Department of Anthropology

Seminar Series with Alaina Lemon, University of Michigan

Theatrical phobias, contact panics, and frame struggles: geopolitics and ethnography

Mon, April 16, 2018 | SAC 5.118

12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Seminar Series with Alaina Lemon, University of Michigan

Alaina Lemon is a Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Anthropology and History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Abstract: Our moment is saturated with accusations of theatricality: disabled people are accused of faking service animal permits, teenagers of pretending to fear bullets at school, entire nations of producing puppets. Theatrical phobias, contact panics, and frame struggles: geopolitics and ethnography The force of such accusations depends upon diminishing the theatrical to a matter of masking.  The illusion that theater is but illusion takes some doing, given that theatrical workers (actors, directors, musicians, and so on) know the stage not as a space of lies, but one where people and things animate each other.  Ethnographic methods, because they attend to social divisions of labor and interactional process, are exactly what is needed to actually describe transnational communications without being hoodwinked by divisions that mirror geopolitical border-making.  But here is another problem: No one listens to ethnographers about geopolitics. Perhaps the narcissism of nationalism, in tandem with the anti-sensory leanings of much scholarship, have generated panics against the forms of contact necessary to our methods.  Whatever the causes of contact panics, attention to "frame" struggles offers opportunities to demonstrate why ethnography is useful even at scales too often deemed beyond our scholarly reach.

Sponsored by: Department of Anthropology and the College of Liberal Arts

Bookmark and Share