Among Wolves: Ethnography and the Immersive Study of Power (Paperback) book cover

Among Wolves

Ethnography and the Immersive Study of Power

By Timothy Pachirat

© 2018 – Routledge

196 pages

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Paperback: 9780415528986
pub: 2017-11-21
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Hardback: 9780415528979
pub: 2017-11-21
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Summoned by an anonymous Prosecutor, ten contemporary ethnographers gather in an aging barn to hold a trial of Alice Goffman’s controversial ethnography, On the Run. But before the trial can get underway, a one-eyed wolfdog arrives with a mysterious liquid potion capable of rendering the ethnographers invisible in their fieldsites.

Presented as a play that unfolds in seven acts, the ensuing drama provides readers with both a practical guide for how to conduct immersive participant-observation research and a sophisticated theoretical engagement with the relationship between ethnography as a research method and the operation of power. By interpolating "how-to" aspects of ethnographic research with deeper questions about ethnography’s relationship to power, this book presents a compelling introduction for those new to ethnography and rich theoretical insights for more seasoned ethnographic practitioners from across the social sciences. Just as ethnography as a research method depends crucially on serendipity, surprise, and an openness to ambiguity, the book’s dramatic and dialogic format encourages novices and experts alike to approach the study of power in ways that resist linear programs and dogmatic prescriptions. The result is a playful yet provocative invitation to rekindle those foundational senses of wonder and generative uncertainty that are all too often excluded from conversations about the methodologies and methods we bring to the study of the social world.


'This play is an extraordinary piece of scholarship. It really made me think-- about ethnography, about academia and about the many faces of knowledge. It should be required reading for anyone interested in understanding ethnography and for all those who seek to understand social science as a body of practices that collectively illuminate and improve the human condition.' - Katherine Cramer, Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison

‘When is the last time you encountered a new scholastic format? Among Wolves does something radical. It will surely provoke, likely enrage, but most of all force readers to think anew. For those looking to move beyond staid ways of knowing and writing: this is the book for you.’ - Shamus Khan, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology, Columbia University

Among Wolves is both masterclass and manifesto for how ethnography generates insights into the operation of power as well as providing a thoughtful exploration of the politics of ethnographic methods. Pachirat is to be congratulated on creating a vivid, evocative and accessible text that will compel readers to laugh, sigh, frown and – most frequently – pause to reflect and think. The book’s multidisciplinary cast of ethnographers adroitly guide the reader through debates, dilemmas and decisions, and there is a reference, comment or idea to bookmark and explore further on almost every page. This deceptively slim and readable book insistently demands that we engage actively with the praxis of ethnography and will richly reward repeated readings and discussions whether in the classroom, the field, or wherever else we find ourselves contemplating how to understand people’s experiences of the socio-political world.’ - Cai Wilkinson, Associate Head of School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Deakin University

'With its bold format, Timothy Pachirat’s Among Wolves is an intellectual and pedagogical delight. Inserting readers into lively intellectual debates that defy easy answers, it challenges us all to improve our self-knowledge as we embark on ethnographic journeys. Embracing complexity, nuance, immersion, and personal engagement—all the hallmarks of top ethnographic work—Pachirat packs dozens of insights into every page. Students and practitioners of ethnography, not to mention non-ethnographers curious about the craft, will love this book.' - Edward Schatz, Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department, University of Toronto (Mississauga) and editor of Political Ethnography: What Immersion Contributes to the Study of Power

'Among Wolves is a spirited, offbeat guide to the differing styles and informing disciplines in ‘the cultural representation trade.’ Provocative and consistently probing, it is a quirky performance-art method and theory rumination exploring the treacherous ethics of ethnography in the field and at the writing desk. A compelling read for ethnographers of all seasons and stripes.' - John Van Maanen, Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management and Professor of Organization Studies at MIT and author of Tales of the Field

'In his theatrical review of the problems and pleasures of ethnographic research today, Pachirat effectively conveys the articulated hopes, ideals, and suspicions of ten diverse characters who are noted for producing superlative ethnographic work over the past quarter century. His interlocutors come across as uncannily close to the voices registered in their respective texts. They encompass the practice of ethnography in anthropology, sociology, and political science (but significantly, not in design, technology, or art collaborations). The figure of the wolf, the invisibility potion, and the trial of Alice Goffman are experimental moves of dramaturgy that do not overwhelm Pachirat's sheer skill in bringing the reader, especially ethnography's apprentices, into reasoned, civil dialogues among ten diverse and celebrated writers.' - George Marcus, Chancellor’s Professor, University of California, Irvine

'Such a refreshing contrast to standard texts on ethnography. This book is a joy to read. The unique writing style draws one in surprisingly quickly and makes the book hard to lay aside. In re-creating a conversation between a handful of particularly accomplished contemporary ethnographers, Pachirat has provided us with a highly original, user-friendly, exploration of the (oftentimes painfully personal) challenges of "doing" fieldwork.' - Mark de Rond, Professor of Organisational Ethnography, University of Cambridge

Table of Contents

Series Editors’ Introduction


Dramatis Personae

1. Act One: Wolfdog

2. Act Two: Fieldwork Invisibility Potion

3. Act Three: Science Fantastic

4. Act Four: Ethnography and Power

5. Act Five: A Natural History of Fieldwork

6. Act Six: The Trial

7. Act Seven: Among Wolves


About the Author

Timothy Pachirat is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight (Yale University Press, 2011).

About the Series

Routledge Series on Interpretive Methods

The Routledge Series on Interpretive Methods comprises a collection of slim volumes, each devoted to different issues in interpretive methodology and its associated methods. The topics covered establish the methodological grounding for interpretive approaches in ways that distinguish interpretive methods from quantitative and qualitative methods in the positivist tradition. The series as a whole engages three types of concerns: 1) methodological issues, looking at key concepts and processes; 2) approaches and methods, looking at how interpretive methodologies are manifested in different forms of research; and 3) disciplinary and subfield areas, demonstrating how interpretive methods figure in different fields across the social sciences.


Edited by:

Dvora Yanow, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, University of Utah, US


Books in the Series:

Interpretive Research Design: Concepts and Processes

Peregrine Schwartz-Shea and Dvora Yanow

Interpreting International Politics

Cecelia Lynch

Analyzing Social Narratives

Shaul R. Shenhav

Elucidating Social Science Concepts: An Interpretivist Guide

Frederic Charles Schaffer

Interviewing in Social Science Research: A Relational Approach

Lee Ann Fujii




International Advisory Board

Michael Agar, University of Maryland, College Park (emeritus) and Ethknoworks LLC, Santa Fe, NM

Mark Bevir, University of California, Berkeley

Pamela Brandwein, University of Michigan

Kevin Bruyneel, Babson College

Katherine Cramer, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Douglas C. Dow, University of Texas, Dallas

Vincent Dubois, University of Strasbourg

Raymond Duvall, University of Minnesota

Martha S. Feldman, University of California, Irvine

Lene Hansen, University of Copenhagen

Victoria Hattam, The New School

Emily Hauptmann, Western Michigan University

Markus Haverland, Erasmus University, Rotterdam

David Howarth, University of Essex

Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, American University

Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, Whitman College

Bernhard Kittel, University of Vienna

Jan Kubik, University College London and Rutgers University

Beate Littig, Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna

Joseph Lowndes, University of Oregon

Timothy W. Luke, Virginia Tech

Cecelia Lynch, University of California, Irvine

Navdeep Mathur, India Institute of Management

Julie Novkov, State University of New York at Albany

Ido Oren, University of Florida

Ellen Pader, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Frederic C. Schaffer, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Edward Schatz, University of Toronto

Ronald Schmidt, Sr., California State University, Long Beach (emeritus) and Davidson College

James C. Scott, Yale University

Samer Shehata, University of Oklahoma

Diane Singerman, American University

Joe Soss, University of Minnesota

Camilla Stivers, Cleveland State University (emerita)

John Van Maanen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Lisa Wedeen, University of Chicago

Jutta Weldes, Bristol University

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Methodology