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Investigating Cultures: Styles of Inquiry

A series of 14 workshops. Wednesdays (even weeks): September 6 & 20, October 4, November 1, 15 & 29. All days from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (see below on the format)

Morning lectures: Conference Room II, The Student Union Building
Seminar & Afternoon sessions: Conference Room I, The Student Union Building

Organiser: Ton Otto - in cooperation with Jørgen Østergård Andersen, Thorsten Borring Olesen & Uffe Østergård.

Theoretical discussions within the humanities and social sciences often focus on ontological premises about the nature of social practice and about the place of culture and communication in social life. It is assumed that appropriate methods logically derive from specific theories and research problems. In the planned series of workshops we would like to turn this approach around by looking primarily at styles of inquiry in order to reflect on explicit and implicit assumptions that inform various approaches to social and cultural phenomena. We have two main reasons for this.

In the first place we would like to argue that there is not such a direct and logical relationship between theory and method as is generally assumed. There are reasons to believe that research practices have a development of their own, which is of course influenced by changing theoretical paradigms but which cannot be reduced to such theoretical shifts. Focusing more on research practices and styles of inquiry could perhaps throw an interesting new light on developments within the humanities and on the potential for further innovation. Our second reason for focusing on processes of investigation is to create an alternative platform for discussing and comparing theories, in particular concerning culture. By analysing the various ways in which arguments about reality are supported by empirical research, we hope to create a vantage point from which to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different theoretical approaches to culture and society.

Our project can be seen as part of a recent tendency within the humanities to reflect more explicitly on the methodological, epistemological and political aspects of research. Inspired by the postmodern intervention there is not only a heightened awareness of the problems of presentation in ethnographic and historic narratives, but there is also an increased sensitivity towards the constructivist, inter-subjective, and political aspects of the research process itself. There is a fast growing body of literature focusing on aspects of methodology and qualitative research techniques: interviewing, note-taking, source criticism, discourse and narrative analysis. In the series of workshops we aim to cover a wide range of methodological-theoretical fields, including semiotics, phenomenology, interpretative approach, cognitive anthropology, network analysis, post-modern and feminist culture critique.

The workshops were organised in cooperation with the Department of History, the Department of Ethnography and Social Anthropology, and the Centre for European Cultural Studies. They are offered as part of the PhD seminars & courses at the Faculty of Arts, University of Aarhus.

23 Feb Bruce Kapferer, Bergen: Phenomenological approaches
7 Mar Bruno Latour, Paris: Actor-network approaches
22 Mar Susan Wright, Birmingham: The politicisation of ‘culture’: research and policy
7 Apr Richard J. Evans, Cambridge: Post-modern challenges to history: the individual and the collective
3 May Ranajit Guha, Vienna: The subaltern studies approach to historical and anthropological research
17 May Tim Ingold, Aberdeen: Nature, mind, culture: an ecological approach
31 May Jürg Wassmann, Heidelberg: Cognitive approaches to culture
6 Sept George Marcus, Houston: Ethnography between multi-sited field experience and writing
20 Sept Fredrik Barth, Oslo: Naturalism in ethnographic fieldwork and analysis
4 Oct Per Aage Brandt, Aarhus: Semiotics, symbols and metaphors
1 Nov Jonathan Friedman, Lund/Paris: Globalisation and the transformation of the subject-sociality-culture relationship
15 Nov Ole Wæver, Copenhagen: Identity and politics: the case of Europe
29 Nov Niels Ole Finnemann, Aarhus: Media research and cultural analysis


Professor, Ethnographic Museum, Oslo. Without doubt one of the most well-known and influential anthropologists who has been actively publishing during the last three decades. His interests cover a wide field from ethnicity and entrepreneurial transactions to rituals, cosmologies, and cultural knowledge. He has made major contributions both to anthropological theory (ethnicity, cultural variation, knowledge traditions) and method (the naturalistic approach to ethnographic research). His many publications include Ethnic Groups and Boundaries (1969), Cosmologies in the Making: A Generative Approach to Cultural Variation in Inner New Guinea (1987), and Balinese Worlds (1993).

Professor of Semiotics at the University of Aarhus. As director of the Center for Semiotics and as a prolific author he has done much to promote a semiotic approach to culture and society. His interests comprise the origins of language, the organisation of cognitive schemas, natural logic and reasoning, and realistic philosophies. He has published, among other books, Dynamiques du Sens (1994) and Morphologies of Meaning (1995).

Professor, Cambridge University. A leading historian who has taken up the post-modern challenge to history writing. In his own writing he explores and develops the relationship between individual actors and collective realities. He uses individual life histories to interpret structural conditions in past societies, which cannot be captured by a purely quantitative approach. His recent books include In Defence of History (1997) and Tales from the German Underworld: Crime and Punishment in the Nineteenth Century (1998).

Senior Lecturer in Media and Information Science, University of Aarhus. His work concerns the cultural history of modern societies, currently with emphasis on the cultural impact of computerization. His publications include Tanke, Sprog og Maskine - en teoretisk analyse af computerens symbolske egenskaber (1994) (A translation: 'Thought, Sign and Machine - the Computer Reconsidered' is available on the Internet address below). Recent articles: "Modernity modernised" in Mayer, Computer Medias and Communication (Oxford UP, 1999). Recent paper: "Hypertext and the Representational Capacities of the Binary Alphabet" (1999), also available as e-text at:

Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Lund and Directeur d’Etudes at the Ecole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He was educated at the University of Paris and Columbia University, where he completed his PhD in 1972. Before moving to Lund he worked at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, University College London and the University of Copenhagen. He has written extensively on structuralism and marxism and did work on Southeast Asian history and ethnography. Since the mid-seventies he has been involved in the development of global systemic anthropology. His major publications include System, Structure, and Contradiction: The Evolution of ‘Asiatic’ Social Formations (1998, 2nd edition), Cultural Identity and Global Process (1994), and the (co-)edited volumes Consumption and Identity (1994), Melanesian Modernities (1996), and World System History: the Science of Long Term Change (1999).

Presently retired and Honorary Professor at the University of Vienna. He has taught history at the University of Sussex and has been a senior research fellow at the Research School of Pacific Studies of the Australian National University for many years. He has been the intellectual leader of the subaltern studies group that presented a new perspective on interpreting South Asian History. He has been the editor of the series Subaltern Studies, published by Oxford University Press. His recent publications include Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India (1997), Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency in Colonial India (reprint 1999), and the edited volume A Subaltern Studies Reader (1997).

Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, and formerly Max Gluckman Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester (1995-99). He has carried out ethnographic research among Saami and Finnish people in Lapland, and has written extensively on comparative questions of environment, technology and social organisation in the circumpolar North, as well as on evolutionary theory in anthropology, biology and history, on the role of animals in human society, and on issues in human ecology. His current research interests are in the anthropology of technology and in aspects of environmental perception. He has edited the Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology (1994) and was editor of Man (the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute) from 1990 to 1992. His principal publications include Hunters, Pastoralists and Ranchers (1980), Evolution and Social Life (1986), The Appropriation of Nature (1986), Hunters and Gatherers, 2 Vols. (co-edited with David Riches and James Woodburn, 1988), What is an Animal? (1988; 1994), Tools, Language and Cognition in Human Evolution (co-edited with Kathleen Gibson, 1993), and Key Debates in Anthropology (1996).

Professor and a prolific and influential anthropologist attracted to a phenomenological approach. He has concentrated specifically on the role of symbolism in political and ritual systems. His recent work focuses on the myths and legends of state nationalism and their role in the production of ethnic prejudice and violence. Ritual healing and myths are his other major interests. Two of his well-known books are The Feast of the Sorcerer. Practices of Consciousness and Power (1997) and Legends of People, Myths of State: Violence, Intolerance, and Political Culture in Sri Lanka and Australia (1988).

Professor, educational psychologist and Director of the Centre for Qualitative Research at the University of Aarhus. His research interests include evaluations, examinations, apprenticeship and learning as social practice. In his work he is concerned with the implications of hermeneutics, phenomenology and dialectics for our research practice. He has written the influential book Interviews: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing (1996) and he has edited Mesterlære: Læring som social praksis (1999) and Psychology and Postmodernism (1992).

Professor and one of the leading and most original scholars in the field of science studies. He has problematised the conceptual division between knowledge about nature, discourse and society and has highlighted the importance of looking at complex network-type relations between actants of various kinds. His recent books include Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (1999), We Have Never Been Modern (1993), and The Pasteurization of France (1988).

Professor, Rice University, and one of the leading initiators of the post-modern intervention in anthropology. His current research interests are in the ethnography of dynastic families, the relationship of politics and poetics in anthropological thought and the remaking of civil societies in the wake of political trauma. From 1986 to 1991 he was the inaugural editor of the journal Cultural Anthropology and he has published the following influential books: Anthropology as Cultural Critique (1986, with Michael Fischer), Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (1986, with James Clifford) and Ethnography through Thick and Thin (1998). Throughout the decade of the 1990s he devised and edited a series of annuals from the University of Chicago Press, known as Late Editions and designed to probe through experiment with the form of the ethnographic interview varieties of fin-de-siècle experiences. The last of eight volumes will appear in the fall of 2000.

Professor of Anthropology and head of the Institute of Ethnology, University of Heidelberg. He has a strong interest in cognitive anthropology and has conducted field research in Papua New Guinea together with a psychologist. He has published major articles on his cognitive anthropological research as well as the books The Song to the Flying Fox (1991) and Das Ideal des Leicht Gebeugten Menschen (1993) and the edited volume Pacific Answers to Western Hegemony (1998).

Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. She is a social anthropologist who has researched political culture and processes of governance in the U.K. and Iran. She is interested in the applicability and the political nature of the concept of culture. Her recent publications include the edited volumes Anthropology of Organizations (1994), Power & Participatory Development: Theory & Practice (1995), Anthropology of Policy: Critical Perspectives on Governance and Power (1997), and "The Politicization of "culture"" (in Anthropology Today, 14/1, 1998).

Professor of International Relations at the Institute of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. Together with Lene Hansen he has investigated the cultural dimension of contemporary foreign policy in Denmark and the Scandinavian countries by focusing on the historical development of national and regional identities. Their book on this topic is forthcoming: Between Nations and Europe: Regionalism, Nationalism and the Politics of Union. His most recent publications include Security: A New Framework for Analysis (1998, with Lynne Rienne), The Future of International Relations: Masters in the Making? (1997, co-editor), Concepts of Security (1997), and the article ‘The Sociology of a not so International Discipline: American and European Developments in International Relations’ in International Organization: 52(4): 687-727 (1998).

Updated 4 December 2000 by smc. Please mail comments to the web editor at Centre for Cultural Research.