Warscape Ethnography in West Africa and the Anthropology of "Events"
Abstract

This article introduces some of the challenges of doing ethnography in contexts such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea—places where violence and the certainty of uncertainty have become the backdrop for social interaction. It also considers the potential contributions to anthropological theory of such an undertaking. In particular it outlines a fundamental re-orientation towards the concept of "the event." Drawing contrasts with conventional anthropological understandings of how small scenarios (social situations) and paradigmatic social events (rituals) speak to broader processes, this piece argues for an analytical recasting of the "event" as a moment in which cultural creativity is harnessed to the tasks of effecting and legitimizing the social transformations that crises often demand. Such "events" affirm the continuity of social groups even as they participate in the re-organization of social practice and are thus ultimately relevant to any anthropology of actors who confront and seek to effect change.


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