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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ethnographic Research on Education, UCLA

Committee on World Anthropologies

Inter-American Symposium on Ethnographic Research in Education, UCLA

September 18-20, 2013
More information can be found at

Ethnographic research is inherently local, but it also requires comparison
to build toward general understandings. Yet ethnography of education, even
when practiced by anthropologists, tends to be nation-bound, particularly
in the United States. Not only do many US-based anthropologists lack
understanding of educational systems outside our borders, but we often
remain ignorant as well of the bodies of research published by
ethnographers in other countries, especially when published in languages
other than English.

To create the kind of direct engagement across languages and across
national epistemologies that would build a truly comparative ethnography
of education, UCLA will host an Inter-American Symposium on Ethnographic
Research in Education/Simposio Interamericano de Investigación Etnografía
en Educación September 18-20, 2013.The Simposio will bring together senior
scholars and students from Latin America, the United States and Canada to
share and discuss research in Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. The
main goal is to help scholars (especially Anglophone scholars) become
aware of research published in languages other than their own, and
to begin to grasp the social and intellectual contexts within which they
can appreciate that research.

The Simposio is the 13th in an irregular series first launched by Margaret
LeCompte, a former president of AAA's Council on Anthropology and
Education, with Gary Anderson and Mario Rueda Beltrán. Over the years,
Simposios have been held in both the United States and in Latin America,
the most recent being in Buenos Aires in 2006 and the Yucatán in 2008.

The UCLA meeting will take comparison to a new level by requiring
cross-hemisphere and cross-linguistic participation in every session. We
invite speakers to talk in (one of) their first language(s). A
multi-lingual format requires new rules, such as asking participants to
share drafts ahead of time and to project or pass out bilingual outlines
of their talks. We also allot 40 minutes per paper to allow time for
impromptu translation, clarification, and discussion with the help of
scholars in the room. Although the plenary sessions will offer simultaneous
translation, in the smaller session we rely on collaborative mutual
We do so because we have found that when scholars read papers translated
into a less familiar languagethey may lose the intonation and drop the
gestures that help convey meaning. Meanwhile, professional simultaneous
interpretation often falls short because the interpreters do not know
social science terms and concepts. Instead, fellow scholars who happen to
be bilingual are in the best position to both translate and bridge between
different academic traditions, glossing the distinct meanings given to
similar terms in different nations.

This Simposio focuses on a specific theme to guarantee that our
comparisons have a common object. That object, "Majorities, minorities and
migrations," is a set of issues demanding urgent attention across the
Americas and also invoking differing social categories from nation to
nation. Native Americans (or First Nations, Pueblos Indios) share common
experiences of colonization, yet have diverse histories of assimilation,
segregation and recognition in each country. Since the conquest, multiple
migrations have led to reconfigurations of national populations and the
construction of various minorities through ethnic and racial categories.
Among these, the Latino minorities in the USA are part of transnational
majorities, and are fast becoming local majorities in many cities in
California. While US discussion has centered on "minorities" and
"immigrants," in Latin America, it has focused on the popular majorities
(working-class rural and urban, and indigenous peoples) who
were long excluded from formal education, and on rural-urban as well as
cross-border migrants. Thus discussion of research on these themes will
direct attention to contrasting ways in which scholars from different
parts of the hemisphere frame the issues.

The structure of the Simposio respects the grounding of ethnography in the
concrete and the local, while building toward the comparative and the more
general. During the first two days, up to 75 ethnographers will report on
specific ethnographic studies in the cross-national and multilingual
sessions. The third day will be devoted to workshops in which participants
funnel lessons from the research presented into the beginning of a
synthesis. In the morning, there will be three parallel workshops, one to
synthesize ideas on the theme of majorities/minorities, one on the theme
of migrations and one addressing the meta-issues of the challenges
of translation and comparison. In the afternoon, participants will gather
in a plenary workshop where, moderated by the leaders of each morning
workshop, they will identify common themes and divergent points across the
three morning sessions.

Juan Luis Sariego Rodríguez of the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e
Historia and Sofia Villenas of Cornell will offer Keynotes to frame the
research presentations.
In an Invited Roundtable, these senior ethnographers have been invited to
model a multilingual discussion. Among other participants will be a large
party of anthropologists from the Universidad de Buenos Aires; scholars
from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais and the Universidade de São
Paulo; ethnographers from UNAM, the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, and
the DIE-CINVESTAV, Mexico; and anthropologists and linguists from Teachers
College, Columbia University, SUNY Albany, the University of Nebraska,
Indiana University, and UCLA.

Elsie Rockwell of the DIE-CINVESTAV, Mexico, and Kathryn Anderson-Levitt
of UCLA are the organizers.

More information can be found at

Bela Feldman-Bianco and Carla Guerrón Montero are contributing editors of
World Anthropologies, the AN column of the AAA Committee on World

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