Ethnographic Café

The Ethnographic Café is a place for ethnographers to meet across disciplines, generations, and countries. We gather to talk about all things ethnographic, from history, design, and method to analysis, writing and dissemination.


We meet monthly on Zoom to discuss a recently published ethnography with its author (see our schedule of events). We also convene periodically for special thematic sessions around a salient topic in the practice of ethnography.


We continue the online conversation through short photographic essays picturing the field, video interviews of ethnographers sharing the nitty-gritty of their fieldwork, reading recommendations contributed by the community, and through a directory that will help ethnographers with shared interests to find each other.


We aim to stimulate and support the work of a new generation of ethnographers, especially doctoral students, postdocs, and junior faculty, and we hope you will join us in this endeavor.

This Month's Event (Friday, Dec 10)

Leslie PAIK

In conversation with

Vincent DUBOIS

Trapped in a Maze: How Social Control Institutions Drive Family Poverty and Inequality

Leslie Paik is Professor in the Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. Based on ethnographic fieldwork with 10 families, and interviews with another 53 families, her book Trapped in a Maze: How Social Control Institutions Drive Family Poverty and Inequality traces how low-income families navigate complex and multiple institutions –such as courts, hospitals, housing, schools, and welfare. The book reveals how the formal rationality by which these institutions ostensibly operate undercuts what they can actually achieve. And worse, it demonstrates how involvement with multiple institutions can perpetuate the conditions of poverty that these families are fighting to escape.


Vincent Dubois is Professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of Strasbourg (France) and the author of The Bureaucrat and the Poor: Encounters in French Welfare Offices (2017, Routledge). He works on surveillance and sanction policies in the contemporary social state and the relationship between the lower classes and public institutions. He will lead us in discussion.

** ETHNOGRAPHERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE, NOT EVEN YOUR FIELD NOTES **