Elif M Babul
Grant TypeWorkshop Grant
Institutional AffiliationStanford U.
Grant numberGr. CONF-875
Approve DateOctober 6, 2021
Project TitleBabul, Elif (Mount Holyoke College) "FACT AND FABULATION: KNOWLEDGE IN THE ERA OF “POST-TRUTH”"
Since it was selected by the Oxford Dictionaries as the 2016 word of the year, ‘post-truth’ has made a dramatic entrance into the public, political, and scholarly fields. This workshop explores both how anthropological perspectives might provide insight into the post-truth moment, and how this moment compels us to rethink what we call ‘anthropological perspectives.’ It examines the tensions and affinities between, on the one hand, the ethnographic approach that builds on the legitimacy of the localized knowledge and truth claims that do not fit into Western scientific models, and, on the other hand, the heightened worldwide mobilization of fake news, alternative facts and conspiracy theories in the service of authoritarian, exploitative, xenophobic, and oppositional political agendas. We seek to reconcile the deep-seated anthropological tradition that exposes the limitations of purely empirical accounts of the world with an awareness of the ruinous consequences of the public dismissal of science as partisan. Specifically, we aim to collectively think about how we need to position ourselves as anthropologists in this alleged era of post-truth: Do we reclaim the empirical and deepen our alliances with the social sciences or veer towards alternative methodologies such as critical fabulation and forge new affinities with the humanities? Is there a case to be made for the value of relatively impartial storytellers and arbiters of fact?