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Scientific article


Revisiting the Case of Ethnography and International Relations


This article revisits the debate on the role of ethnography in International Relations. It primarily does this by elucidating three points of tension in the literature on ethnography in International Relations. Firstly, it tackles the challenges related to ‘getting on’ with ethnography after the reflexive methodological developments that have taken place within anthropology since the 1980s. Secondly, it investigates how to overcome certain matters of scale and how to conceptualise the ‘international’ methodologically, or more specifically, ethnographically. When looking at issues that somehow exist and operate on the international scale, the ethnographic task of immersion in local scenes does sometimes seem like an ill-suited approach. However, I argue, this problematisation is dependent on a certain methodological understanding of what the international is. I attempt to formulate an alternative methodological approach that takes seriously the idea that international relations always can be accessed locally. This paper suggests that one of the main solutions to the obstacle of scale is methodologically abandon the imaginary of totalities as a higher level. In this way, ethnography can enable important understandings of social relations that exist across scales of local and global.


  • Globalisation
  • International organizations
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