The end of informality? A few thoughts on Malinowski’s legacy and craftsmanship
This article explores the role of the deep, long-term fieldwork, pioneered by Bronisław Malinowski, and raises the issue of how far his fieldwork style remains a valuable tool at a time when people, goods, money, and knowledge travel with a speed and frequency that were unthinkable until very recently. Drawing upon reflections on the author’s own fieldwork in the Italian Alps, as well as on his experience as a university lecturer, it analyzes some of the changes that ethnographic fieldwork has undergone in the last few years in order to assess its value in the face of the pervasiveness of audit culture in the academia and of the emergence of an increasingly individualized society. The article pursues the argument that Malinowski’s research methods remain valuable not just as a heuristic device, but particularly as a practice promoting encounters with difference in the public sphere, and fostering participatory models of civic and political life.
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