Photo by Rob DeGraff, licensed under CC BY NC SA.

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?

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.

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