Cultural analysis at Work: Rebecca Popenoe – Doing anthropology to teach anthropology

“Helping people to understand and increase their tolerance for cultural others has turned out to rest very little on anthropology the discipline and to be instead about finding creative pedagogical techniques for communicating anthropology’s most basic and in some ways simple insights. And most of all, it means understanding cultural diversity not because it is a politically correct “must,” but because it enriches and even eases our own lives to be able to see many patterns in the kaleidoscope.”

Can we use cultural analysis to help others understand the particularity of their own culture? Is anthropological thought and practice useful when not ‘preaching to the choir’? And do we have the tools to help professionals identify their taken-for-granteds? Rebecca Popenoe, Ph.D. in anthropology, addresses these questions in her text “Doing anthropology to teach anthropology”, covering her time as   student in Indonesia as well as her experience of teaching reflexivity and cultural understanding to practitioners in the field of medicine.

For full text:

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Cultural analysis at Work: Jonas Bergvall – Unknown Territories

”The student of culture and human complexity of believes, values and ways of being in this world, is the one who can make the journey into the partly unknown territory and make sense of the multitude of ambiguities, positions and perspectives that might be there.”

How can we as cultural analysts keep the initiative while dealing with the market-economy-culture? Cultural investigator and creative business developer Jonas Bergvall shares some of his experience in helping companies challenge their view of the world through exploring unknown territories.

For full text:

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Cultural Analysis At Work: Sara Nameth – Screenwriting as Fictional Ethnography

“Although I may not necessarily agree with the choices of my characters, I still accept them within the context that they’re made, just as Evans-Pritchard adhered to Azande magic and witchcraft during fieldwork”

Whether the task is to turn life into text or to turn text into life, the anthropologist and the screenwriter share common goals and methods, says Sara Nameth. Partake in her thoughts on finding the balance between engaged empathy and analytic distance in our first story of Cultural Analysis At Work.

For full text:


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Cultural Analysis At Work

Academia and Society – There And Back Again

“An anthropologist and an ethnologist walk into a film club…” might sound like the set-up line of an academic in-joke, but it is more or less a literal description of the event that set the wheels rolling on starting this. During a screening of Some like it hot, an anthropologist named Sara – working with intercultural communication – and an ethnologist named Elias, employed as a business ethnographer, met and struck up a conversation. Soon they found out they had a lot in common. Both had contended with questions about what kind of “real job” one can get by studying cultural sciences seemingly a million times before. Both had experienced how the cultural analytical perspectives they had learned during their education had great potential for contributing to society. And both felt privileged to have found “real jobs” where they could put these perspectives to work and help people and organizations develop their awareness of the cultural aspects of everyday life. Finally, both had been contacted by students of cultural analysis who were looking for advice about career paths which were not the ones leading up the stairs of the university’s ivory tower. While both felt that they had been given a vast toolbox of analytical concepts and explorative methods, little in the way of direction and few concrete examples of applied research had been given. In short, both found there to be a lack of alternative role-models and case studies within their respective disciplines.

These personal experiences can hardly be seen as isolated testimony, but are indicative of overarching tendencies within academia. In general, there is a mounting pressure on the social sciences and the humanities to prove their “usefulness” to society and students are demanding a greater emphasis on skills that lead to employment (O’Dell & Willim 2011:2Smilie: 8). Many disciplines seem ill-prepared to face these demands. Self-presentation is rarely, if ever, a part of the education, and the pathways to distinct professions are vague at best (Damsholt & Löfgren 2008:92). At the same time, there seems to be a growing demand for “soft” knowledge and qualitative perspectives, like ethnographic research, within the world of business – although it is not always understood how such knowledge should be put to use (Sylow 2008:23). There is, in other words, more than one gap between what is supplied and what is demanded when it comes to education in cultural analysis (like in many other academic disciplines).

During the two years that have passed since the initial meeting, the conversation has been going strong, and it is far from over! This blog, Cultural Analysis at Work, is a way of expanding that conversation and inviting others to join it. Cultural analysts from around Scandinavia will participate and share their thoughts on how, where, and when we can apply our skills and our knowledge. The goal is to provide that which we longed for as students of cultural analysis: Concrete examples of applied research, stories of successfully implemented projects as well as role models who put cultural analysis to work in society. We set out to achieve this by asking ethnologist and anthropologists that have inspired us to tell their stories about working outside of academia. A few examples of questions that will be discussed in these stories are:

• Where are the perspectives of anthropology, ethnology and cultural analysis missing in society today?
• In what ways can we put our skills, perspectives, and experiences to work in our professional lives?
• What should all students of cultural analysis know before entering into working life?
• In what ways can traditional, academic tools be developed or adapted in new contexts?

The first of every month, we will publish stories of people putting cultural analysis to work – showing a wide reach of applications. Through Cultural Analysis at Work we want to provide students of our respective disciplines with positive stories, illuminating their potential. The goal not to establish what cultural analysis is, but rather what it can be, what paths it can open and which experiences it may lead to. We hope that this might contribute to bridging any perceived gap between the “in here” of academia and an imagined “out there”, showing that our perspectives and skills can provide more than knowledge of “mere” academic interest.

Our readers will be able to follow the progress of the project here on the ethnographic knowledge node and eventually we will gather this on our own site, stay tuned!

Elias Mellander is a Ph.D. candidate in ethnology at the Department of Cultural Sciences at University of Gothenburg. In his dissertation he examines the post-graduation careers of former students of European Ethnology in Scandinavia. He holds a MA in Applied Cultural Analysis and has previously worked as an ethnographic consultant.

Sara Wallén has applied social anthropology in her own social entrepreneurial enterprise and as a consultant for clients. Sara has incomplete MA in social anthropology, and a BA from the Kaospilots. Sara is currently fulfilling her third university education, studying to become a psychologist and works as at Forandringsfabrikken in Norway.


Damsholt, Tine & Orvar Löfgren (200Smilie: 8): “Epilogue”. Cecilia Fredriksson & Håkan Jönsson (eds.) ETN: Job, Lund: Lund University.

O’Dell, Tom & Robert Willim (2011): ”Composing Ethnography”. Ethnologia Europea 41:1, 27-40, Copenhagen, Museum Tusculanums Förlag.

Sylow, Mine (200Smilie: 8): “Tempting French Fries”. Cecilia Fredriksson & Håkan Jönsson (eds.) ETN: Job, Lund: Lund University.

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New Book: Where is the Field? edited by Laura Hirvi and Hanna Snellman

Where is the Field?
The Experience of Migration Viewed through the Prism of Ethnographic Fieldwork
Editors: Laura Hirvi and Hanna Snellman (SKS, 2012)

This edited volume sheds light on the experiences of immigrants in different parts of the world and offers insightful reflections on the art of carrying out fieldwork in the present day, when the task of locating the ‘field’ seems to present a particular challenge for researchers. Thanks to its fresh approach and its detailed descriptions of methods, this book is of interest not only to both apprentice and more experienced ethnographers working in the discipline of migration studies but also to scholars conducting ethnographic research in other fields.
You can order the book from the publisher: SKS KIRJAT

Researchers Hanna Snellman and Laura Hirvi

Hanna Snellman is Professor of European Ethnology at the University of Helsinki (Finland). She has carried out studies on migrant workers in Finland, Sweden and North America and on fieldwork methodology.

Laura Hirvi is a doctoral student at the Department of History and Ethnology at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), who is about to submit her dissertation in which she explores how Sikhs with a migration background living in Helsinki (Finland) and in Yuba City (California) negotiate their identities. Her latest publications include ‘The Sikh Gurdwara in Finland: Negotiating, Maintaining and Transmitting Immigrants’ Identities’ published in 2010 in the journal South Asian Diaspora and a chapter on the work and migration histories of Sikhs in Finland in an edited volume on Sikhs in Europe, which was published by Ashgate in 2011.

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Michael Humbracht – Ethnography on the Go

Ethnography on the Go
Researching Tourism with Multi-Sited Interviews
by Michael Humbracht,

In studying tourism, more and more often ethnography is faced with the question of how to gain insight into cultural practices connected across many distances, spaces, and places. I recently encountered this question when carrying out an ethnographic research project in conjunction with the city of Malmö tourism bureau. The project researched visiting friends and relatives’ tourism by focusing on the visits of several Malmö residents, who were born abroad, and their visitors. In order to study the many elements of informant trips I decided to conduct multi-sited interviews.

Respondents were interviewed in Malmö, in a small town in central Sweden, and in northern Italy. Interviews in Malmö revealed insights into what happens during visits; such as how residents become instructors, teaching visitors facets of local life like using train tickets machines or cooking with local food. The interviews facilitated understandings of how visitors adapt by creating local identities with the help of residents. In addition, the strategy made possible tracing elements of visits to the local environments of family and friends. During the interview in northern Italy respondents guided me through their home showing me how they arrange items taken from various tourist trips around the world. As a part of that tour informants presented items bought with family members in Malmö and explained why these items, as well as others, had great importance. The strategy thus produced understandings by allowing visitors to interact with their local environment and point out how items from visits to Malmö become embedded in their local environment.

In short, contrasting findings from interviews at different sites enabled deeper analysis into how people build identities and make connections between places with tourism. As practitioners of ethnography attempt to find creative means for tracing culture across borders this project offers impetus for developing ethnographies on the go.

Cultural Analyst Michael Humbracht

Michael Humbracht, Cultural Analyst

Michael Humbracht is a Cultural Analyst, graduated from the  MACA Master’s program at the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, living in southern Sweden. His current research focuses on the role mobility plays in everyday life.

For further information contact Michael Humbracht at:
mikewyo25 at gmail dot com.

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Susanne Ewert – Visual Ethnography

We would like to alert your attention to  a new Gallery entry:

Susanne Ewert

Ethnographer & Photographer
The Division of Ethnology with the Folk Life Archives
Department of Arts and Culture Sciences
Lund University

To explore, express and analyse cultural practices in research and documentary projects, I have at times looked through the camera lens to focus on the task, to condense and capture it. But the photograph must not merely be seen as an unproblematic illustration to a text. The picture also creates a sense of authenticity with the ability to open our eyes to time. It highlights and invites us to talk about for example identity and social and cultural contexts.

To learn more: click Gallery – Susanne Ewert  in the menu above, or follow this link.

Posted in Art and Ethnography, Visual Methods Tagged , ,

Call for Articles – Thematic Section of Culture Unbound

Call for Articles – Thematic section in Culture Unbound

“Communicating Culture in Practice”
– thematic section edited by Samantha Hyler

Insights and knowledge derived from applied research has the ability to make concrete developments and changes to some of the toughest cultural questions. Controversial topics and vaguely defined phenomena, such as multicultural societies, consumption, equality, and sustainable practices pervade societies on a global scale. These kinds of questions are increasingly difficult to broach without a cultural perspective. Thus, practitioners of applied cultural research are being sought for their specialized knowledge and insights. Communicating Culture in Practice is a thematic section designed to address the multifaceted nature of cultural research, its wide-ranging application, and the tangible results produced. The principle aim of this section is to strengthen the connection between academia and applied research projects outside of the academy, emphasizing the elements of mediation and translation that strengthens cultural researchers and the practical use of their research and work. Illuminating the use of highly trained cultural mediators in the work force, this section aims to also debate the ethics and challenges inherent in applied cultural research. How will current and upcoming practitioners shape the future of applied cultural research?

It is important to contemplate the agendas behind cultural research and question the practical challenges of how culture is used in applied research. To work directly as an applied researcher with the full ability to control research and results is rare, if found at all. In a political sense, practitioners must be wary of, for example, the colonial past upon which anthropology sits, and the potential danger of becoming accomplices to new kinds of manipulation or deceitful practices possible in how applied cultural research results are used. Working for clients can often place control of the use of research results and ethical decisions into their hands, as many clients are seeking targeted results for commercial or other interests. In a broad sense, this kind of applied work may be in opposition to the interests and needs of research participants. Will there be a time when applied cultural research becomes a fully recognized profession in its own right, with the full ability to determine its own ethical standards?

This thematic section is seeking research articles that address culture and society in the context of applied social scientific and humanities research, particularly emphasizing cooperation between academic and non-academic actors. Topics may include (but are not limited to): explorations of innovative methods and techniques for applied research; ethics in applied practice; how theory is translated and becomes useful in applied practices; ethnographic case studies in urban planning, environment and sustainability, technology, food, diversity and cross-cultural communication, management consultancy, or design research, among other topics. The aim is to underscore the role of mediating, translating, and innovating in applied cultural research for practical and strategic results regarding social questions in a range of non-academic settings.

Articles will be published together as a thematic section in Culture Unbound. Further information regarding the journal, check here Culture Unbound

Please send any questions and abstracts of approximately 250 words to Samantha Hyler samanthahyler at gmail dot com by April 30, 2012.

Samantha Hyler is a cultural analyst and ethnographer with a focus on places and spaces, urban communities and everyday life, social and environmental sustainability, and ethnographic techniques and methodology. Samantha graduated from the master’s in applied cultural analysis program (MACA) at Lund University in 2011, and has a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from Butler University (Indianapolis, USA). As an applied practitioner, Samantha has previously collaborated with the city of Helsingborg and the long-term urban renewal project, H+. Here, she conducted ethnographic research and collaboratively developed three projects regarding social sustainability, strategic communication and participatory planning, and qualitative methods for understanding places and meeting points. Samantha has written a master’s thesis and an article based from her research with the H+ project, and coauthored an article with Paul Sherfey regarding climate politics during COP15 in Copenhagen. By organizing the thematic section for Culture Unbound, announced above, Samantha Hyler hopes to increase awareness, and importantly, the value, of applied cultural work among both academics and non-academics. The aim is to create a discussion about the ways in which cultural research is practiced, and emphasize the concrete results it has already provided to a variety of socially themed projects. The publication should bridge academically derived knowledge with problem solving for current global social issues, and provide insight into how cultural research, ethnography, and qualitative skills are solving issues faced both inside and outside academia. Samantha Hyler welcomes new opportunities to engage in social projects. She can be contacted at: samanthahyler at gmail dot com

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Mothers, Play and Everyday Life: Ethnology Meets Game Studies

“Mothers, Play and Everyday Life: Ethnology Meets Game Studies”
by Jessica Enevold & Charlotte Hagström

Jessica Enevold
, Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences
Charlotte Hagström, Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences

Gaming Moms

Published 2009 in:
Ethnologia Scandinavica TIDSKRIFTSNUMRET

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Audiovisual Compositions

If we think about ethnography as a practice of composition, various ways of working with audiovisual material become important. At The 2nd International Visual Methods Conference September 13-15 2011 in Milton Keynes, UK some of this potential is explored.
At the conference I was especially inspired by the work of documentary-maker Katerina Cizek. Especially the Highrise project has great potential to inspire ethnographic practices and compositions. Here’s some info from the project-website:

“The Towers in the World – The World in the Towers

HIGHRISE explores vertical living in the global suburbs. It’s multi-year, many-media collaborative documentary experiment at the National Film Board of Canada, directed by Katerina Cizek, produced by Gerry Flahive. Over the years, HIGHRISE will generate many projects, including mixed media, interactive documentaries, mobile productions, live presentations, installations and films. Collectively, the projects will both shape and realize the HIGHRISE vision: to see how the documentary process can drive and participate in social innovation rather than just to document it; and to help re-invent what it means to be an urban species in the 21st century.”

The various Highrise-productions are worth checking out. The 360° documentary Out My Window eg. is an interesting example how new media can be used to compose new ways of representation.

At the conference, a new commissioned Elsewhereness-piece by me and Anders Weberg, depicting Milton Keynes, is also screened. In a way The Elsewhereness-series represent a totally different take than the participatory large scale work of Highrise. But I found it thoughtprovoking to imagine them as very different but also related ways of using sound, video and digital media to represent and examine urbanity and imaginaries of cities.

Posted in Art and Ethnography, Urban Ethnography, Visual Methods