Subversive knowledge in times of global political crisis: a manifesto for ethnography in the study of international relations

Brigden, N. and Mainwaring, C. (2022) Subversive knowledge in times of global political crisis: a manifesto for ethnography in the study of international relations. International Studies Perspectives, 23(2), pp. 191-208. (doi: 10.1093/isp/ekab003)

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This paper explores the promises and pitfalls of using ethnographic methods to analyze global politics in turbulent times. Ethnography has not gone unnoticed by international relations (IR) scholars, but the method remains at the fringes of the discipline. While acknowledging more recent feminist and practice theorist contributions to ethnographic research in IR, this paper brings together contemporary research across diverse issue areas, ranging from humanitarian intervention to transnational migration, to ask about ethnography's larger contribution to understanding global politics: What kinds of knowledge does ethnography produce about IR? In what ways might ethnography, informed by local perspectives, challenge top-down approaches to the study of IR? We identify three primary justifications for ethnographic methods based on different, though overlapping, forms of knowledge that they can uncover: tacit knowledge, marginalized knowledge, and subversive knowledge. We acknowledge issues that complicate access, and we warn that ethnographers are far from immune to the imperialist arrogance of mainstream methodologies. Ultimately, we call for reflexive scholarship to navigate the international politics of a “post-truth” and post-Covid world.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Cetta Mainwaring has received generous funding from the Leverhulme Trust as an Early Career Research Fellow (ECF-2015-644).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mainwaring, Dr Cetta
Authors: Brigden, N., and Mainwaring, C.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:International Studies Perspectives
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN (Online):1528-3577
Published Online:14 April 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Authors
First Published:First published in International Studies Perspectives 23(2): 191-208
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
172704Controlling Mobility Remotely: The Rise of Visa RegimesMichele BurmanLeverhulme Trust (LEVERHUL)ECF-2015-644S&PS - Sociology