Ethnography and Design 1: Disability, Design, and Performance

This AnthroPod episode is the first in a three-part series on the intersection of ethnography and design, based on the conference “Ethnography and Design: Mutual Provocations,” which was hosted by the University of California Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design (CoLED) at the University of California, San Diego in the fall of 2016. In this series, we talk with three conference participants about what the theme of ethnography and design means in their work and for anthropology more broadly.

In this episode, we interview Cassandra Hartblay, who is about to begin a postdoctoral fellowship in Russian studies at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University, with a joint appointment in Anthropology, in August. As a postdoctoral fellow with CoLED from 2015 to 2017, Hartblay helped organize the “Ethnography and Design” conference that this series of episodes takes as its launchpad.

Our conversation with Hartblay touches on the rich genesis of this conference, the unusual conference format, the diverse ways in which anthropologists understand and work with design, and more. Dr. Hartblay describes her work in disability studies in Russia and comments on the intersection of disability and design. We also talk about Hartblay's recent efforts to develop a performance piece out of her ethnographic material on disability in Russia, and ask how the intersection of design and anthropology might be fruitful for public anthropology.

The next two episodes in this series will feature interviews with Keith Murphy and Lilly Irani, whose respective work deals with different and no less fascinating aspects of design and ethnography.


Tariq Rahman and Katherine Sacco produced this episode of AnthroPod. Special thanks to Executive Producer Liliana Gil for valuable feedback and to CoLED for their support. The conference that inspired these episodes was made possible through funding from the University of California’s Office of the President, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and participating University of California campuses.

AnthroPod features interviews with anthropologists about their work, experiences in the field, and current events. To pitch your own episode ideas or to offer feedback, email us at [email protected] You can find AnthroPod at SoundCloud, subscribe to it on iTunes, or use our RSS feed. If you have any thoughts on this episode or on AnthroPod more broadly, please leave us a comment to the right or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter.

Music: Sweeter Vermouth by Kevin MacLeod.