If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography
Didier Fassin is James Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, a Director of Studies at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, and the author and editor of many books, most recently, Prison Worlds: An Ethnography of the Carceral Condition.
Didier Fassin proposes a broad discussion regarding the public afterlife of ethnography, which is based on his experience of research conducted in South Africa and France on topics as different as the AIDS epidemic, urban policing, and the prison system, in contexts as diverse as classrooms, conference amphitheaters, radio broadcasts, television programs, newspaper interviews, online interactions, court cases, and art exhibitions, and with audiences as distinct as students, scholars, journalists, policymakers, members of nongovernmental organizations, agents from the fields and institutions studied, and lay persons politically motivated by or simply interested in the subject treated. This account can be viewed as an illustration of the variety of ethnography’s public encounters and of the multiplicity of issues raised on each occasion. It can also be read as a reflection on the responsibility that ethnographers have toward their publics.