Ethnographic Design Co.Lab

Rice Anthropology and the Ethnographic Design Collaboratory embrace the experimental. Our experiments with form extend from conversations initiated in the department through the 1980s and 1990s, but are not limited to them. We embrace performance, memory-oriented, collaborative, participatory and community building ethnography, where ethnography constitutes a “coming community” and the very act of engaging in ethnography becomes the means through which new communities are created through collaboration and traditional communities sustained. In this spirit, we also embrace the autoethnographic in feminist, queer, Black, Indigenous, Latinx, diasporic, decolonial and abolitionist ethnography; and seek to hone an ethnographic sensibility outside a white/imperial gaze, one that arcs toward social justice and foments capacity for deep transformation. As we live and work through times of escalating crisis, ethnography enables us to envision new ways of thinking, acting, and being together; of crafting necessary interventions and of seeing their effects in real-time.

Upcoming Events

FALL 2024

Friday, September 27, 12-2pm, with Huatse Gyal and Cymene Howe, Department of Anthropology

“A flash essay,” writes anthropologist and writer Ruth Behar “is like a filigree earring in how it fills you with a sense of wonder. And as a form of writing, it leaves you in awe that something so miniature can be so capacious as to let the whole world inside.” This workshop invites both graduate and undergraduate students to experiment with flash ethnography as a form of writing and engaging the world.

SENSORY ETHNOGRAPHY – Experiments in Dismantling Environmental Injustice
Friday, October 11, 12-2pm, with Prash Naidu, Assistant Professor of Environmental and Medical Anthropology at City College of New York

What do capitalism and pollution feel, smell, and sound like? Why does air pollution have a sour, metallic taste to it? Can we feel the gritty textures of particulate matter coating our landscapes? How do we attune our ears to the sonic disruptions in everyday life? What chromatic assaults accompany gray clouds of smog? This workshop discusses sensory ethnography’s promises and challenges in dismantling environmental injustice.


Friday, January 31, 12-2pm, with Timothy Morton, Department of English, Cymene Howe and Huatse Gyal, Department of Anthropology

EXPLORING MULTIMODAL FORMS - Embodied Knowledge and Modes of Repair
Friday, February 11, 12-2pm, with Deborah Thomas, R. Jean Brownlee Professor of Anthropology; Director of Center for Experimental Ethnography at University of Pennsylvania.

What does the body know? What can bodies tell us about the forms of collective world-building that exist outside of but in relation to the juridical structures of sovereignty that govern modern Western political and social life? This talk invites us to think with and through the space of Tambufest in Jamaica, a kumina festival I have co-organized for the past five years. We will reflect on how community-based spaces of care, creativity, and spirituality can open portals to thinking beyond linearity and create channels for accountability. I will argue that we are heir not only to colonial logics, but also to the means to refuse or retool them, and that both of these inheritances are inscribed in and on the body.

Past Events

Ayana Flewellen, March 30, 12 PM

"Towards an Archaeology of Redress: The Estate Little Princess Archaeological Field School in St. Croix"

Abstract: This presentation summarizes archaeological fieldwork conducted at the Estate Little Princess since the summer of 2017, led by the Society of Black Archaeologists members Drs. Ayana Flewellen, Justin Dunnavant, William White, Alicia Odewale, and Alexandra Jones. Archaeological excavations, mapping, artifact analysis, and archival research at the Estate Little Princess, an 18th-century sugar plantation, add to what is known about pre- and post-emancipation life Afro-Crucians in the Christiansted area on the island of St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands (USVI). The Estate Little Princess Archaeology Project is just one project through the Society of Black Archaeologists dedicated to addressing and combating the lack of diversity and inclusivity within the field of archaeology. During this presentation, Dr. Flewellen will discuss core principles of the Society of Black Archaeologists that shape the ongoing work conducted at the Estate Little Princess.

Helena Zeweri, April 13, 12 PM

“Refuge as Anti-imperial Politics: Activism in the Global Afghan Diaspora, Post-US Withdrawal”

Abstract: This talk examines Afghan American diasporic humanitarian aid in the wake of the 2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan. Through conducting a discursive analysis of diasporic social media engagement and drawing from personal experience aiding the effort to evacuate Afghan civilians to third countries, I offer examples of how Afghan diasporic collectives’ efforts to secure refuge for displaced civilians transformed into a critique of the disposability of Afghan life under US empire. More specifically, I examine the ways in which requests for humanitarian aid for Afghanistan became newly entangled with anti-imperial critiques of US government policy toward displaced Afghans seeking safe passage to transit countries. For example, several collectives, in social media posts calling for prompt assistance for displaced Afghans, also critiqued the racialized politics of recognition of the US immigration system. For other collectives, the call for humanitarian aid was paired with a call to give Afghans Temporary Protected Status as a way for the US state to take responsibility for the mass displacement caused by the military withdrawal. Through this analysis, I turn to how Afghan diasporic collectives frame mass displacement both as a humanitarian crisis and a political injustice borne out of prolonged occupation. In doing so, this talk will illustrate how humanitarian calls for action are not limited to saving lives and can extend to political critique. This talk will also explore how this burgeoning anti-imperial politics becomes an intimate mode of self-reflection for Afghan Americans who, since the War on Terror, have occupied a contradictory position as hypervisible yet marginalized by the US state. In doing so, it seeks to make sense of a unique moment in Afghan American political life in which the language of anti-imperialism is emerging as central to calls for humanitarian aid. This talk marks a preliminary exploration of a long-term ethnographic and historical study of how Afghan global diasporic activism over the past twenty years has been shaped by global and domestic movements for racial justice, refugee rights, and decolonization.