In February 2011, Paul Rabinow, Gaymon Bennett and I began to reflect on the impasses we had experienced in our collaborative work with groups of bioscientists and other social scientists, which had begun in 2006 (Rabinow and Bennett 2012). The core concerns in our interconnected projects in collaboration were how ethical practice and human and bioscientific knowledge practices could best be brought into an integral and mutually enriching relationship. After five years of work, a series of turning points produced both the need to reflect on blockages in the field, but also to shift position and practice: we needed to leave the field.
Our book Demands of the Day: On the Logic of Anthropological Inquiry (Rabinow and Stavrianakis 2013) conceptualizes and narrates “leaving the field” and opens up a series of problems for anthropological practice which, to our surprise, had received insufficient attention, among them: (1) the objects of knowledge produced by participant-observation, (2) the subject positions of the former participant-observer(s), once they have left the field (3) the affective dynamics of the field and the exit from it, which must be carried out reflectively, and (4) the narrative modality given to this process.
Anthropologists Todd Meyers and Kevin Karpiak have responded to Demands of the Day with two engaging discussions which we hope will open up and further discussion of contemporary anthropological practice, forms of participant-observation and the price to be paid for different forms of engagement. You can find their texts here:
Todd Meyers, “Other voices, other rooms.”
Anthony Stavrianakis is currently a Fernand Braudel postdoctoral fellow at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.