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.

ETHNOGRAPHIC CAFÉ SPECIAL PANEL

Ethnography in/of the Global South: Critical Reflections

May 20, 10 a.m. PST, 1 p.m. EST (note the earlier time!)

(Meeting Passcode: 289577)


A half century ago, Manuel Castells posed an existential question for urban sociologists: does the subfield constitute sociology in the city, or does urban space play a defining role, producing a sociology of the city? This panel poses a comparable question to ethnographers carrying out fieldwork in the global South: do they study sociological phenomena that just happen to occur beyond Euro-America, or is there something distinctive about the majority of the world’s surface that we call “the global South,” home to more than 85 percent of the global population? Scholars working on Africa, Asia, and Latin America discuss the meaning and limits of the concept and its significance for their work. Should southern ethnography be considered a distinct enterprise, or does this contribute to self-marginalization within an already notoriously parochial discipline?

Moderator: Zachary Levenson, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Levenson studies the politics of eviction in postapartheid South Africa. His work is based on a decade of fieldwork in land occupations and informal settlements in Cape Town, and his book Delivery as Dispossession was released in April 2022 on Oxford University Press.

Presenter: Elena Shih, Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies and Ethnic Studies, Brown University

Trained as a sociologist, Shih studies the transnational social movement to combat human trafficking in China, Thailand, and the US. She works at the intersection of ethnography and critical humanitarianism studies. Her book Manufacturing Freedom is under contract with UC Press.

Presenter: Oluwakemi Balogun, Associate Professor of Sociology and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University of Oregon

Balogun’s research focuses on gender, globalization, and nationalism in the context of the Nigerian beauty pageant industry. Based on years of fieldwork, her book Beauty Diplomacy was released by Stanford University Press in 2020.

Presenter: Gianpaolo Baiocchi, Professor of Individualized Studies and Sociology, New York University

Baiocchi is interested in questions of politics and culture, critical social theory, and cities. He has cultivated a distinctly political ethnography, which he has deployed in his fieldwork in Brazil, the US, and elsewhere. He is the author of numerous books, the most recent of which, co-authored with Jake Carlson, is Housing Is a Social Good, forthcoming from University of Chicago Press.

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