Human existence as fieldwork

deadline for submissions: 
November 10, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Stefano Montes - Department of Cultures and Societies

Call for papers

Human existence as fieldwork


International Conference

University of Palermo, December 6-7, 2017


Deadline for receiving abstracts: November 10, 2017


Can we consider human existence as an object of study in its own right? What do we mean when we speak of human existence? Which instruments and methods should be utilized and which disciplines should we resort 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? In this conference, we intend 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: we mostly live through routine, through automatisms usually left uninvestigated. 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. We reflect – we are compelled to reflect – on the meaning of existence when we 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. Considering what we have said above, in this conference we will question ordinary and/or extraordinary aspects of existence inside a culture (or by comparing cultures) and we will 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. As an indication, for this conference we provide an open list of possible 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


Scientific board:

Stefano Montes and Albert Piette


Administrative organization:

Dipartimento Culture e Società

University of Palermo

Viale delle Scienze, 90128, Palermo, Italy


For information and to submit proposals:

Stefano Montes ( and 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