Bioethics Blogs

Ethnographic presents and futures of ‘health’—a summary of the Ethnographies and Health workshop by Emma Garnett

In this report we offer an overview of a two-day workshop entitled Ethnographies and Health that was held in October at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and present personal reflections on the discussions and debate from four participants. Critically engaging with ethnography as a practice, methodology, and theoretical orientation, the aim of the workshop was to explore our fieldwork choices and the kinds of knowledge(s) they generate across and within fields of health research (broadly defined). We invited submissions for the workshop from early career researchers from a range of disciplines, acknowledging from our own experiences that while ethnography has increasing presence and recognition within health research, those conducting ethnography may be thinly spread across multiple academic settings, both traditional disciplinary departments in the social sciences and, increasingly, more bio-medically oriented health sciences departments.

The diversity of disciplines and fields of research represented by the 26 people selected to participate in the workshop was matched by the diversity of contemporary modes of ethnographic engagement with, of, and through ‘health’. The workshop encouraged a rich array of questions, focusing on the multiplicity and heterogeneity of ‘healths’ which ethnography opens up and details, and the nuanced ways in which our own entanglements with research settings always encourage additional queries and uncertainties. The opening speakers, Simon Cohn (LSHTM) and Tiago Moreira (Durham University), illuminated in different ways just how ethnography as a practice and mode of making knowledge may come into tension with, for example, biomedical framings of health and/or with the expectations of funders and others in the field.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.