Correspondences: Ethnography

Ethnography, according to Tim Ingold (2014, 383), “has become a term so overused, both in anthropology and in contingent disciplines, that it has lost much of its meaning.” This Correspondences session picks up on the concern that Ingold expresses. Anthropologists work with infrastructures, states, and animals, as well as people; the field might be online, at home, or restricted to business hours. All of this work is anthropology. What elements of method—or, as Ingold would have it, analytical approach—are required for a contribution to be ethnographic?

In this session, four anthropologists from varied subfields describe the steps that they took to conduct an ethnography, and reflect on what makes their work ethnographic. Their reflections are in conversation with an interview I recently conducted with Ingold.

This exchange tests out Ingold’s assertion that anthropology, as a discipline, suffers from the absence of a convincing definition of ethnography. Are we, in fact, working from wildly divergent notions of what it means to conduct ethnography? And, if so, is that a problem?

The contributors to this Correspondences session are:

Andrew Shryock is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Michigan.

Joanna Cook is a lecturer in medical anthropology at University College London.

Susan MacDougall is a doctoral student in social anthropology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford.

George Marcus is the Chancellor’s Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at University of California, Irvine.


Ingold, Tim. 2014. “That’s Enough about Ethnography!HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 4, no. 1: 383–95.

Posts in This Series

Ethnography: Integration

Ethnography: Deviation

Ethnography: Translation

Ethnography: Provocation