I’m pleased to announce that I will spend the 2017-2018 academic year as a postdoctoral associate and lecturer for Russian Studies in the European Studies Council at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. I’ll also be cross-appointed in the Department of Anthropology. I will be teaching two courses, moving the ethnographic play project along, and working on my ethnographic monograph.
Red Sox nation, I’m coming home!
I am glad to be featured this week on the AnthroPod podcast, produced by the journal Cultural Anthropology. The piece is the first of three in a series on ethnography and design, featuring two other dear colleagues and my collaborators the past two years in the UC Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design, Lilly Irani and Keith Murphy. As an avid podcast listener myself, I am especially fond of the work that AnthroPod does to bring the anthropological perspective into my podcast app and earbuds (take that, Freakonomics!), and commendations are especially in order to the exceptional Tariq Rahman and Katherine Sacco, both in the PhD program at UC Irvine, who put the series together.
Over the past year, in my role as postdoctoral fellow for the Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design (CoLED), it’s been my great privilege to work with an outstanding array of scholars interested in the intersections and conundrums presented by thinking about ethnography and design.
A little over a year ago, in September 2016, we launched the CoLED website, which, with guidance from co-PIs Elana Zilberg and Joe Hankins, and groundwork laid by Yelena Gluzman, I was glad to develop.
Now, based on a year of work, and thanks to a workshop grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and input from the CoLED faculty, postdocs, and graduate students across six UC institutions, we are so very excited to be presenting the fist CoLED conference, ETHNOGRAPHY & DESIGN: MUTUAL PROVOCATIONS. We are thrilled to present a conference that answers concerns brought by the scholars in our network: how can we make a conference that is about design and ethnography without reproducing a paradigm in which ethnography is constantly coopted for capital accumulation, as design enlists ethnographic techniques to work to produce value? How can we address the variety of stakes, concerns, approaches, disciplinary lenses, and arguments surrounding the ways that the words “ethnography” and “design” are circulating in our time? What would a conference program look like if the “standard” research presentation were demoted, and other “designs for ethnography” including artworks, performance, pedagogy, interactive digital interfaces, and experimental labs were offered equal footing? Who would even come to such a conference.
It has been a fascinating challenge and enthralling visioning process to work with the CoLED conference committee to bring this conference into existence. I’m personal very excited for the event, and I know that the rest of the team is as well. Please join us at UC San Diego next week, Oct 27-29th, for the event, or stay tuned for a multimedia conference publication to come.
I WAS NEVER ALONE (IWNA), a play script based on ethnographic fieldwork in Petrozavodsk, Russia with adults with disabilities, just keeps on moving – developing in new ways and finding collaborators and possibilities that, as a first-time documentary playwright, continue to astound and amaze me.
The February 2016 staged reading of IWNA (dir. Joseph Megel) at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill was the focus a recent video from Carolina Performing Arts. Check out a few clips from the reading, and me, trying not to not say the wrong thing, in the two-minute video feature.
Thanks to a grant from the FISP program, the play is moving forward with a more elaborated workshop that will take place in the fall at the University of California San Diego. Auditions for cast members, and meetings with prospective production team members will take place on June 2 & 3rd at UCSD (Dept of Theater & Dance, Galbraith Hall, Rm 20 on the lower level). Sign up for an audition slot here, or contact me or assistant director Jason Dorwart for more information or with access requests.
Meanwhile, script development continues on the Russian side of things, with the Russian-language version of the edited script nearing completion thanks to the collaboration of Valeriya Markina, my colleague at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, whose own project looks at disability theater in Moscow. This version of the Russian-language script will be shared with research participants, who will have the opportunity to review their own segment privately, and then, in late July, participate in a day long table reading and workshop about issues of disability representation that the script brings up. I’m looking forward to heading back to Russia for the first time since 2014 in order to conduct that workshop!
I guess the show’s subtitle, Oporniki, might have something to it — this thing really does seem to have a backbone!
As I settle into a new role as a postdoctoral fellow at the UCSD Studio for Ethnographic Design, I’m reflecting on all that happened during the summer of 2015 – what a packed few months it’s been!
A few highlights:
- The June 2015 conference of the Society for Disability Studies brought some great moments for disability ethnography. For the first time in recent memory, interdisciplinary ethnographers in attendance met to discuss common goals, new research, and possible collaborations. There were several ethnographic and/collaborative qualitative research presentations. There was an exciting discussion following Karen Nakamura’s paper presentation, “Why I am Not a Medical Anthropologist.” A meeting on disability and digital research methodologies produced some interesting points.
- In June 2015 the open access medical anthropology platform Somatosphere hosted series on disability ethnography, curated by Michele Friedner and Emily Cohen. The series as a whole offers an interesting snapshot of the current moment in disability anthropology (one which I hope to see evolve further). An excerpt from my work on digital worlds and accessibility appeared therein.
- As a Summer Research Fellow at the Kennan Institute for Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington DC, I was glad to participate in a roundtable event on Global Disability Rights. Held in tandem with the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the panel highlighted different perspectives on the role of the US in disability rights advocacy in Russia and Ukraine. The panelists included me, Eric Mathews of Disability Rights International, and Andrea Mazzarino of Brown University and formerly Human Rights Watch. The event offered a rare moment to bring together policy, human rights advocacy, and critical academic perspectives. A transcript and audio recording of the event are available via the Kennan Institute.
- And, most recently, I’ve moved to San Diego to begin a Postdoctoral Fellowship with the interdisciplinary Studio for Ethnographic Design at UCSD and the multicampus University of California Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design (CoLED).
I was also an enthusiastic spectator-at-a-distance for the production of the new play FREIGHT at HERE Arts Center in New York. Joseph Megel, who developed and directed that show, has been a great mentor to me as I develop a documentary theater project based on my research. Congrats to all involved in that production!
Finally -in the travel tips/canine adventures department, the dog beach at Ocean Beach in San Diego is fantastic!