In the service of our larger goal of curating conversations around ethnography, we are proud to partner with New Books Network to bring to you the Ethnographic Marginalia podcast. Each episode features an ethnographer. We discuss not the theoretical and conceptual innovation their ethnographic research made possible but the messy pleasures and tricky feelings of ethnographic practice in and of itself.

This podcast is co-sponsored by the Ethnography Incubator at the University of Chicago as well as The Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.



25 April 2021

Episode 10: In Conversation with Dr. Tahseen Shams

How are immigrants’ lives shaped by cultural and political dynamics in their homeland, hostland, and “elsewhere” countries whose geopolitical dynamics affect their experiences (such as South Asian Muslims who are affected by post-9/11 and more recent backlash against Middle Eastern nations)? In today’s podcast, we talk with Tahseen Shams, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto-St.George and author of Here, There, and Elsewhere: The Making of Immigrant Identities in a Globalized WorldTahseen talks about how her own background as a Bangladeshi immigrant to Mississippi inspired her to become an ethnographer, and how her positionality affected her research with other South Asian Immigrants. She describes how she used content analysis of Facebook to overcome her own effect on interviewees and some of the difficulties she had in managing relationships with her participants. Also, in a fascinating discussion of how her female research participants navigated contrasting identity categories of “Good Muslim” and “Moderate Muslim”, she reflects on what she learned from the tensions between what they said in interviews and what she observed them doing. Finally, Tahseen talks about finding inspiration in reading novels and her new research project on inter-ethnic relationships.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

8 April 2021

Episode 9: In Conversation with Dr. Victoria Reyes and Dr. Marco Garrido

How can Sociology be nudged away from its traditional parochialism to embrace empirical work that focuses on the global south? Marco Garrido (assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago) and Victoria Reyes (assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside) are the editors of a recent special issue of Contexts magazine, New Ethnographies of the Global South, that brings together scholars doing fieldwork outside of the US and Europe. Marco and Victoria tell us about how they came to do ethnographic research on the Philippines and describe how the special issue emerged as part of a broader shift towards studying the Global South. We also talk with them about why and how there are pressures against overseas scholarship from within graduate programs and academic journals, how Global South ethnographers must translate their work for US audiences, and how younger scholars can pursue their interests while also positioning themselves for success.

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17 March 2021

Episode 8: In Conversation with Dr. Leslie MacColman

This episode of Ethnographic Marginalia features Dr. Leslie MacColman, a Postdoctoral Scholar in Sociology at The Ohio State University who studies crime and policing in Latin America. Leslie explains how extensive experiences with civil society organizations inspired her move to academia while continuing to inform her research. She then describes research on police reform in Buenos Aires and how a project that centered police experiences grew to include government officials, activists, sex workers, and homeless teens. Leslie tells us how her identity as an American woman affected the way her participants related to her, and how her responsibilities as a mother affected the kind of fieldwork she could do. Finally, she reflects on how recent calls for police reform in the US have affected how her own research is understood.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

26 February 2021

Episode 7: In Conversation with Dr. Deborah Thomas

How can ethnographers use multimedia presentations of their work to reach new audiences, build different relationships with their participants, and promote new practices of witnessing and representation? On today’s episode we talk with Dr. Deborah Thomas, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. She tells us about her collaborative and multimodal project, Tivoli Stories (, based on the 2010 police and military incursion into a West Kingston community in search of a notorious drug trafficker and community don that left at least 75 dead. The project includes a documentary film titled Four Days in May, a museum exhibit, and the 2019 book Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Entanglement, Witnessing, Repair (Duke UP, 2019). Deborah explains how a background in dance led her to become an accidental anthropologist with an interest in both sovereignty and experimental ethnographic practices. She then discusses the Tivoli Stories project, describing how collaborative attempts to gather testimonies of the incursion led to first a documentary and then her book. She takes us behind the curtains for some of the simultaneously aesthetic and political choices of the film and book, including the use of portraits to humanize participants as distinct from the common images of suffering that may be termed ghetto porn. Her reflections offer a concrete and insightful look at an alternative means of ethnographic practice attuned to the lives, experiences, and politics of the communities we study.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

12 February 2021

Episode 6: In Conversation with Dr. Eli Wilson

How can ethnographic research shine light on the reproduction of social inequality in upscale Los Angeles restaurants? In today’s episode we talk with Dr. Eli Wilson, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of New Mexico, about his fieldwork in three LA restaurants. In the new book Front of the House, Back of the House, Race and Inequality in the Lives of Restaurant Workers (NYU Press, 2020), he takes readers inside the social hierarchies of upscale restaurants, where mostly white and college-educated servers and bartenders may make three times as much as the mostly Latino immigrant cooks and dishwashers who work hidden away in the back of the restaurant. Eli explains how his fieldwork emerged from his firsthand experience with the privileges of working in the front of the house. He describes the divisions between the two groups, and how he was able to build relationships with back of the house workers. He also talks about the discomfort that came from his own advantages as a tip-earner, and how he explained and managed his dual role as worker and ethnographer.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

1 February 2021

Episode 5: In Conversation with Dr. David Trouille

What meaning does a daily soccer game in a public Los Angeles park have for a group of Latino men and the ethnographer who studied them? In today’s episode, we talk with Dr. David Trouille, Assistant Professor of Sociology at James Madison University, about the ten years of fieldwork behind his new book Fútbol in the Park from the University of Chicago press. In a thoughtful self-reflexive conversation, David tells us how a neighborhood campaign against the players initially drew him to the community of Latino soccer players that are the subject of his book. He describes how he built relationships with the men over time on and off the field, and how the social space of the games created social ties that were essential to their ability to find work. While surrounding well-to-do mostly white communities accepted the men as workers in their homes, they simultaneously resisted their visible presence in the park. David tells us how this stigmatization, combined with national discourses constructing Latino men as “bad hombres” created dilemmas in how to write about his research. He explains how he made difficult decisions to only partially anonymize the men but not write about their immigration status, and ultimately describe the men as complex and real human beings, including writing about their drinking and occasional fighting.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

18 January 2021

Episode 4: In Conversation with Dr. Caterina Fugazzola

In today’s episode, Sneha Annavarapu talks with Dr. Caterina Fugazzola, Earl S Johnson Instructor in Sociology at the University of Chicago, about her research on the contemporary tongzhi (LGBT) movement in the People’s Republic of China. Dr. Fugazzola briefly discusses her current book project (under contract with Temple University Press) in which she explains how grassroots groups organizing around sexual identity have achieved significant social change—in terms of visibility, social acceptance, and participation—in virtual absence of public protest, and under conditions of tightening governmental control over civil society groups. But, more pertinently to our special series, our guest tells us about what drew her to the project, and the kinds of dilemmas, issues, and opportunities that marked her fieldwork in the region. For instance, she walks us through what it is like to do ethnographic fieldwork on a cruise ship! We also chat about what it means to do ethnographic observations online and why teaching digital ethnographic methods is a welcome opportunity to rethink our very dated presumptions around physical co-presence in fieldwork being desirable to gather more “authentic” data.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

04 January 2021

Episode 3: In Conversation with Dr. Javier Auyero

Today we speak with Javier Auyero, Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, about his 25 years of experience studying marginalized communities in Buenos Aires ethnographically. Javier tells us how he first came to sociology, and the intellectual curiosities and political interests that drove him to many of his projects. He also describes the very different ways he’s gone about ethnographic research: from the more classic model of solo ethnographer going into the field every day, to his collaboration with local “native” ethnographers, to working with paid research assistants. We then learn how Javier teaches ethnography by applying the same set of questions to a number of exemplary works, before ending by discussing what novels can add to ethnographic research—both to improve writing and convey emotion and experience.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

21 December 2020

Episode 2: In Conversation with Dr. Maricarmen Hernandez

What is it like to do research in a marginalized community in the shadows of Ecuador’s largest oil refinery? On today’s episode we talk with Dr. Maricarmen Hernandez, assistant professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Hernandez tells us about her fieldwork with a heavily contaminated community in the Ecuadorian coastal city of Esmeraldas. She tells us how she gained access to the community and reflects on the relationships she developed while in the field. Many of these relationships were with women who were on the frontlines of political struggles over health effects from contamination and the formalization of land titles. Dr. Hernandez reflects on why women took leading roles in these struggles, and how her own gender influenced her research. She also talks about how she uses photography as part of her fieldwork, and finally explains what happened when security concerns forced her to leave her field site.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

07 December 2020

Episode 1: An Introduction

Far too often, the most evocative and interesting experiences that come out of ethnographic fieldwork are pushed to the margins. In the first episode of Ethnographic Marginalia, series hosts Sneha Annavarapu and Alex Diamond explain their reasons for starting a podcast and website, before sharing some of the fieldwork experiences that have inspired them. Drawing on her research on the regulation of Indian driving habits, Sneha explains why potholes are a fruitful way to understand the state, how the pandemic has pushed her to turn an ethnographic lens to social media and popular culture artifacts, and the dilemmas around including sexual harassment from her interlocutors as part of the written presentation of her research. Alex talks about his experiences researching the community experience of Colombia’s peace process, including why the pandemic has pushed him to a deeper engagement with rural lifestyles, how a trip to the local butcher provided food for thought, and the difficulties of staying neutral while doing fieldwork with both candidates in a mayoral campaign.

Click here to listen (redirects to the New Books Network page)

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