Theory and Method

The Department of Anthropology emphasizes the importance of ethnographic research methods, conducted through intensive fieldwork in a single site or in a network of sites. Our ethnographic research has involved both innovative engagement and solid grounding in multiple anthropological traditions. Faculty and graduate students have conducted longitudinal studies through repeated field visits, combined quantitative and qualitative methods, explored novel methods in archival research, and followed networks and movements of people, institutions, and ideas across dispersed sites.

We take ethnography as generative of anthropological theory and objects of anthropological reflection, rather than merely as a mode of collecting data, making observations, or illustrating theoretical claims. Our emphasis on the link between theory and ethnography reflects the dynamism of the interdisciplinary conversation animating work within the department, which places our work in a mutually productive conversation with scholars and scholarship in philosophy and social and political theory. These concerns are reflected in the topics of recent conferences and discussion organized by faculty and graduate students alike, on topics such as animality, newness, locality, affect, number, and the concept of the “empirical.” We are deeply invested in carrying forward and sustaining such dialogue across the humanities and social sciences.

The interdisciplinary character of our conversations is also manifested in our approach to the themes of health and well-being. We do not distinguish, for example, between “medical anthropology” and mainstream anthropology. Rather, we seek to integrate questions of health, broadly speaking, into several research domains, such as economy, family, state practices, and religion. We foster cross-disciplinary dialogue with public health, history of medicine, and the humanities. An ongoing Critical Global Health seminar series draws together scholars working in anthropology, public health, history of medicine, and history.