Cultural Anthropology's November issue features a series of articles reflecting on the publics created, engaged, and imagined through ethnographic writing. The series includes pieces by João Biehl, Michal Osterweil, Didier Fassin, and Vincent Debaene. The issue also includes original research articles on water meters in South Afica (Antina von Schnitzler), the environment of the BP Oil Spill (David Bond), human rights and harm reduction in Russia (Jarrett Zigon), the secularism of cryonics in the United States (Abou Farman), and slum clearnance in India (Ursula Rao).
Ethnography matters for contemporary societies: such is the argument of this essay. One could even further specify the assertion: ethnography matters for democracy. Such a claim derives from the very activity of the ethnographer—a presence both involved and detached, inscribed in the instant and over time, allowing precise descriptions and multiple perspectives, thus providing a distinctive understanding of the world that deserved to be shared. — Didier Fassin