An ethnographic workbench

Tarde is a handbook of minimal situations. But this motto goes beyond its advocacy for displaying the often ignored or taken-for-granted elements and associations happening outside. Tarde has been conceived as a methodological experiment that aims to mix and essay different formats and ways to do and represent urban ethnography. Those formats and ways have the peculiarity of being underrated and, sometimes, even despised mainly because they do not fit into traditional academic standards.   

Books, papers, documentaries, and everything that goes in large formats are what is generally expected from urban sociology and anthropology. The argument is simple: long-term research requires large formats. However, that principle is a prince that does not necessarily rule the lands of ethnography, particularly not the domains of the one whose main study object is the effervescences and instabilities of urban life. There are two reasons explaining this circumstance.

First, we have that ethnography is not anthropology [1], sociology, or even a scientific discipline. Rather, ethnography is a sort of workbench where one can craft all kinds of epistemological devices and multimodal artifacts to explore, grab, and represent what is happening outside. However, that disciplinary orphanage rather than being an issue represents a tremendously creative and operative advantage. One can grab whatever from anywhere to craft and experiment with ethnographic methods to produce better and more detailed descriptions of urban life. 

Precisely, Tarde is one of those experiments that go beyond transdisciplinarity since they are also enhanced and contaminated by the different rhythms, and entanglements occurring in the streets. Its pocket format and way of structuring its information —using vignettes and visualizations—  were conceived to mirror and represent the minimal associations this project aims to follow. 

Second, a small format is not a synonym for rushed and superficial work. Rather, it represents a challenge to the way how ethnography is traditionally crafted and designed. Concretion needs extra effort, better planning, and the same detailed and attentive ethnography gaze. Also, the fact that Tarde proposes to delve into a topic per edition does not mean that the topic will be exhausted in one number. There will always be more time and space to come back. 

And yes, maybe ethnography is not anthropology (who cares, anyways), but it is certainly an important resource to enrich and expand our anthropological practice by experimenting with methods, formats, craftsmanship, and beyond.


[1] Ingold, T. (2008). Anthropology is Not Ethnography. Proceedings of the British Academy, 154.