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"Human Existence as Fieldwork" International Conference
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12/6/2017 to 12/7/2017
When: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Where: Dipartimento Culture e Società, University of Palermo
Contact: Stefano Montes

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The University of Palermo invites scholars to participate in its international conference on the theme "Human Existence as Fieldwork," taking place December 6-7, 2017.

Can scholars consider human existence as an object of study in its own right? What does it mean to speak of human existence? Which instruments and methods should be utilized and which disciplines should be resorted to in order to better seize human existence? The existence we intend to study is the one belonging to humans, to individuals. The question is, then, how to observe them? In addition, concerning human existence, is it pertinent to speak of fieldwork? This conference is intended to focus on human existence and on its possible components in order to answer these questions and many more. Human existence—as a notion and as a practice—is fleeting and not easy to seize within a unique form of knowledge or theory. Human existence seems almost evident in itself: humans mostly live through routine, through automatisms usually left un-investigated. Thinking about human existence, instead, means to reveal, among other things, the automatisms which characterize it and to give it an anthropological definition. Moreover, it is important to specify that human existence tends to flow implicitly and to come to awareness, above all, when something happens that disrupts routine, breaks into the ordinary and transforms its regularity. People reflect – they are compelled to reflect – on the meaning of existence when they are confronted with what endangers it: violence, death, diseases or accidents. It is not surprising, then, that the meaning attributed to existence is closely associated with the rituals implemented by cultures to domesticate the danger represented by sufferings and vulnerabilities. Probably, an anthropological reflection on existence will lead to a new definition of exoticism and ethnography: as a matter of fact, existence as an object of study cannot be considered as an exotic elsewhere. This conference will question ordinary and/or extraordinary aspects of existence inside a culture (or by comparing cultures) and focus on theoretical and methodological problems, more particularly on the role of the participant-observer as an individual who sees the world from a specific and situated viewpoint. Given the issues at stake, ultimately, this conference is meant to represent a first meeting towards future events to be held on an annual (or two year) and itinerant basis, in Europe or elsewhere.

Open list of possible conference topics:

  • Temporal and spatial dimensions of existence
  • Existence, fieldwork and methods
  • Existence and theories
  • Existence, routine and daily life
  • Existence, writing, image
  • Exotic and endotic
  • Existence, culture, rites
  • Subjectivity and writing
  • Individual and culture
  • Action and emotion
  • Body and identity
  • Existence, vulnerability and death
  • Existence and Existentialisms

Administrative organization:
Dipartimento Culture e Società
University of Palermo
Viale delle Scienze, 90128
Palermo, Italy

For information and to submit proposals, pease contact the members of the scientific board:
Stefano Montes (
Albert Piette (

Practical information:

  • Deadline for submitting proposals: November 10, 2017
  • Proposal summary and title: 250-300 words
  • Duration of presentations: 30 minutes
  • Expected submission of texts or longer abstracts (for a better discussion during the conference): before November 25, 2017
  • Conference languages: Italian, French and English
  • Conference participation is free of charge.
  • Travel costs, accommodation expenses and meals are covered by participants or their own institutions.

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