Author Archives: caushana

Multi-sited Ethnographies: A Conversation Across the Social Sciences

multi-sited ethnographies SED event_finalMONDAY, May 18th
12:00 – 1:30 PM

Join SED for a discussion on multi-sited ethnographic research design co-hosted with the New Directions in Culture, Power, and History Group in Anthropology. More and more, ethnographers carry out their research in many sites, often across borders, in radically different spaces and environments. What are the challenges and benefits of doing this sort of research? We have gathered three UCSD scholars to discuss their experiences carrying out such research, focusing on the ways they theorize their own methods. This informal lunch time discussion will enact a conversation about ethnography, the challenges and possibilities of multi-sited research across the social sciences. Graduate students considering how to frame their own multi-sited research projects are encouraged to attend.

Abigail Andrews is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies and Planning at UCSD. She studies the intersection of development, migration, and gender, with a focus on the relationships between Mexico and the United States. Most of her research is based on a cross-border ethnography of Mexican sending communities and their migrants in the United States. Her current book manuscript explores how practices of state power in local sites on each side of the border influence migrants’ paths into and out of the United States. It then considers how migrant communities respond to exclusion and exploitation, sparking new forms of cross-border political advocacy. In this work — and following the interactions across transnational migrants communities — Professor Andrews grapples with the question of how power and politics operate across place.

David Pederson is an Associate Professor in Anthropology at UCSD. He is the author of American Value: Migrants, Money and Meaning in El Salvador and the United States, published in the University of Chicago Press series, ‘Chicago Studies in Practices of Meaning’ in 2014. He is writing a new book, entitled Lethal Haven, about the role of warfare in the establishment of the US dollar as a world currency. In his research, Pedersen has developed a semiotic approach for studying the relationship between immediately perceivable phenomena and larger geohistorical tendencies, predicated on conducting ethnographic research across multiple locales and according to varied foci and scales of analysis.

Elana Zilberg is an Associate Professor in the Communication Department at UCSD and the co-founder and director of the Studio for Ethnographic Design at UCSD. Her book Space of Detention: The Making of a Transnational Gang Crisis between Los Angeles and San Salvador (Duke University Press 2011) is a multi-sited ethnographic account and spatial analysis of how transnational gangs became an issue of central concern for national and regional security between the U.S. and Central America. Her new project on river revitalization in the Southwestern United States and U.S. – Mexico border regions extends her interest in the urban built environment and the geography and spatial expression of race, into the domains of urban nature, infrastructure, and environmental justice.

Suggested Reading(s):

Wednesday, April 29th: Ethnography | A prototype – Alberto Corsín Jiménez

Jiménez SED event poster

WEDNESDAY, April 29th
4:00 – 6:00 PM

Join SED for a talk by Alberto Corsín Jiménez, Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) in Madrid. Professor Jiménez will discuss the politics of prototyping at the intersection of ethnographic design and free culture activism. This talk describes a long-term collaborative project with a variety of free culture activists in Madrid: digital artists, Occupy assemblies and guerrilla architectural collectives. Coming of age as Spain walked into the abyss of the economic crisis, Jiménez describes how the research team was forced to re- function the ethnographic project into a ‘prototype’- a notion borrowed from free culture activism. These ethnographic prototypes allowed the team to argue with collaborators *about* the city at the same time as we argued *through* the city. Providing a symmetrical counterpoint to the actions of free culture hackers elsewhere in the city, these anthropological prototypes were both a cultural signature of the radical praxis taking place in Madrid today and its expressive infrastructure.

Alberto Corsín Jiménez has recently completed a book, A trompe l’oeil anthropology for a common world (Berghahn 2013), and edited a special issue on “Prototyping Cultures” for the Journal of Cultural Economy (2014). He is also the editor of Culture and well-being: anthropological approaches to freedom and political ethics (Pluto 2008) and The anthropology of organisations (Ashgate 2007). He is a founding member of Ciudad Escuela (, an open-source urban pedagogical platform.g.

Suggested Reading:

Wednesday, April 22nd: Documentary Theatre and Ethnographic Practice | Workshop with Paul Flores and Alex Sanchez

SED Placas Theatre Workshop Poster

WEDNESDAY, April 22nd
3:00 – 5:00 PM

The Studio for Ethnographic Design presents playwright Paul Flores and gang peacemaker Alex Sanchez. Flores will discuss the relevance of ethnographic practice in developing his documentary theatre work PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo. The workshop will also feature Sanchez, who will reflect upon his experience in collaborating with academics, journalists, and artists in general, and ethnographers in particular, in developing projects of mutual concern.

Workshop participants will discuss the intersections between ethnography and theatre as sites for collaboration and social transformation. Using PLACAS as an example, participants will engage with ethnographic research techniques geared towards building documentary theatre.

Suggested Reading:
PLACAS Study Guide.

PLACAS: Events on Ethnography, Theatre, and Latino Cultural Production


Join SED for a three-day series of events celebrating Latino cultural production, ethical research practice, and ethnographic design in anticipation of the theatre production PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo. The play follows the life of a Salvadorean ex-gang member and his journey to remove his tattoos, save his son, and explore his identity. Written by Paul Flores (UCSD alum) and directed by Michael John Garces (Cornerstone Theatre), PLACAS is based on the life of activist and founder of Homies Unidos, Alex Sanchez, who is played by Ric Salinas of Culture Clash. The play will be performed at Lincoln High School in National City, April 23-25. Playwright Flores, activist Sanchez, and the rest of the cast will be engaged in multiple events at UC San Diego to discuss documentary practices and social justice issues.

MONDAY, April 20th
12:00 – 2:00 PM

UCSD alumni discuss how cultural identity is an asset for community organizing, and how UCSD prepares graduates for leadership in community transformation and social justice campaigns.

TUESDAY, April 21st
4:00 – 6:00 PM

An excerpt from the critically acclaimed play by UCSD Writing/ Literature alum Paul S. Flores about transnational gangs, tattoo removal and healing. Followed by a discussion with cast and gang peacemaker Alex Sanchez.

WEDNESDAY, April 22nd
3:00 – 5:00 PM

The Studio for Ethnographic Design presents playwright Paul Flores and activist Alex Sanchez. Flores will discuss the relevance of ethnographic practice in developing his documentary theatre work PLACAS: The Most Dangerous Tattoo. The workshop will also feature gang peacemaker Alex Sanchez, who will reflect upon his experience in collaborating with academics, journalists, and artists in general, and ethnographers in particular, in developing projects of mutual concern.

Cripping/Disabling Ethnography: A discussion with Cassandra Hartblay

CrippingEthnographyTHURSDAY, March 12th
2:30 – 4:30 PM

Join SED for a discussion on ethnography and disability co-hosted with the Center for Humanities Research Group Translat(e)ability: Borders, Disability, and Crip Collaboratives. Cassandra Hartblay – a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – will present work on the tensions and possibilities of producing ethnographic work in relation to critical disability studies.

Cassandra Hartblay is an award-winning scholar of disability and postsoviet Russia. An ethnographer and cultural anthropologist by training, her work contributes to interdisciplinary conversations in queer/feminist disability studies, global studies, and infrastructure studies. Cassandra’s work on comparative regimes of productivity and dependency, as related to gender, disability, and the welfare state between the United States and Soviet Union in the 20th century, received the competitive Irving K. Zola Award for Emerging Scholars in Disability Studies in 2013. She has also worked as an applied qualitative researcher with the Soros Foundation, contributing to a collected volume on inclusive education in Central Asia. She is a dedicated ethnographer devoted to community engagement, critical praxis, social change, and fostering cross-cultural understanding.

Suggested Reading:
Hartblay, C. (2015). “It’s just for the check mark”: Minimum Requirements, Global Friction, and Inaccessible Accessibility Ramps in Russia. Work in Progress.

March 3rd & March 6th: Brian Cross & Tara-Lynne Pixley – “Visual Ethnographies and Documentary Practices”

SED_Brian Cross & Tara-Lynne Pixley_Visual Ethnographies

TUESDAY, March 3rd
9:30 – 11:00 AM

Join SED for breakfast and a vibrant discussion on visual ethnographies and documentary practices led by Visual Arts professor Brian Cross (B+) and Communication PhD student Tara-Lynne Pixley. Cross and Pixley  both photographers and filmmakers   will discuss the interstitial terrain between these different forms and fields of practice.

FRIDAY, March 6th
3:00 – 5:00 PM

Part II of this workshop is structured as a collaborative event where participants are encouraged to share works-in-progress (photography, video, and multimedia projects), receive feedback, and discuss future iterations of these visual and experimental projects.

Suggested Readings:

Connole, B. (n.d.). Sub-altermodern art? An interview with B+.

MacDougall, D. (1978). Ethnographic Film: Failure and Promise. Annual Review of Anthropology, 7, 405-425.

Minh-Ha, T. (1990). Documentary Is/Not a Name. October, 52 (Spring), 76-98.

Tuesday, February 24th: Angela Booker “Finding, Making, and Repairing Ethical Practices in Community-Based Research”

SED Poster_Angela BookerTUESDAY, February 24th
2:30 – 4:30 PM

Drawing from community-based research with youth and families, Angela Booker will trace the complexities of negotiating textures of agency and calls to action that permeate both ethnographic and design-based work. When challenges to existing discourses of power are added, ethical quandaries and opportunities emerge. This workshop will explore the possibilities that these ethical issues present in the context of community-based research with youth, and beyond. Following this discussion, workshop participants are invited to collaborate in small groups to explore the emergence of ethical opportunities, expectations and the divergence of practices that branch from the ethnographic and research-related experiences of participants.

Suggested Reading:
Goldman, S., Booker, A., & McDermott, M. (2008). Mixing the Digital, Social, and Cultural: Learning, Identity, and Agency in Youth Participation. In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media (p. 185–206). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Thursday, February 19th: Christina Dunbar-Hester “Low Power to the People”

Christina Dunbar-Hester

THURSDAY, February 19th
11:00 AM

Christina Dunbar-Hester will discuss her work on the politics of DIY (do-it-yourself) practice and FM radio activism in her recently-published book, Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism (2014). Following the practices of activist technical communities, Dunbar-Hester traces the activities of a small activist organization focused on low-power FM (LPFM) during the early period of the institutionalization of LPFM, beginning in the early 2000s, with an eye toward the intersection of technical practice and political engagement.

Suggested Reading:

Dunbar-Hester, C. (2014). Producing “Participation”? The Pleasures and Perils of Technical Engagement in Radio Activism. Public Culture, 26(1), 25-50.