George Marcus Reflects on Ethnography and Innovation at UC Irvine

** This is the inaugural post in a series in which scholars and practitioners reflect on ethnography and innovation, with a particular focus on the University of California System.**

George Marcus, a white man with brown-grey hair, is wearing a blue jacket and blue jeans, and standing comfortably with his arms folded across his chest, leaning back against a very large tree. The trunk of the tree is wider than he is tall.

By George Marcus

When I arrived at UC, Irvine in 2005, there was already a considerable and diverse interest in the application of ethnography to various disciplines, aside from anthropology. For example, there was (and has been) the work of Paul Dourish and Bonnie Nardi in Informatics, that of Susan Coutin, among others in Law & Society and criminology; David Snow and others in sociology; and especially for me, the work and interest in ethnography among those in the critical theory program (and especially in the now defunct Critical Theory Institute)—here the work of Gaby Schwab (writing on ethnography) and David Theo Goldberg (in a two year project on the effects of recent wars on US society) stand out. Also, the years that Etienne Balibar was at UCI were very special for cross-disciplinary collaboration involving core issues of ethnographic theory and method. There had been various interesting collaborations on a regular basis among these units. Based on this rich environment for exploring new applications and understandings of ethnography, and also on my own perceptions about how basic anthropological research had been changing in its forms from the 1990s into the first decade of the new century, I proposed the founding of a campus level Center for Ethnography, which came into being in 2005. From the very beginning it has operated as an international center, as well, for considering changes and innovations in ethnographic method, with over 300 international correspondents.