Immersive Politics and the Ethnographic Encounter: Anthropology and Political Science

Routledge Companion to Contemporary Anthropology

Author/s (editor/s):

Joseph MacKay, Jamie Levin

Publication year:


Publication type:

Book chapter

Find this publication at:

Joseph MacKay and Jamie Levin, ‘Immersive Politics and the Ethnographic Encounter: Anthropology and Political Science’, in Simon Coleman, Susan B. Hyatt, and Ann Kingsolver, eds, The Routledge Companion to Contemporary Anthropology, Abingdon: Routledge, 2017, pp. 439-55.

This chapter surveys the use of anthropological findings and, especially, ethnographic methods, in political science. It shows that immersive inquiry is increasingly used to study politics. Indeed, the use of these methods is rapidly expanding across a variety of topics and geographical areas. Nonetheless, we find in this area of inquiry a central tension: on the one hand, use of immersion to study power had proven strikingly fruitful, opening a range of new avenues of inquiry for the discipline. On the other, this method, and its attendant theoretical ethos, remains somewhat marginal in a discipline widely influenced by statistical and formal or rational-choice methods. We also find some practical limitation on how politics can be studied ethnographically, owing to problems of access and aggregation. We conclude that political scientists using ethnographic methods have nonetheless tended to convert these limitations into strengths, using ethnographic methodology to open new areas for inquiry.

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