Infrastructures in and of ethnography
This contribution invites reflection on some of the conditions under which ethnographic enquiry is carried forward. Taking its cue from the concept of infrastructure, commonly understood as the practical supports underpinning an enterprise, it extends the notion to include ideas or assumptions that may be sustaining the purpose of enquiry. It thus takes practical and ideational supports in tandem. Intermittently visible, falling beyond the purview of the topics being investigated, and thus rather less than explicit contexts for research, the infrastructures of ethnographic work afford some insight into its changing circumstances. Importantly, these include changing orientations towards or conceptualizations of the kinds of objects of knowledge regarded as its ultimate aim. The reflections are exercised on materials from Oceania, from both the beginning and the end of the century that Bronisław Malinowski inaugurated upon his arrival in the Trobriand district of Kiriwina in 1915.
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