Recently, I was asked to present a “meet the author” talk to some students at Freie Universität Berlin, Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology. My presentation was part of the seminar ‘Desiring the State? Ethnographies on State and Society in SEA’.

In this talk, I will discuss my two ethnographies, Fields of Desire (2014) and Projectland (2021), through the prism of some of the (many!) photographs I was unable to include in those final publications. The aim is to provide a “behind the scenes” glimpse of what goes into the making of ethnographies. Because both of my books address Lao policies (poverty policies in the first, and cultural policies in the second), the discussion will include some of the considerations that arise when the ethnographic gaze turns to questions of policy, politics, and the state.

Unfortunately, the internet connection was extremely bad. I sounded like a robot for minutes on end. However, a lot of the recording is clear. If you would like to be a fly on the wall for this event, you can tune in to a recording of the talk here:

In this talk, I made three points about ethnographic fieldwork, namely:

  • Feel the doubt, fear and awkwardness, and do it anyway.
  • Study the state to better see its limits.
  • Ethnography can break spells.

With thanks to the amazing Rosalie Stolz for this wonderful opportunity and recording.