Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography



Contributed date

August 2, 2018 - 2:21am

Critical Commentary

Abstract: This review surveys an emergent methodological trend in anthropological research that concerns the adaptation of long-standing modes of ethnographic practices to more complex objects of study. Ethnography moves from its conventional single-site location, contextualized by macro-constructions of a larger social order, such as the capitalist world system, to multiple sites of observation and participation that cross-cut dichotomies such as the "local" and the "global," the "lifeworld" and the "system." Resulting ethnographies are therefore both in and out of the world system. The anxieties to which this methodological shift gives rise are considered in terms of testing the limits of ethnography, attenuating the power of fieldwork, and losing the perspective of the subaltern. The emergence of multi-sited ethnography is located within new spheres of interdisciplinary work, including media studies, science and technology studies, and cultural studies broadly. Several "tracking" strategies that shape multi-sited ethnographic research are considered. The review concludes with observations about the reflexive persona of the ethnographer as "circumstantial activist" in which methodological discussions about multi-sited research in anthropology are now being developed.


Marcus, George E. "Ethnography In/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography." Annual Review of Anthropology 24 (1995): 95-117.

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Cite as

George Marcus, "Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography ", contributed by James Adams, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 2 August 2018, accessed 21 June 2024.