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20 PoLAR 114 (1997)
Studying up Revisited

handle is hein.journals/polar20 and id is 122 raw text is: METHODOLOGY
Hugh Gusterson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Studying Up Revisited
Twenty-five years ago, in her article Up the Anthropologist, Laura Nader appealed for a critical
repatriated anthropology that would, in studying the cultures of the powerful as well as the powerless,
throw new light on processes of domination in American society and help revitalize American democracy.'
Ten years ago, in their book Anthropology as-Cultural Critique, George Marcus and Michael Fischer
renewed the call, this time with a postmodern more than a social democratic inflection. In 1995 - in a
world marked by a wrenching intensification of capitalist accumulation and inequality, by the globalization
of industrial and bureaucratic elites, by the enduring strength of the national security state, and by the
growing power of new technoscientific elites in the electronics and biotechnology industries - these
appeals for a critical repatriated anthropology are as relevant as ever and, in important respects, remain
substantially unrealized. And now anthropology - revitalized by the return of Marxism, the eruption
of feminism, and the infusion of Foucault's theories of power, to name just three developments - has
new theoretical tools to apply to studying up. In this article I want to assess the progress we have made
since the late 1960's in developing a critical repatriated anthropology, pointing out lacunae as well as
advances, then discuss the methodological and writing problems inherent in studying up. The article
draws in part on my own experience writing an ethnography of the Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory - the nuclear weapons laboratory in California where such weapons as the MX and the
neutron bomb were designed. I see the Livermore Laboratory as emblematic of exactly the kinds of
sites of power that more anthropologists should be studying.
In her original article Nader pointed out that, although there were good reasons to study up, there were
also significant obstacles in the way. These included the prevailing attitude of disdain towards those
who did fieldwork at home as well as problems of access. Since the 1960's the prevailing attitudes
within the profession have shifted to a large degree so that it is now increasingly permissible to do even
one's first fieldwork at home. As Marcus and Fischer observed ten years ago, the reasons for this are
practical as well as intellectual:
There is less funding for social science research, especially for ethnography abroad,
the practical applications of which are not apparent. Host societies, protective of their
nationalisms, have complicated the acquisition of research permits. And there is indeed
a growing awareness in anthropology that the functions of ethnography at home are as
compelling and legitimate as they have been abroad (Marcus and Fisher 1986:113).
Still, if one looks at the kinds of repatriated ethnographies that have been written, in many cases
anthropology's traditional taste for the marginal and exotic has not so much been transgressed as imported
and transposed upon American society, leaving us with more studies of scientologists and crack dealers
than of federal bureaucrats and corporate executives. The best-known examples of repatriated
anthropology involve studying across or studying down more than studying up. Thus we have, for
example, the work on reproductive and bio-politics by Robbie Davis-Floyd (1992), Faye Ginsburg (1989),

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