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Event ethnography and the making of markets – webinar series

A dense fabric of events underpins contemporary market life: global economic summits, press conferences, industry fairs, corporate hackathons etc. Events play an increasingly important role in the performance of markets – creating new business, shaping professional identities, forging regulatory consensus and contributing to the development of innovative responses to a highly diverse set of challenges ranging from financial exclusion to climate change to global health. Increasingly, Social Anthropology has recognised events and meetings as important research sites (Brown et al. 2017; Leivestad and Nyqvist 2017; Sandler and Thedvall 2017).

In this project, we seek to build on this work and explore the benefits and pitfalls of studying events – using participatory research methods - to enhance our understanding of market life in the Social Sciences more broadly. It is primarily addressed at Social Scientists wanting to know more about how to go about researching events. In order to do so, it brings together a group of researchers that have conducted various forms of economic ‘event ethnography’ – that is the participation in and observation of professionally organised economic gatherings. The overarching objective is to systematically engage with and develop event ethnography as a distinct research approach to the study of market life.

The benefits of forging such an approach are manifold. In our view, its greatest opportunity lies in providing Social Scientists with a novel method for observing the global economy in practice, rather than at the level of discourse and/or rhetoric. It grants scholars access to the ‘lived reality’ of the global economy; to casual knowledge, to informal relationships, to the affective experience and social performance of market life. And as conferences and summits move online during the Covid-19 pandemic, ethnographers are turning to digital event ethnography to stay connected, to follow and engage with their field sites. Event ethnography thus has the potential to make a substantive contribution in particular to qualitative research traditions that go beyond document analysis, archival work and/or expert-interviews.

We will initiate this project through a series of webinars during the 2021-22 academic year that bring in conversation scholars from different research traditions (Cultural and Social Anthropology; Economic Geography; International Relations/Political Science; Sociology/Science and Technology Studies). If you are interested in presenting your work, please contact Lena Rethel ( or Tanja Schneider (