Ethnographic Imagination Basel

Ethnographic Imagination Basel – a series on reimagining the world from the mundane.

Ethnographic Imagination Basel (EIB) is produced by the Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Basel. It is a research, educational, and public engagement initiative exploring innovative forms of political imagination through ethnographic practice. The podcast promotes ethnography not only as a tool of scholarly research but also as a mode of imagination available to all, a means for pursuing deeper intercultural, contextual understanding and more ethical ways of being in the world. EIB explores the ways in which ethnographic imagination is used for grasping emerging trends in the global political economic order and the politics of culture and society.

On Surveillance - with Katherine Verderey

In this episode, On Surveillance, our guest is Katherine Verdery, Julien J. Studley,  a faculty scholar and distinguished professor Emerita at the Department of Anthropology at the City University of New York. Her research has explored a vast set of topics, from property relations in agriculture and the political economy of social inequality and ethnic ties to the socialist and post-socialist politics of culture and regimes of governance, secrecy, and Surveillance. Verdery`s book, My Life as a Spy: Investigations in a Secret Police File (published in 2018), which won the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing, explores new ways to think about the relationship between Surveillance, governance, and state power today. Some of Verdery`s other publications include What Was Socialism and What Comes Next? (1996), The Political Lives of Dead Bodies (1999), The Vanishing Hectare: Property and Value in Postsocialist Transylvania (2003) and Secrets and Truths: Ethnography in the Archive of Romania’s Secret Police (2014).


On Materiality - with Carine Ayélé Durand

What can be gained from discussing Materiality, as opposed to simply talking about objects? This episode, On Materiality, examines what it means to engage with objects, substances, and textures. We contemplate the more profound implications of our relationship with things, how we can think through them, and how this connects to the work of political imagination. Our guest, Carine Ayélé Durand, is Director of Musée d'Ethnographie, Genève, whose curatorial and academic work involves collaborations with indigenous groups in the Arctic, the Brazilian Amazon and Canada to rethink engagements with material culture, visual arts, and museum exhibitions.

Some of Durand’s essays include “Artistic Practice and (Museum) Ethnography” (2010); “Anthropology in a Glass Case: Indigeneity, Collaboration, and Artistic Practice in Museums (2010); “Indexing (In)Authenticity: Art and Artefact in Ethnography Museums” (2012); and “Redefining Curatorship as Skilled Practice” (2023).

On Diaspora - with Ghassan Hage

What does it mean to live in a world defined by mobility, a world where the here and now are also so centrally defined multiple elsewheres? In this episode, On Diaspora, our guest, Ghassan Hage, distinguished professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne, Australia, engages in a thought-provoking discussion of the concept of diaspora. Hage brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to this complex subject. In the recent book, The Diasporic Condition: Ethnographic Explorations of the Lebanese in the World (2021), Hage explores innovative perspectives that challenge conventional notions of living in a lifeworld where the boundaries of location extend beyond mere spatial and temporal distances.

Hage, a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, has published a vast number collection of works, including White Nation (1998); Against Paranoid Nationalism(2003); After-Politics: Critical Anthropology and the Radical Imagination (2015); and Is Racism an Environmental Threat? (2017).

On Listening–with Mwenda Ntarangwi

How do we approach listening, as a mode of perception? How can we be attentive to what others say? Not so much to respond, but in order to understand. In this episode, On Listening, our guest is Mwenda Ntarangwi, a cultural anthropologist who has taught in the USA, in Kenya and is currently working with the National Defense University in Kenya. 

Ntarangwi has explored questions of listening, perception, and its engagement in knowledge production across his work in Kenya and the USA. Some of his publications include Gender Identity and Performance: Understanding of Swahili Cultural Realities Through Songs (2003); East African Hip Hop: Youth Culture and Globalization (2009), Reversed Gaze: An African Ethnography of American Anthropology (2010), and The Street is My Pulpit: Hip Hop and Christianity in Kenya (2016). Our conversation focuses on his article “Listening to Disrupt Ethnographic Representations” (2021), published in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. 

On Dance–with Hélène Neveu Kringelbach and Lesley Nicole Braun

This episode hosts two guests in a conversation about how dancing encompasses the elements of our changing worlds and allows us to act upon that world. 

Hélène Neveu Kringelbach is an Associate Professor of African Anthropology at University College London. Her research has focused on the lives and works of dancers and musicians on migration and effective relationships by national and transnational families in Senegal and France. Kringelbach is author of Dance Circles: Movement Morality and Self-fashioning in Urban Senegal (2013).

Lesley Braun, Associate Researcher at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Basel and has worked among women concert dancers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Braun's research explores dance, gender, transnational mobility in women's sexuality and trade in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is author of Congo's Dancers: Women and Work in Kinshasa (2023). 

On Birth/ing–with Stephen Okumu Ombere

This episode "On Birth/ing" features Stephen Okumu Ombere, Professor of Anthropology at Maseno University in Kisumu, Kenya. Ombere has researched birth in relation to medicalization, social assistance programs, and various cultural practices related to giving birth and motherhood. He is author of two monographs: Socio-cultural Context of Circumcised Men's Sexual Behaviour in Kenya (2015) and Local Perceptions of Social Protection Schemes in Maternal Health in Kenya: Ethnography in Coastal Kenya (PhD dissertation at the University of Bern, 2018). Stephen has also authored and co-authored articles applying a medical anthropology perspective to a wide variety of topics, including circumcision, HIV/AIDS, maternal health, and children’s vulnerability to sexual abuse.

On Memory–with Jennifer Cole

How and why are some things remembered and forgotten in different social and political contexts? Joining us on this episode, On Memory, is Jennifer Cole, Professor and Chair, Department of Comparative Human Development and Chair, Committee on African Studies, University of Chicago. Her work on Colonialism, rituals and ancestors in rural Madagascar has been centered on individual and collective memories.

Some of her publications include Forget Colonialism? Sacrifice and the Art of Memory in Madagascar (University of California Press 2001), Sex and Salvation: Imagining the Future in Madagascar (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

On Intimacy–with Peter Geschiere

How does intimacy matter in imagining and understanding the world today?

Peter Geschiere, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, is our guest on this episode, “On Intimacy”. Geschiere is the author of seminal books, including Village Communities and the State: Changing Relations among the Maka of South-Eastern Cameroon (1982); The Modernity of Witchcraft (1997); The Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship and Exclusion in African & Europe (2009); and Witchcraft, Intimacy, and Trust: Africa in Comparison (2013).

On Death–with Larisa Jašarević

Larisa Jašarević, anthropologist and author of Health and Wealth on the Bosnian Market: Intimate Debt (2017) and of the forthcoming book Beekeeping in the End Times, is our guest in this episode, “On Death”. Jašarević holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, where, until recently, she has also been a Senior Lecturer, before moving back to her family’s village in Bosnia, where she now works and writes by an apiary. This episode`s discussion begins with death, spanning related themes such as Islamic eschatology, eco-eschatology and some sensibilities they evoke.

On Normativity–with Vaibhav Saria

This episode’s guest, Vaibhav Saria, is the author of Hijras, Lovers, Brother: Surviving Sex and Poverty in Rural India (published in 2021), an impressively rich and nuanced ethnographic account of the everyday lives of hijras- often translated as one of India’s “trans” populations, how they subvert, play with and preserve and care for normative arrangements.

Vaibhav Saria is Assistant Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada. Holding a PhD in Anthropology from Johns Hopkins University, Vaibhav’s research and teaching span a wide array of topics, including global health and medical anthropology; gender, sexuality, and kinship; panics, pandemics, and poverty; questions of ethics, violence, law and nationalism.

On Possibility–with Anand Pandian

In this episode, On Possibility, our guest Anand Pandian joins us virtually from Baltimore. Pandian’s book, A Possible Anthropology: Methods for Uneasy Times (published in 2019) explores the possible in relation to knowledge, politics, and experience, but also—specifically—in relation to mundane acts of reading, writing, teaching, and researching.

Anand Pandian is Professor and Chair in the Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to A Possible Anthropology, the book around which our conversation will focus today, he is author of Crooked Stalks: Cultivating Virtue in South India (2009); Ayya’s Accounts: A Ledger of Hope in Modern India (2014) and Reel World: An Anthropology of Creation (2015). Anand is also editor and co-editor of numerous volumes, and his research has spanned across a wide variety of topics from environmental ethics, ecological sensibility, and agrarian cultivation to film, art, and music, to ways of doing anthropology with an “open mind”—with an eye out for possibility.