working on an article on Design Anthropology in Europe for Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Anthropology (OREA).

Isabelle Carbonell ("A Correspondence of the Senses: Panesthesia as Research Method") is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz in Film and Digital Media, thinking through a cinema of the slow violence in the Anthropocene. Her work lies at the intersection of expanded documentary, environmental justice, invasive species, eco-disasters, and experimental ethnography. Recent complete film works include: The River Runs Red (2018), The Blessed Assurance (2018), and The Camel Race (2018). 

Katie Stewart ("Granite") teaches ethnographic writing in workshops at the University of Texas, Austin. Her books include A Space on the Side of the Road: Cultural Poetics in an “Other” America (Princeton University Press, 1996), Ordinary Affects (Duke University Press, 2007);  The Hundreds, with Lauren Berlant (Duke University Press, 2019), and Worlding (in prep). 

References

Ingold, Tim. 2015. “Foreword.” In Non-Representational Methodologies: Re-Envisioning Research, edited by Phillip Vannini, vii–x. New York: Routledge.

Law, John, and Evelyn Ruppert. 2013. “The Social Life of Methods: Devices.” Journal of Cultural Economy 6, no. 3: 229–240.  

Lorimer, Hayden. 2005. “Cultural Geography: The Busyness of Being ‘More-Than-Representational.’Progress in Human Georgraphy 29, no. 1: 83–94.

Schäuble, Michaela. 2016. “Introduction. Mining Imagination: Ethnographic Approaches Beyond the Written Word.” Anthrovision 4, no. 2.    

Stewart, Kathleen. 2007. Ordinary Affects. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Thrift, Nigel. 2008. Non-Representational Theory. New York: Routledge.

Vannini, Phillip, ed. 2015. Non-Representational Methodologies: Re-Envisioning Research. New York: Routledge.

Posts in This Series

Sketches for Regenerative Scholarship

Collaborative Research Inquiry: A Few Entanglements, Which Take a Long Time to Work Out

A Correspondence of the Senses: Panesthesia as Research Method