Ethnographic Experiments with Artists, Designers and Boundary Objects

Exhibitions as a research method

Francisco Martínez


ISBN: 9781800081109

Publication: November 01, 2021

Ethnographic Experiments with Artists, Designers and Boundary Objects is a lively investigation into anthropological practice. Richly illustrated, it invites the reader to reflect on the skills of collaboration and experimentation in fieldwork and in gallery curation, thereby expanding our modes of knowledge production. At the heart of this study are the possibilities for transdisciplinary collaborations, the opportunity to use exhibitions as research devices, and the role of experimentation in the exhibition process.

Francisco Martínez increases our understanding of the relationship between contemporary art, design and anthropology, imagining creative ways to engage with the contemporary world and developing research infrastructures across disciplines. He opens up a vast field of methodological explorations, providing a language to reconsider ethnography and objecthood while producing knowledge with people of different backgrounds.

Francisco Martínez is an anthropologist dealing with contemporary issues of material culture through ethnographic experiments. In 2018, he was awarded with the Early Career Prize of the European Association of Social Anthropologists. Currently, he works as Associate Professor at Tallinn University and convenes the Collaboratory for Ethnographic Experimentation (EASA Network). Francisco has published two monographs – Ethnographic Experiments with Artists, Designers and Boundary Objects (UCL Press, 2021) and Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia (UCL Press, 2018). He has also edited several books, including Peripheral Methodologies (Routledge ,2021); Politics of Recuperation in Post-Crisis Portugal (Bloomsbury, 2020), and Repair, Brokenness, Breakthrough (Berghahn, 2019), He has also curated different exhibitions – including ‘Objects of Attention’ (Estonian Museum of Applied Art & Design, 2019), and ‘Life in Decline’ (Estonian Mining Museum, 2021).

List of figures

1 Epistemic generosity
2 Putting objects to work
3 Collaboratology
4 Master insights
5 A laboratory of objects
6 Permeable museums
7 Curating ethnographic research

Coda: the morning after

'With great verve, this wonderfully enjoyable book takes a fresh, insightful look at creative collaborations between anthropologists, artists and designers. It explores how these kinds of partnerships take shape and dynamically generate new knowledge. The book includes an important and fascinating examination of the potential of the exhibition as methodological device. It will be invaluable reading for anyone interested in museums, art, anthropology and their innovative intersections.' – Sandra Dudley, Head of the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester

'Martínez has put together no less than a must-read treatise on ‘collaboratology’ where art spaces joyfully turn into a laboratory to experiment with the manifold contours anthropological practice might take. In the situations here recounted, epistemic generosity becomes a guiding research principle. One enabling anthropologists to relearn their craft from curators, inviting designers and artists to act as epistemic partners, and turning objects into springboards of stories and further relations. This book is a marvellous tour-de-force that will surely inspire readers to reconsider fieldwork as a ‘curated’ entity, unfolding in unexpected ways as part experimenting with a wide variety of devices.' – Tomás S. Criado, Director of the Stadtlabor for multimodal anthropology of Humboldt University in Berlin

'With Ethnographic Experiments, Martínez has curated scenarios for novel ethnographic relations. His approach to anthropology is capacious and creative, inviting future experiments for doing research differently. His writing easily moves across disciplinary boundaries, generously inviting readers into creative thought and sense processes. More than a meditation on boundary objects, his book is itself one. It transforms academia’s analytical intensities into thought-felt matters of concern.' – Jason Pine, Professor of Media Studies and Anthropology, State University of New York


Format: Hardback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

216 Pages

57 colour illustrations

Copyright: © 2021

ISBN: 9781800081109

Publication: November 01, 2021

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