“Small Places, Large Issues” Revisited: Reflections on an Ethnographically Founded Vision of New Area Studies
This contribution outlines the didactic potentials and possible limitations of an ethnographically founded vision of New Area Studies. The authors reflect upon their experiences as teacher and students in an Area Studies research project in Thailand’s lower Northeast that has attempted to implement an ethnographically founded New Area Studies research methodology in practice. While this methodology draws on ethnography, it additionally engages with theoretical questions raised in sociology and philosophy with the goal of approaching emplaced orders of knowledge that unfold as everyday practice in local lifeworlds. The outlined methodology is rooted in a particular understanding of emplacement that is explicitly spatial, so that the situatedness of knowledge that is emphasised in various attempts to rethink Area Studies remains not limited to hegemonic discourses, social milieus or moving bodies, but is located in concrete places. These places can be situated on different scales, ranging from “the local” to “the global”, producing a spatial continuum to be addressed by New Area Studies research. In this particular research project, we have focused on the “local” end of this broad continuum in Thailand. We argue that ethnographic methods in combination with social phenomenology allow us to gain particular insights into the meaningfulness of local lifeworlds and highlight the continuing relevance of this form of emplaced situatedness for New Area Studies.
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