07 Dec 2018

In Threads and Knots: The business of wayfaring and the possibilities of a co-itinerant ethnography

Paper presented at the workshop “Translocal Ethnographies of Mobilities and Boundaries”, Humboldt University, Berlin

Martin Saxer


For a long time, the business of anthropology was tied to deep ethnographic research in a single location, sticking around long enough to slowly understand the microcosm of a local community. Since the early 1990s, a growing number of scholars has argued against the shortcomings of such single-sited ethnography with all its sedentarist connotations and inherent isomorphism of place and culture. A multi-sited practice of ethnographic research has now become mainstream, and with it concepts of mobility, transnational diaspora, flows and networks that are arguably better suited to capture the manifold and asymmetric connectivities of our current era. Taking a cue from Tim Ingold’s critique of space and his distinction between meshwork/network and wayfaring/transport, I suggest a third approach to study mobile lives and the work of making community – an approach I would like to call co-itinerant ethnography. Based on research in the Himalayas and the Pamirs, I develop the notions of place-knots and pathways to understand the particular form of translocality at stake in these contexts.

Highland Asia Research Group
LMU, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Oettingenstr. 67
80538 Munich, Germany
martin.saxer@lmu.de | +49 89 2180 9639

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