27 Jan 2007All dayCRASSH



Questionof Evidence: Ethnography and Anthropological Forms of Knowledge

27-28 January 2007
CRASSH and King's College, Cambridge

This conference aims to provide a platform for ethnographers to critically evaluate the nature, constitution, forms and uses of 'anthropological evidence'. Ethnographic research now has at its disposal new means of gathering new kinds of data, which may stem from technological changes (the global spread of new media and their consumption), significant shifts in intra- and international boundaries, as well as an increased focus on interdisciplinary methods and theories. In the process, anthropologists have had to critically assess the use of 'encompassing' explanatory models – abstractions like 'culture', 'religion' and 'identity' – in and through their ethnographic work. This conference will present ethnographic research that critically engages such overarching models, as well as explore recent innovative contributions to the recurring question of 'evidence' within anthropology.

Keynote speakers for this event are Dr. Rita Astuti (LSE) and Prof. Marilyn Strathern (Cambridge).

Among the questions raised by papers presented in this conference will be:

Is it possible for evidence from small-scale, intensive ethnographic research to contribute to knowledge in the form of large-scale abstractions? If so, how? This issue will be addressed by a number of papers covering a diverse range of topics, including “cosmogony”, “voudou worship” and “indigeneity”.

How can models such as “culture” or “identity” be integrated into the anthropological 'outcome' of research, in a way that does not uncritically turn the ethnographic evidence into an instantiation of an essentialising model?

How have the recent focus on interdisciplinary work and the application of ethnographic methods outside of anthropology exposed the role of ethnographic data as evidence for knowledge – both in anthropology and in other fields? Papers presented at the conference will address this question in the context of medical trials and the broadband internet industry.

What is the focus of ethnography? Where is 'evidence' located? How can non-verbal forms of evidence – represented in papers on music and film – contribute to the generation of ethnographic knowledge?

What is the relationship between anthropological training and ethnographic abstraction? How does the ethnographer's person affect the production of such evidence?


Timm Lau (Cambridge), Dr Casey High (Goldsmiths), Liana Chua (Cambridge)

The conference has been organised with support from:

King's College, Cambridge
C-SAP (Learning and Teaching Subject Network Centre for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics at the University of Birmingham)


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk