Disrupted Ethnography

Building Trust, Telling Stories, Unpacking Concepts and Reporting from Within

Autumn School - October 21/22 2021 - Bochum, Germany & Online

About the Autumn School

Together, with all of you, we want to try one thing – “thinking out of the box”. We are starting a dialogue between (future) researchers and media practitioners who have comparable ways of working ethnographically in a field, and who are confronted with similar challenges and levels of disruption, such as travel restrictions, gaining and maintaining field access, finding contacts and forging cooperation, as well as ethical questions of representation of social life and scenes of conflict and injustice.

The guiding questions for this practical Autumn School is: What can (academic) researchers and practitioners learn from one another when it comes methodological challenges and obstacles in field work? How do we move beyond practices that are established but do not serve as – as researchers, filmmakers, storytellers, activists, or journalists?

How do we deal with disruption forced on us, such as travel bans or closed borders. How do we deal with internal disruption, when we are confronted with different roles we inherent, or with ethical concerns?


Please apply via email to participate in this Autumn School. We invite advanced Master students and PhD researchers as well as post-doctoral researchers, who want to dive deeper into ethnographic research. We further invite practitioners in the field of media and politics, including but not limited to film making, journalism, blogging, and (online) activism.

Please refer to the Call for Application for further instructions on what to include in your application.

The Autumn School is free of charge, but spots are limited. Please note, that we cannot cover travel and accommodation expenses in case you wish to participate on site, but we are happy to assist you in finding a place to stay.

The #DisruptedEthno2021 Autumn School ist about to end. It was a truly great experience: learned so much and gained a lot of motivation for my PhD research. Thanks to the Organization Team and to @thisisjignesh for the workshop.
Can't wait for the follow-up!

Final #session. All groups are presenting back to the others the #results of the past 1,5 days. Using different tools to provide meaningful #insights. #Research #DisruptedEthno2021 @sozioinformativ @mediaofcoop

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Thursday, October 21

Friday, October 22

Please note that this is preliminary schedule and times are indicated in CET. For your timezone, please see: https://www.worldtimebuddy.com/

We will consider the time zones of participants and facilitators who will attend remotely and will try to find the best suitable and humane options for all. Please note, that we might not be able to find a good option for everyone. The final schedule will be circulated among participants by October 1, 2021.

Keynote: Ethnography in Disrupted Times

What are intellectual challenges and creative opportunities of working in the disrupted field of Wende?  In this keynote I reflect on my experience of ethnographic disruptions from my first anthropological work with former GDR journalists in the postsocialist Wendezeit to my contemporary research on climate change and Energiewende. In particular, I focus attention on the possibilities of intellectual and artistic collaboration between ethnographers and their partners in fieldwork and on the importance of diversifying ethnographic engagements across different media as a way of communicating anthropological insights within an extremely diverse and fast-paced mediascape.

Dominic Boyer_new headshot

Dominic Boyer is an anthropologist who teaches at Rice University where he also served as Founding Director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (2013-2019). His most recent books are Energopolitics (Duke UP, 2019), which analyzes the politics of wind power development in Southern Mexico and Hyposubjects (Open Humanities Press, 2021), an experimental collaboration with Timothy Morton concerning politics in the Anthropocene. With Cymene Howe, he made a documentary film about Iceland’s first major glacier (Okjökull) lost to climate change, Not Ok: a little movie about a small glacier at the end of the world (2018). In August 2019, together with Icelandic collaborators they installed a memorial to Okjökull’s passing, an event that attracted media attention from around the world. During 2021-22 Boyer will be a Berggruen Fellow with a research project, „Electric Futures,“ which focuses on efforts to decarbonize the global economy via greater electrification.

Autumn School Workshops

Workshop 1 // Remotely accessing the field and building trust with distant sources

With travel restrictions and the issue of safety in the world struck by the humanitarian crisis, access to the field has become a major challenge for media practitioners and academics. In this workshop, I will try to reflect on how a journalist or academic can access their field remotely and still attempt to do the job as they would otherwise with their physical presence in the field. We will discuss how all of us can make contact, get in touch with strangers and thus, manage access to the field remotely. We will think and find ideas on how one builds trust with people and how to test their trustworthiness while remaining transparent about the whole process. Through this workshop, you will learn how you can work around the limitations of borders and boundaries utilizing digital tools. You will learn how to find gatekeepers and contact persons who can help you overcome the language barrier, lack of internet access, and other country specific challenges. The workshop will also provide an open forum for the participants to exchange and discuss their experiences and challenges with the group.

Led by Jignesh Patel (Alt News, India)

Jignesh Patel

Workshop 2 // Mutual understanding - reflecting on perspectives and concepts

Ramyata Limbu

In a practical and interactive workshop, we will use films and lived experiences from the field to explore parallels and diverse perspectives and cultural practices that inform, impact and color our lives and work as researchers/academics and media practitioners – with the intent of developing some common ground and identifying best practices we can draw on in our personal and professional spheres. We will review a selection of films, reading/reference materials, and media stories, and use them as references; to be precise, we will explore identity and intersectionality, „to be cultures“ which is Nepal and much of South Asia“ and „to do cultures“ like Germany and reflect how and why this determines our world views. We will revisit our understanding of concepts like fatalism, power, patriarchy, and paternalism and discuss how they inform and influence the north-south development and media narratives.

Led by Ramyata Limbu (Panos South Asia, Nepal)

Workshop 3 // Reporting from within – challenging objectivity under oppression

This workshop seeks to revise the concept of objectivity in journalism and the role of documentation in shaping, transforming, or reinforcing social communities. It seeks to draw on the Palestinian experience as a case in point of the multi-layered dynamics within the sphere of reporting. It seeks to unpack the realities of populations under struggle as simultaneous „reporter and reported“, where the lines of being objective are unblurred. The workshop also seeks to engage with participants in the form of participatory discussions with reading assignments prior to the start of the workshop and reflection writing assignments during the workshop.

Led by Mariam Barghouti (Palestine)

Mariam Barghouti

Workshop 4 // The challenges of photojournalism

Mosa'ab Elshamy

Drawing in from a decade of experience covering conflict and politics across the Middle East, as well as long term documentary work, the workshop aims at covering the practice of photojournalism and the challenges it faces today. It will also discuss the ethical aspect of a continuously developing and divisive field. We will talk about the process one has to go through as a photojournalist when working on stories – from the research of a topic to establishing contact and executing a photo trip, while maintaining a coherent visual narrative. Participants attending the workshop should have some interest in photography with background of politics and current affairs. Practical aspects could include producing a photo story or editing a timeline, depending on the participants‘ requirements.

Led by Mosa’ab Elshamy (The Associated Press, Morocco)


Mira Keßler

Sarah Rüller

Konstantin Aal

Andrea Hartmann


Please apply via email and refer to the Call for Application for further instructions.



For further questions, please reach out.

Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany

This event is supported by the Ruhr University Research School, funded by Germany’s Excellence Initiative [DFG GSC 98/3] as well as  by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) – Project-ID 262513311 – SFB 1187.

Gefördert durch die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) – Projektnummer 262513311 – SFB 1187.