Policy Ethnography: Bureaucracies of Redress?

Panel Proposal AAA 2021: Truth & Responsibility in Baltimore

Discussant: TBD

Conveners: Anna Schirrer (PhD Candidate, Columbia University) and Brittany Wheeler (PhD Candidate, Clark University)

Chair: TBD

Colonial and imperial regimes designed legal systems of exclusion, racialized violence, and material exploitation that continue to structure and influence institutional and governmental policies today.  Meanwhile, civil society and state organizations frequently hold national institutions of power responsible for righting historical wrongs. Demands for reparation, repatriation, and other claims to material and moral redress at once utilize and challenge dominant policy landscapes in both the domestic and international arena. Ethnographers are in a position to witness, take account of, and critique the socio-legal relationships between human actors and the policies, data, documents, and materials that regulate processes of potential redress. This panel focuses on historical and contemporary bureaucracies that regulate responsibility for injury, injustice, and unethical behavior, and interrogates how ethnographers and the field of anthropology are implicated in the embrace and disavowal of these processes. This panel asks: How can ethnographers and researchers better document the scales of responsibility embedded in the law? Of what utility is the “slow (in)justice” of the law to persons, communities, and ‘post-colonial’ nation-states seeking immediate redress? What clarifications around ongoing forms of injustice does the investigation of policy give rise to? The panel, then, discusses how legal and administrative processes are negotiated, refused, and included in advocacy and justice work at “justice sites,” including museums and state organizations, and in contexts structured by hierarchies of power.

Papers in this panel discuss notions and practices of redress through the ethnographic interrogation of policy and administration.  This panel thus strikes at the heart of the production of power, the nature of negotiating inclusion, and the legal challenges that often directly affect measures that might move diversity and equity forward. The panelists represent diverse viewpoints and professional experiences, and openly seek feedback and critique with regard to their perspectives.

If interested in participating, please send an abstract (150 words) to  both Anna Schirrer: aks2217@columbia.edu and Brittany Wheeler: BWheeler@clarku.edu by 18 May 2021. We aim for a quick turn over and selected panelists will be required to submit all information by 22 May.