The Ethnographic Case

A doctor injects turpentine into the leg of a dying patient; the patient lives and years later a granddaughter uses this story of survival to write a story of her own. A refugee is questioned in court for falsifying paternity; a cultural expert intervenes to develop a legal case for kinship that exceeds DNA. A caring father lives a powerful truth, though a filmmaker must misrepresent Ecuadorian prostitutes in order to share it. In all three cases, “the case” shapes possibilities for action. In all three cases, “the case” is different than it was the case before.

The Ethnographic Case challenges a widespread academic inclination to treat concepts as immutable mobiles. The contributions to this volume develop “ethnographic casing” as a technique of attending to heterogeneities in systems of thought. Medical cases. Legal cases. Briefcases. Detective cases. Some cases featured are violent, others compassionate; some set stereotypes in motion, others break them down. Connected more by difference than similarity, the “cases” in this volume make a case for the virtue of relational science. This is a science that is not beholden to the masters’ narratives, but which embraces the double-work of caring for detail, while caring for the practices through which one learns to care. In 26 gripping and provocative installations, the volume showcases research from numerous influential feminist and decolonial scholars. Where anthropology has long sought to identify patterns in culture, this volume makes space for inquiry focused on particularities and advocates for an intellectual politics where that which doesn’t fit is still allowed to matter.

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Table of Contents

1. The Book-CASE: Introduction. Emily Yates-Doerr & Christine Labuski

2. Exemplary: The Case of the Farmer and the Turpentine. Annemarie Mol

3. Autophony: Listening to Your Eyes Move. Anna Harris

4. Encased: Plotting Attentions Through Distraction. Melissa Biggs and John Bodinger de Uriarte

5. No Judgments: Fieldwork on the Spectrum. Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp

6. Facial Paralysis: Somaticizing Frustration in Guatemala. Nicholas Copeland

7. “He Didn’t Blow Us Up”: Routine Violence and Non-event as Case. Ken MacLeish

8. What’s in a Name? Ruth Goldstein

9. Normalizing Sexually Violated Bodies: Sexual Assault Adjudication, Medical Evidence, and the Legal Case. Sameena Mulla

10. Case by Case. Jason Danely

11. The Case of the Ugly Sperm. Janelle Lamoreaux

12. Waiting in the Face of Bare Life. Aaron Ansell

13. Crossing Boundaries: Making Sense with the Sense-able. Christy Spackman

14. Swamp Dialogues: Filming Ethnography. Ildikó Zonga Plájás

15. What is a Family? Refugee DNA and the Possible Truths of Kinship. Carole McGranahan

16. A Polygraphic Casebook. Susan Reynolds Whyte

17. Traveling within the Case. Atsuro Morita

18. The Case of the Cake: Dilemmas of Giving and Taking. Rima Praspaliauskiene

19. From Fish Lives to Fish Law: Learning to See Indigenous Legal Orders in Canada. Zoe Todd

20. Ethnographic Case, Legal Case: From the Spirit of the Law to the Law of the Spirit. André Menard and Constanza Tizzoni

21. The Enclosed Case. Elizabeth Lewis

22. Making Cases for a Technological Fix: Germany’s Energy Transition and the Green Good Life. Jennifer Carlson

23. Filming Sex/Gender: The Ethics of (Mis)representation. Anna Wilking

24. Three Millimeters. Christine Labuski

25. The Discernment of Knowledge: Sexualized Violence in the Mennonite Church. Stephanie Krehbiel

26. Earthly Togetherness: Making a Case for Living with Worms. Filippo Bertoni

27. Extractivism, Refusals, and the Unearthing of Failure. Teresa Velasquez

28. Fixing Things, Moving Stories. Jenna Grant

29. Conclusion. Emily Yates-Doerr