Directives

Below are seriously playful directives from the Bureau for Experimental Ethnography. They are created for the Carceral Edgelands winter fieldwork season 2021-22. These are meant to function as prompts to help fieldworkers in your orientation to the carceral edgelands of immigrant detention.

Refresh your webpage for new, randomized instructions.

Bring something to read aloud in the space near the detention center. How did it sound in this space?

Carceral Edgelands is an invitation to investigate and learn about the areas surrounding immigrant detention centers. Experimental ethnography asks us to pay attention to the world as it is lived, seen, told, and experienced. It is a mode of engagement as much as a mode of expression. It embraces indeterminacy just as it commits to a distributed politics of care, decency, and wonder.

Carceral Edgelands directives are inspired by Fluxus scores as well as Mass Observation directives, day surveys, and diaries.

Mass Observation “tried to establish more imaginative and active means of documenting patterns of popular experience. They hoped to generate material evidence by and of ‘the mass’ that would provide access to the thoughts, feelings and behaviour of the ‘ordinary’ person on a strikingly diverse range of topics, large and small. They used a ‘shoestring methodology’… drawn from (and sometimes working in opposition to) popular understandings of anthropology, psychoanalysis, surrealism and social surveys, and gathered their diverse data from diaries and through ‘overheards’, via participant observation, directives (questionnaires) and day-surveys. The wide range of accounts which ensued covered political opinion and attitudes to race, sex and class as well as records of dreams, meals, mantelpieces and dancing – to name but a few of the project’s sprawling interests.

Pollen, Annebella. 2013. “Research Methodology in Mass Observation Past and Present: ‘Scientifically, about as Valuable as a Chimpanzee’s Tea Party at the Zoo’?” History Workshop Journal 75 (1): 213–35.