Article written by 2009 DPDF Critical Agrarian Studies Fellow Pablo Lapegna, featured in the Journal of World Systems Research, Volume 51, No. 1:
How does ethnography come to terms with our current “global condition”?
Being a method characterized by its in-depth knowledge of a bounded space, how
does ethnography cope with a world scale? How does the “global condition”
affect the definitions of key ethnographic concepts? In this article, I first
reconstruct ethnographic debates regarding the status of “the global,” showing
how ethnography can contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the binary
global/local. Then I review two projects that study global processes from an
ethnographic point of view: multi-site ethnography (Marcus 1995) and global
ethnography (Burawoy et al. 2000). I compare these two approaches along four
dimensions: site, context, research design and reflexivity. I argue that while
multi-site ethnography and global ethnography are often used interchangeably,
each ultimately presents distinctive answers to key questions for the ethnographic
study of global processes.