Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Reaffirming Our Values in Critical Times: How Will the EPIC Community Respond?


Shortly after we opened our Call for Participation for EPIC2017 in Montréal, President Trump ordered a temporary travel ban for many people with joint citizenship as well as a halt to refugees and immigrants from 7 predominately Muslim countries. We’d like to take a moment to reassert the values at the heart of this organization and to call on our community to speak to the realities before us all.

Although EPIC is incorporated in the USA, we bring together researchers, designers, and ethnographic practitioners from around the world. Our members live, work, and conduct research worldwide. We have established a body of professional work that demonstrates the value of cultural and intellectual diversity. As such, EPIC strives to be fully inclusive and to support the free movement of people and ideas across all boundaries.

The EPIC2016 theme was Pathfinding—creating new ways to cross boundaries. EPIC2015 was about bridging gulfs across geography, ideas, and disciplines. The EPIC2017 theme Perspectives calls on us as a community to explore vantage points, hybridity, and subversion in ethnographic practice. In light of the recent political developments in the USA and shifts that we are seeing worldwide, we wish to reaffirm EPIC’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, empathy for others, and human justice for all.

Our community has unique kinds of insights and action from our work that we need to offer now, as we have in the past. The EPIC Board recently wrote about our commitment to:

“do research to seek understanding as its own end [and] make connections between political systems and product/service/brand realities that are real, though perhaps not obvious to many of our business colleagues. . . [W]e are obligated professionally to connect these dots and to speak clearly and rigorously about the ways in which businesses, product categories, and existing strategies to perceive people in terms of markets frequently introduce or perpetuate reductions, exclusions, and repressions.”

Proposals for EPIC2017 can address more specific ways that we face the current political climate as EPIC People.

We would like to address what can be summed up as a global political crisis as fully as the EPIC membership desires. To that end:

  1. We have opened a Forum as a channel of communication with the board and fellow members to consider appropriate actions.
  2. We encourage submissions to EPIC2017 that create enlightening and engaging ethnographic “perspectives” on political developments as they directly affect the economic and social fundamentals of our lives and businesses.

EPIC2017 will take place Oct 22–25 in Montréal, a diverse, open, and welcoming city of many perspectives. We are delighted to invite you to join us and share yours.

You may also share questions or concerns directly with the EPIC Board by emailing Board Secretary ken anderson.

EPIC Board: Maria Bezaitis, Alexandra Mack, and ken adnerson

EPIC2017 Co-chairs: Gary Gebhardt and Rita Denny

We invite you to comment on this topic by joining our Forum.


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