Author: Ian M. Cook

Urban anthropologist. Budapest, Mangalore, Glossop

Critique of podcasting as an anthropological method

You: Can podcasts be used as a method in anthropology?

Me: Yes!

You: How? Why? To what ends? But what about (INSERT CONCERN HERE)? Oh, wow it might be able to (INSERT IDEA HERE)? Yay!

Me: Read this article for a thorough self-reflexive critique of an experiment I did as part of the For Digital Dignity project podcast Online Gods.

Also available here: Cook – 2020 – Critique of podcasting as an anthropological method


CfP: Rhythm, sight and sound: work in times of uncertainty, RAI conference, March 25-28, 2021

We invite paper proposals for our panel

*Rhythm, sight and sound: work in times of uncertainty*

(P22) at the RAI Film Festival virtual conference.


March 25–28, 2021, Bristol (UK), virtual conference

Short abstract:

Skilled practices, routinized action and work provide temporal orientations and produce familiar sensory experiences. In moments of uncertainty, however, such habitual engagements are challenged. Focusing on sight, sound and movement we ask what practices and rhythms (re-)form in relation to crisis.

Long abstract:

Skilled practices, routinised action and work provide temporal orientations and produce familiar sensory experiences and engagements with the world. Their rhythmic repetitions bring forth difference, bridge planned and situated actions, and mark moments of movement and pause. Ultimately, they allow individuals and groups to apprehend the future. In moments of crisis and uncertainty, however, such habitual sensory and rhythmic engagements are challenged and might become fragmented, affecting individual and social identities, relations and trajectories. By taking these sensual disturbances and temporal frictions as a starting point of inquiry, the panel explores how work (in a broad sense) and its embodied practices are experienced and challenged. Sight, sound, movement and rhythm, which are strongly connected and usually guide working processes, might need sensual and bodily (re)adjustments. Focusing on sight, sound and movement we ask what forms of (new) practices and rhythms are being (re-)produced and emerge in relation to crisis. How does improvisation and creativity provide agentivity and orientation in uncertain circumstances? How does the absence or the arrhythmicity of action (waiting, unemployment, ruined landscapes etc.) shape these processes and experiences and how do they inform and translate into audiovisual production and representation? How do visuality and sound relate to each other in this respect? And how can we audio-visually approach the sensuous-experiential dimension of work in moments of crisis? We invite empirical, theoretical or methodological submissions in textual, visual, audio or multimodal formats that address the question of work, its sensory engagement and rhythmicity in times of uncertainty.

Please submit your paper proposals here:

For an overview of the conference see:

Deadline for submission is November 15, 2020


Sandro Simon (University of Cologne)
Valerie Hänsch (LMU Munich)
Ian M. Cook (Central European University / Open Education)

Interview: Nation at Play by Ronojoy Sen

Covering sporting activities from ancient times right up to the modern day, Ronojoy Sen’s Nation at Play: A History of Sport in India (Columbia University Press, 2016) is at once broad in its scope, yet detailed in its analysis of key events. From football, to the Olympics, to cricket the book explores how sporting life changes in relation to wider societal transformations. I found it both highly readable, and packed full of the type of stories that appeal to sports aficionados.

You can listen to me speaking with Ronojoy here and here:

Interview: The Darjeeling Distinction by Sarah Besky

In this wonderful ethnography of Darjeeling tea, Sarah Besky explores different attempts at bringing justice to plantation life in north east India. Through explorations into fair trade, geographic indication and a state movement for the Nepali tea workers, Besky critically assesses the limits of projects that fail to address underlying exploitative structures. The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair-Trade Plantations in India (University of California Press, 2014) is a readable and theoretically nuanced book that should be of interest to many.

You can listen to me speak to Sarah here and here:


Interview: The Writings of Pamela Price

The Writings of Pamela Price: State, Politics, and Cultures in Modern South India: Honour, Authority, and Morality (Orient BlackSwan, 2013) is a wonderful collection of ten essays by historian Pamela Price, that originally appeared between 1979 and 2010. The essays, as well as touching on the concepts of honour, authority and morality in different south Indian regions also broadly address questions of continuity and change. Drawing on debates from anthropology and political science, the book offers insights into how these above mentioned concepts shift across historical periods and how they appear in different linguistic and cultural regions.

You can listen to me speak with Pamela here and here:


Interview: Infrastructure Redux by Nausheen H. Anwar

In Infrastructure Redux:Crisis, Progress in Industrial Pakistan and Beyond (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), Nausheen H. Anwar explores double-edged narratives of development. Through detailed case studies of Sialkot and Faisalabad, as well as analyses of development in Pakistan since independence and the impact of liberalized trade policies on industrial labour, the book explores how ideas of both crisis and progress frame the country’s infrastructure.

You can listen to me speak with Nausheen here and here:


Interview: Patronage as Politics in South Asia by Anastasia Piliavsky

Does patronage always imply a corruption of democratic political processes? Across sixteen essays by historians, political scientists and anthropologists Patronage as Politics in South Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2014), edited by Anastasia Piliavsky, explores this question and many more across a range of historical and cultural contexts. The volume’s collective drive to ask difficult and theoretically nuanced questions about the role of patronage in South Asia, gives the book a coherence that plays wonderfully against the contributions’ eclecticism and diversity.

You can listen to me speak with Anastasia here and here:

Interview: Dehli, Pages From A Forgotten History by Arthur Dudney

Delhi: Pages From A Forgotten History (Hay House India, 2015) by Arthur Dudney tells the story of India’s capital and beyond through the lens of Persian literary culture. A lively read written for a mass readership, the book details the lives of poets and emperors along with the origins, rise and decline of Persian in the subcontinent.

You can listen to me speaking with Arthur here and here:

Interview: The Rani of Jhansi by Harleen Singh

The Rani of Jhansi was and is many things to many people. In her beautifully written book The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History, and Fable in India (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Harleen Singh explores four representations of the famous warrior queen who led her troops into battle against the British. Analysing her various representations – as a sexually promiscuous Indian whore, a heroic Aryan, a great nationalist and a folk symbol of indigenous resistance – the book critically discusses what wider issues are stake in these depictions of such a mythical and marginal woman.

You can listen to me speaking with Harleen here and here:

Interview: Recasting the Region by Neilesh Bose

In his new book Recasting the Region: Language, Culture, and Islam in Colonial Bengal (Oxford University Press, 2014), Neilesh Bose analyses the trajectories of Muslim Bengali politics in the first half of the twentieth century.The literary and cultural history ofthe region explored in the book reveal the pointedly Bengali ideas of Pakistan that arose as an empire ended and new countries were born.

You can listen to me speaking with Neilesh here and here: