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Seminar: Public and Interdisciplinary Communication in Social and Cultural Anthropology

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In the summer term 2012, I am organizing the seminar “Public and Interdisciplinary Communication in Social and Cultural Anthropology” at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna. More details on the seminar’s objectives, methods and topics can be found here in German:

A first round of brainstorming with the students about social and cultural anthropology in relation to “the public” and forms of interdisciplinarity resulted in this mind map (German):

Ethnographie als theoretischer & epistemologischer Ansatz

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Ideen und Anmerkungen zur Ethnographie als theoretischer und epistemologischer Forschungsansatz, die im Rahmen eines Jour Fixe der Gruppe Internetforschung am 09.01.2012 diskutiert wurden. Dabei wurde vor allem der Frage nachgegangen wie Ethnographie in der Internetforschung Verwendung finden kann.

Ethnographie ist eine Theorie des Beschreibens (Nader)
→ Kontext
→ Holismus → Imagination von Gesamt- oder Ganzheit

Ethnographie ist keine Methode (Ingold)
→ Ethnographie = beschreibende Integration (durch Kontextualisierung)
→ Ethnographie = Praxis verbaler Beschreibung

Praktische Aspekte / Probleme einer Ethnographie
→ Prozess der teilnehmenden Beobachtung
→ Inklusion der Forscherin / „Wir & die Anderen“
→ Wandel in Zeit & Raum
→ Hierarchien von Kontexten

Ethnographie & Interdisziplinarität (Strathern)
→ Interaktion von Disziplinen
→ Kontextspezifika entscheiden über Ethnographie → Schaffung von Kontext
→ Multi- → Inter- → Transdisziplinarität → von „information-sharing“ zu „knowledge-creation“

Ingold, T. 2008. Anthropology is not ethnography. In: Proceedings of the British Academy 154: 69-92. Online:

Nader, L. 2011. Ethnography as theory. In: HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 1(1): 211-219. Online:

Strathern, M. 2005. Experiments in interdisciplinarity. In: Social Anthropology 13(1): 75-90.

Paper: From Cyber to Digital Anthropology to an Anthropology of the Contemporary

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Philipp Budka’s Paper at the DGV (German Anthropological Association) conference in Vienna, 14-17 September 2011, Workshop “Cyberculture” organized by Alexander Knorr

This paper is first taking a look back on the “anthropology of cyberculture”, formulated as anthropological research area, concept and issue by Escobar in 1994. Inspired by science and technology studies, he painted a very vivid picture how anthropology and ethnography could contribute to the understanding of new bio and communication technologies as society’s transforming driving forces. Pushed by powerful digital media technologies, such as internet applications and services, anthropology labelled as “digital anthropology” is currently tempted to forget about cyberanthropology’s holistic effort of understanding the sociocultural construction and interpretation of bio and communication technologies. What is the legacy of the anthropology of cyberculture when dealing with new digital practices? Is it actually necessary to construct branches of anthropology that deal with contemporary sociocultural developments? Or should we just open the discipline to an “anthropology of the contemporary”, as Rabinow and Marcus (2008) propose?

Escobar, Arturo. 1994. Welcome to Cyberia. Notes on the anthropology of cyberculture. In Current Anthropology, 35/3: 211-231.
Rabinow, Paul, Marcus, George E. (with Faubion, James D., Rees, Tobias) 2008. Designs for an anthropology of the contemporary. Durham: Duke University Press.

Text (PDF)


Concept map: Sociotechnical system in an anthropology of technology

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This concept map builds on Bryan Pfaffenberger’s article “Social anthropology of technology”, Annual Review of Anthropology 21(1992), pp. 491-516, in which he discusses the use of sociotechnical systems in an anthropological context. This map tries to visualize the concept. It was done by using the free CMap Tools (click to enlarge).

New Book: Theorising Media and Practice (Bräuchler & Postill 2010)

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Bräuchler, B. and J. Postill (eds) 2010. Theorising Media and Practice. Oxford and New York: Berghahn.

From John Postill’s blog:

This book is very much a product of the numerous conversations we’ve had down the years on the EASA Media Anthropology Network on practice approaches to media. We’re really grateful to all chapter contributors and to all of network members who have helped us think through some of the key questions.


Although practice theory has been a mainstay of social theory for nearly three decades, so far it has had very limited impact on media studies. This book draws on the work of practice theorists such as Wittgenstein, Foucault, Bourdieu, Barth and Schatzki and rethinks the study of media from the perspective of practice theory. Drawing on ethnographic case studies from places such as Zambia, India, Hong Kong, the United States, Britain, Norway and Denmark, the contributors address a number of important themes: media as practice; the interlinkage between media, culture and practice; the contextual study of media practices; and new practices of digital production. Collectively, these chapters make a strong case for the importance of theorising the relationship between media and practice and thereby adding practice theory as a new strand to the anthropology of media.

More information:

Video: About “doing anthropology”

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MIT anthropologists in this short video talk about doing anthropology, about their personal experiences with working as anthropologists and ethnographers.


Thoughts on Fieldwork From Three Research Sites
Cultural Anthropology is a social science that explores how people understand – and act in – the world. But what, exactly, is it that Cultural Anthropologists do? How do they approach their research? In this short film, three members of MIT’s Anthropology Department, Stefan Helmreich, Erica James, and Heather Paxson, talk about their current work and the process of doing fieldwork.”

Lecture: Media Ethnographies – Ethnography in/and the Anthropology of Media

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In the winter term 2010/2011 Philipp is giving a lecture on media ethnographies in the context of an anthropology of media technologies at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna. By using different case studies, the lecture aims to highlight the importance of ethnography in understanding media phenomena.

For more information in German go to:

Report on the 11th Biennial EASA 2010 Conference

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Report on the 11th Biennial EASA 2010 Conference “Crisis and Imagination”,
National University of Ireland Maynooth, 24-27
th August 2010
by Philipp Budka
(University of Vienna)

This report focuses only on those workshops I attended during the conference. They all deal with media (technology) practices in/and social and cultural anthropology. For a complete list of workshops and thematic areas, take a look at the conference website:

National University of Ireland Maynooth, North Campus

25 August 2010: EASA Media Anthropology Network Workshop “The rewards of media”
Convenors: John Postill & Philipp Budka


John Postill introduces to the workshop’s theme, procedure and schedule. “The workshop explores the rewards (social, economic, symbolic, sensory, etc., cf. Warde 2005) derived from engaging in specific media practices in different sociocultural settings.” (more:

1) John Postill & Francisco Orsorio “Mobile rewards: a critical review of the Mobiles for Development (M4D) literature”
In the workshop’s first paper John and Francisco review literature in the field of mobile technologies, particular phones, for development.

26 August 2010: Workshop “Digital Anthropology”
Convenors: Daniel Miller & Heather Horst

Introduction to the workshop by Daniel Miller. “How can anthropology contribute to an understanding of the impact of new digital technologies? This session explores topics ranging from how digital technologies become part of everyday life to their role in the development of new infrastructures within both commerce and the state.” (more:

1) Daniel Miller & Heather Horst “A brief theory of digital anthropology”
Daniel gives an introduction to the theory of digital anthropology by presenting the study program for digital anthropology at the University College London and two ethnographic case studies.

National University of Ireland Maynooth, South Campus

27 August 2010: Workshop “Engaging anthropology in practice: pedagogical exchanges with media practitioners”
Convenors: Caroline Gatt, Rachel Harkness, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Joseph Long


Introducing to the workshop and its theme are Caroline Gatt, Rachel Harkness, and Joseph Long. How can anthropology engage with media practitioners and in e.g. media training programs?
“Launching “Engaging Anthropology in Practice”, a project based in Scotland, this panel will showcase anthropological engagements of various publics by European practitioners in order to learn from this work and create links for future cooperation. Presentations have been requested that reflect upon the practicalities of engagement. Discussion in the latter part of the session will consider the development of anthropological training in the light of these experiences.” (more:

1) Julia Bayer “Awareness training for journalists and its potential for the promotion of media diversity”
Julia, in her presentation, is introducing an awareness training program for journalists in Germany.

“An anthropology of the internet” by Keith Hart

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Is an anthropology of the internet possible? If so, what would it look like? I will attempt a provisional answer here, building on my book about the consequences of the digital revolution for the forms of money and exchange. People, machines and money matter in this world, in that order. Most intellectuals know very little about any of them, being preoccupied with their own production of cultural ideas. Anthropologists have made some progress towards understanding people, but they are often in denial when it comes to the other two; and their methods for studying people have been trapped for too long in the 20th-century paradigm of fieldwork-based ethnography. I do not advocate a wholesale rejection of the ethnographic tradition, but rather would extend its premises towards a more inclusive anthropological project, better suited to studying world society, of which the internet is perhaps the most striking expression. For sure, we need to find out what real people do and think by joining them where they live. But we also need a global perspective on humanity as a whole if we wish to understand our moment in history. This will expose the limitations of the modern experiment in the social sciences — their addiction to impersonal abstractions and repression of individual subjectivity.

New forms of socialities on the web? – Paper at the Web as Culture Conference

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Budka, P., Mader, E. 2009. New forms of socialities on the web? A critical exploration of anthropological concepts to understand sociocultural online practices. Paper at “Web as Culture Conference”, Giessen, 16-18 July.


Internet technologies and the World Wide Web promised a lot of things: from instantaneous global communication and fast information gathering to new forms of politics, economy, organizations, and socialities, including a renewed sense of community. By studying these online and “virtual” communities, internet researchers initially focused on their structure and development (e.g. Jones 1995, Smith & Kollock, 1999). Social network theory then changed decisively the way communities on the web have been conceptualized and analyzed. Scholars like Barry Wellman (et al., 2002) and Manuel Castells (2000), argue that in the internet age societies, communities, and individuals all have a network character. Thus the conceptualization of community as social network, by focusing on the interactions in these communities, has become widespread in internet studies.

Community and social network as concepts of sociality have been critically reviewed by anthropologists particularly in the context and process of ethnographic fieldwork. Vered Amit (2002), e.g., states that community is, because of its emotional significance and popularity in public discourses, a rather poor analytical concept. Internet ethnographers hence have been starting to look for alternative ways of understanding online socialities by moving beyond the community/network paradigm (Postill 2008).

In this paper we are critically discussing the potential of alternative concepts of sociality to analyze how people are interacting on the web. In so doing, we are firstly reviewing the quite popular concept of “communitas” developed by Victor Turner to differentiate between society as social structure and society as communitas constituted by concrete idiosyncratic individuals and their interactions. In the context of the sociocultural web, the liminal experience of people switching between these two stages is particularly interesting. Secondly, we are introducing the concept of “conviviality”, coined by Joanna Overing, to internet studies. Conviviality accentuates the affective side of sociality, such as joy, creativity, and the virtues of sharing and generosity, as opposed to the structure or functioning of society. These analytical concepts and tools, derived from anthropological and ethnographic research, are finally applied to an empirical case study of Bollywood fan communities on the web and their sociocultural practices.


Amit, Vered (ed.). 2002. Realizing community: concepts, social relationships and sentiments. London & New York: Routledge.
Castells, Manuel. 2000. The rise of the network society. Second Edition. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.
Jones, Steven G. (ed.). 1995. CyberSociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Kollock, Peter, Smith, Marc A. (eds.). 1999. Communities in Cyberspace. London & New York: Routledge.
Postill, John. 2008. Localising the internet: beyond communities and networks. In: New Media and Society 10(3), 413-431.
Wellman, Barry, Boase, Jeffrey and Wenhong Chen. 2002. The networked nature of community: online and offline. In: IT&Society 1/1, 151-165.

Journal Special Issue: Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology – Media & Film

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C. Trupp & P. Budka 2008. (Eds.) Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology – Sondernummer KSA-Tage 2007: Workshop “Medien und Film” (Special Issue on Media and Film), Jun. 2008. Abstract & Text.

Aus der Einleitung:

“In den letzten Jahren unterzog sich die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie einem großen Wandel, der auch eine Reihe neuer Themen und Forschungsfelder mit sich brachte. Zu diesen neueren Forschungsrichtungen zählen auch die Anthropologie der Medien und die Anthropologie des Films. Um einen Einblick in die vielfältigen Thematiken dieser beiden Forschungsfelder der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie zu geben, fand im Rahmen der 3. Tage der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie 2007 erstmals ein eigener Workshop mit dem Titel „Medien und Film“ statt. In zehn interessanten Beiträgen stellten die ReferentInnen aktuelle Forschungsfelder der Anthropologie der Medien und des Films vor. Eine Auswahl möchten wir in dieser Sondernummer der ASSA vorstellen.”


Artikel 2-7: Workshop “Medien und Film”, Claudia Trupp und Philipp Budka (Hg.)
Artikel 2:
Claudia Trupp und Philipp Budka: Einleitung
Artikel 3:
Martha-Cecilia Dietrich Ortega: Indigene Repräsentation im „neuen“ venezolanischen Fernsehen
Artikel 4:
Georg Schön: Soziale Bewegungen und (Gegen-)Öffentlichkeiten in Mexiko
Artikel 5:
Sabine Karrer: Bittersüße Schokolade – Die Geschichte eines Widerstandes?
Artikel 6:
Philipp Budka: How “real life” issues affect the social life of online networked communities
Artikel 7:
Katrin Julia Brezansky: ANANCY´S WEB. Über Cyberspaces und Cyberscapes im Kontext einer universellen Rastafari-Philosophie

K-Net in Sioux Lookout

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Nach fast 30-stündiger Zugfahrt endlich in Sioux Lookout angekommen, statte ich natürlich K-Net, dem Internet Service und Netzwerk Provider des Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Councils, einen meiner ersten Besuche ab. Die Organisationen hat nun das gesamte Gebäude in der King Street übernommen und auch sein Team mit neuen MitarbeiterInnen verstärkt.

In Sioux Lookout sind im Winter einige Geschäfte und Restaurants nicht geöffnet, da diese entweder nicht für die eisigen Temperaturen ausgerüstet sind oder sich auf den Sommertourismus spezialsiert haben. So ist etwa das Kino, oder das Restaurant Knobby’s geschlossen. So geht es im Winter in der Stadt etwas ruhiger zu als im Sommer, auch wenn es genügend kulturelle Veranstaltungen oder Möglichkeiten gibt sich etwa sportlich zu betätigen.

Zurück in Kanada

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Meine Forschung führt mich wieder zurück nach Kanada und noch dazu im Winter – was kann es schöneres geben?

Bevor ich mich per Zug in den Nordwesten Ontarios – die Nishnawbe-Aski – aufmache, verbringe ich ein paar Tage in Toronto, treffe Freunde und betreibe Literaturrecherchen in der Robarts Library der Universität von Toronto.

Leider ist es nicht allzu kalt, so zwischen -3 und +3 Grad Celsius, und der Schnee in der Großstadt Toronto verwandelt sich so relativ rasch in braunen Gatsch und rießige Wasserlacken, die oft nur sehr schwierig zu umgehen sind.

Nach meinen obligatorischen Besuchen kulinarischer Natur in China Town und in einem englischen Pub – Rindfleisch-Nudel-Suppe bzw. Fish and Chips – spazierte ich in der Stadt umher, besuchte die Casa Loma, das Winterfestival vor dem Rathaus und die Queen Street, auf der auch im Winter kräftig eingekauft wird.

Blueberry & Walleye

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Beerensammeln und Fischen sind zwei der beliebtesten Freizeitunternehmungen im sommerlichen Kanada und natürlich auch in Sioux Lookout. Beide Aktivitäten haben einiges gemeinsam und konzentrieren sich im nordwestlichen Ontario vor allem auf die Blaubeere (hier können mehrere Arten unterschieden werden: u.a. die kanadische Blaubeere Vaccinium myrtilloides) und den Walleye (Stizostedion vitreum vitreum) der von den Kanadiern auch Pickerel genannt wird:

  • man muss sehr früh aufstehen, um beim Pflücken der Hitze zu entgehen bzw. beim Fischen auch wirklich Walleyes anzutreffen;
  • sowohl das Pflücken als auch das Fischen wird zumeist in Gruppen begonnen, die sich dann allerdings auflösen und jeder auf eigene Faust sein Glück versucht;
  • es gibt unzählige Geschichten rund um das Pflücken und Fischen, die gewöhnlich auf dem Weg zu oder vom Wald oder See zum Besten gegeben werden;
  • die Menge der gesammelten Beeren bzw. die Größe der gefangenen Fische wird von den Pflücker- und Fischerkollegen kritisch beäugt, kommentiert und bewertet;
  • sowohl Walleyes als auch Blaubeeren können auf unzählige Arten zubereitet werden:
    die Fische werden gebraten, gedämpft, gebacken, gegrillt, in Suppen gekocht;
    die Beeren werden pur gegessen, in Kuchen, Palatschinken und Muffins gesteckt oder als Marmelade und Chutney verkocht. Um Fische und Beeren zu lagern werden diese gerne getrocknet oder eingefroren;
  • Fischen und Beerenpflücken wird mit gebotenem Ernst und Professionalität betrieben und an bestimmten Anlässen zelebriert, wie etwa das Blueberry Festival in Sioux Lookout, die One Man Lake Walleye Classics oder das Walleye Masters in Dryden beweisen.

Besuch in Mishkeegogamang

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Mishkeegogamang ist eine politisch unabhängige First Nation, die etwa 250 km nordwestlich von Sioux Lookout am Highway 599 liegt. Rund 800 Menschen leben in den Siedlungen Bottle Hill, Poplar Heights, Sandy Road und Ten Houses. Während die erstgenannten Gemeinschaften zusammen den Kern des Reservats bilden, liegt Ten Houses etwa 20 km weiter südlich.

Mish ist gerade dabei, die vom Keewaytinook Okimakanak (KO) Chief Council und K-Net zur Verfügung gestellten Videokonferenz-Systeme auch außerhalb des Telemedicine/Telehealth Programms für nicht medizinische Zwecke zu testen und zu promoten. So sollen weitere Systeme angeschafft werden, um die Menschen im Reservat mit diversen sozialen und staatlichen Organisationen und Einrichtungen in Ontario und in ganz Kanada zu vernetzen.

Während des Sommers wird in Mish eine Fußball-Liga veranstaltet, an der neben vier Männermannschaften auch eine Damenmannschaft, die “Lady Hawks” teilnehmen. Fußball scheint also auch im Mutterland des Eishockeys immer populärer zu werden – zumindest einmal im Sommer…

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