On October 19, 2018 the Ethnography Studio gathered with Dr. Paige West, Claire Tow Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, to collaboratively think about solidarities in ethnographic practice.
Inspired by Fred the goat, a goat who had previously escaped capture and later let goats and sheep out of the livestock auction house in New Jersey, the studio gathered to think more carefully about the subjectivities and modes of solidarity between community lines. What did we learn from Fred about what it means to do ethnography today?
Dr. West began our discussion by providing a deep overview of her work on conservation and indigenous sovereignty in New Guinea. Dr. West called for a more nuanced understanding of how solidarities come into being. By sharing their own fieldwork experiences, participants then conversed about the hard work of creating solidarity, including building material and conceptual infrastructures that both trouble ideologies of otherness and interrupt abuses of power.
To conclude our day, participants began to form an introspective checklist for building solidarities between the fieldworker and the field, which included an attunement to the own ethnographer’s subjectivity, as well as thinking more carefully about how to use an ethnographer’s access and privilege to build spaces and elevate community voices for more collaborative and community-led justice.